Successful public relations strategies rely on long-term planning and consistent, strategic efforts. However, PR professionals must be ready to spring into action and use their organizational skills for unexpected opportunities to publicize their clients. Here’s one example of how Veracity used a major local news story to position our client as an expert that could add value to the media’s ongoing coverage.
The Client: Oregon Charter Academy
Oregon Charter Academy (ORCA) is a tuition-free public online charter school serving Oregon children in grades K-12. ORCA has spent 17 years developing a cutting-edge, highly adaptable curriculum for an online environment that provides structure and guidance while allowing students to learn at their own pace.
The Local Story: A COVID Surge Causes Temporary School Closures
In early January 2022, two Portland-area high schools announced they would temporarily return to distance learning because too many teachers had fallen ill due to the COVID-19 Omicron wave. Portland Public Schools announced on a Thursday that closures would begin the next day and continue throughout the following week. The news came as a surprise to many area parents. It also brought back unpleasant memories of the abrupt and challenging transition to distance learning in the first weeks of the pandemic nearly two years earlier.
The school district’s announcement was a significant story in Portland’s print and TV media. As Veracity tracked the news, we realized that the closures would continue to be a story throughout the weekend and saw an opportunity for ORCA to contribute to the conversation by offering advice and expertise to impacted parents, students and educators. However, because time was limited, our team needed to act quickly.
The Strategy: Provide Expertise for Parents and Educators
Veracity’s goal in this effort was not to promote ORCA as a destination for students but rather to bolster its position as a leading voice in Oregon’s online education community. We immediately reached out to ORCA to establish a point-person for on-the-spot interviews and develop messaging for our media pitches. Allison Galvin, ORCA’s Executive Director, agreed to make herself available for interviews throughout the weekend.
Working collaboratively, ORCA and Veracity developed talking points around the state of online schooling in general and how parents could help their kids thrive in an online setting. Once we’d established interview availability and messaging, our team began pitching local news outlets.
The Approach: Customized Pitches for Oregon’s Media Markets
Because this was a time-sensitive story, Veracity began pitching media outlets the day after the school district made its announcement, aiming to land coverage over the first weekend of the closure and throughout the following week. We initially targeted TV outlets in Oregon’s four major markets: Portland, Medford, Bend and Eugene. Our initial pitch offered an on-camera interview with ORCA’s executive director and included specific messaging for Portland and non-portland areas.
For Portland, our pitches focused on offering tips to make this transition a smoother experience than the previous switch to distance learning earlier in the pandemic. In areas outside of Portland where school districts hadn’t canceled in-person learning, our messaging centered around preparing for the possibility of a return to remote learning amid an ongoing COVID surge.
Each email pitch referenced that outlet’s previous COVID-related school closure coverage whenever possible. Using chapter six of A Modern Guide to Public Relations as loose guidelines on pitching TV, our team followed up with a phone call immediately after sending the pitch email to offer the reporter a heads up about the opportunity. If we were unsuccessful in contacting the reporter on Friday, we followed up with another call on Saturday.
The Results: Multiple Placements in Portland and Medford
Our customized pitching approach proved fruitful as several local TV stations in Portland, Medford and Bend agreed to on-camera interviews. Throughout the weekend, the Veracity team worked to facilitate interactions between the ORCA representative and reporters. By the end of the following week, ORCA had appeared online and in multiple TV segments on KOIN and KGW in Portland and KOBI and KTVL in Medford.
As a result of these interviews, ORCA raised its profile with parents throughout the state while demonstrating its expertise in the area of distance learning.
Cooperation Delivered Outstanding Results
While consistent and focused work will always move the PR needle, sometimes capturing the synergy of a specific moment can give your efforts a substantial boost. Veracity was successful in this example because we’ve established a disciplined method for media outreach honed over years of experience. Those tactics helped us connect our clients with the local media by offering a succinct and relevant pitch that we customized for each recipient. We then followed through with support throughout the weekend, reinforcing our position as a trusted media partner.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without a client who recognized the magnitude of the opportunity, adjusted their schedule to meet the reporters’ needs and possessed the knowledge to elevate the media’s conversation. In the end, PR professionals, education experts and media members cooperated in providing valuable information to local parents, students and educators at a moment when they needed it most. You can’t ask for a better result.