What a 3rd grade teacher can teach us about getting free media coverage

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In many ways, Stephen Flemming is your quintessential elementary school teacher. He knew since he was a child that he wanted to educate children. But teaching the youth of Philadelphia isn’t the only thing this teacher excels in.

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You see, Flemming is not just an educator, he’s also a media magnet. Being a teacher inside the Philadelphia School District, he has first-hand knowledge about the district’s drama that us Philly folks see in the news every other day. What’s more, this third grade teacher has strong opinions about the condition of the district and what it means for Philly’s children. So, he takes to Twitter, his blog, and public forums to sound off.

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The result is that news media flock to him. Below is a Q&A with Mr. Flemming on how to get free media attention.

Q: How did u start getting noticed by reporters?

A: Around 2010 I began submitting my opinions to the Philadelphia Daily News’s daily views and opinions section. I wanted to express how I felt in response to a political figure speaking negatively about public school teachers. The person’s comments bothered me so badly, it came through loud and clear in my submission and the paper published it.
Tip #1: Have something worthwhile to say!

Q: Why do you think they continue to come to you?

A: I think the news media continues to come to me for a couple reasons. As a teacher for the Philadelphia School District, I’m on the “inside.” But on top of that, I’m not afraid to talk and give my name. This is a big deal with reporters. People are reluctant to give their names for fear of losing their jobs or the potential scrutiny that may come as a result. But journalists won’t pursue stories with sources who don’t want to talk.
Tip #2: Closed mouths don’t get press!

Q: What role does social play in your ability to get media coverage?

A: I use Twitter and my blog to unleash my thoughts on what’s happening inside the Philadelphia public school system. A key piece of advice is to use trending hashtags that are associated with your topic. In my case, it’s #phled. Hashtags have faithful followers (many of whom are reporters) who will read, react, and retweet. As far as my personal account goes, there are quite a few reporters who follow me on Twitter and most of my interview requests come through DMs. I don’t know of any journalists who subscribe to my blog, but some will tweet my posts so I do know they’re reading and following.
Tip #3: Use social media to show your thought leadership

Q: What’s your “hook”?

A: When I post something on social media, I don’t think about it. I just speak the truth. Reporters are looking for “real” and I think the public wants it just like that as well. I speak from experience and I never talk on behalf of other teachers; just myself. Also, I have no shame in calling Philadelphia’s public school district out on Twitter. Keep it real, tack on a hashtag at the end, and you’re sure to get someone’s attention.
Tip #4: Keep it real

Mr. Flemming’s four tips work. See for yourself. Here are just some of his media mentions from 2015.

Billy Penn – Sixteen Young Teachers and Leaders Shaping Education in Philly
Technical.ly Philly – How Schools Across the Philadelphia School District are Building a Tech Culture
Philly.com – Teachers Express Anger at SRC Decision to Impose Contract Terms
Philadelphia Metro – Street Talk: The Reality of Budget Cuts in City Schools
NBC 10 – Judge Grants Injunction for Philly Teachers

A version of this blog post originally appeared on The PR Maverick blog. To view it, click here.

Andrea Carter is a Public Relations Specialist at AWeber and a freelance PR consultant. Visit her website, The PR Maverick, and follow her on Twitter @SheLuvsPR.

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