Advocacy and Arts Education Work Hand-in-Hand
By John J. Gallagher, Ed.D.
The music educator works in a profession that is constantly advocating for the benefits of music education and how it affects students involved in the performing arts. They are planning classroom lessons, public concerts, scheduling group lessons and more. Being a publicist may seem like “one more thing to do”; however, it may make your life easier.
Not many music educators know how to advocate. While in music school, you learned how to train your ear, sing on sight, learned about music history, composition, and instrumental and vocal methods. Most likely, courses in Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising, and Journalism were not part of your curriculum.
The use of public relations and publicity techniques can guide teachers toward successful relationships with today’s print, broadcast, and social media outlets and help establish a foundation in writing for them. Further, it will enable them to take advantage of media opportunities to promote concerts, festivals, award ceremonies, and the like.
However, teachers and administrators should work within their school district’s official public relations policies.
For one to become an effective advocate for a school music program, you should become familiar with some of the terminology.
It encompasses external relationships with the media, the community, and the public at large. Public relations can help increase the visibility of a music program, generate a higher awareness of it, assist with recruitment and retention, and can be tied in with other advertising campaigns district-wide.
Effective use of the media will gain coverage for your music program on local and district-wide levels. Media relations is a cost-effective way to reach large numbers of people with the message of your program.
Unlike advertising, which must be paid for, public relations and media relations deal with the editorial side of the press. Information is reported as news, based upon what the media feels is of importance to its audience.
Many individuals with common interests are those you try to reach with specific messages about your music program. They include parents, administrators, members of Boards of Education, teachers of other subjects, alumni, and business owners in your community.
All of these groups of people have a stake in the success of your school’s music program and how it is servicing your community.
Developing Media Lists and Contacts:
Maintaining a list of local newspapers, websites, radio and television stations, Facebook pages, Twitter handles, and other social media outlets are great tools to use to help sell your story.
Once you have basic information to distribute, you need to find out to whom it should be sent at each media outlet. You might even wish to send a cover letter introducing yourself and establishing yourself as the information resource for your program. Check with your district’s public/media relations department or administration first.
The media has a high turnover rate for reporters. Be sure to update your media lists regularly.
How Can I Generate Good Public Relations for My Program?
- Get to know the editors at local media outlets
- Invite the media to a performance (with permission of school administrators)
- Write an article about music education in your community and offer it to an editor. (Also include it in a district-wide newsletter.)
- Use observances such as Music In Our Schools Month® as a springboard for notifying your audiences.
- Take advantage of available “Swiss Cheese’’ media releases found in the NYSSMA Press Room. Personalize them, proofread them carefully, obtain approvals, and send them to your local media.
- Join and speak at local community and/or professional organizations.
- Participate in community events as “Holiday Tree Lightings’’ and the other special events.
Your music program should be one of the best tools to use in generating positive media coverage.
Teachers and leaders of a music program should take a pro-active role in generating favorable media coverage about itself and its district as a whole. Whenever possible, you should inform the local media of good news about your program. Establishing and maintaining contact with the media will help position you as a reliable source of information.
A school’s music program is of the utmost importance to a student’s future. As we know, an education steeped in all of the arts provides more to the student than the essence of the arts themselves. It assists in building character, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Community support will begin to rally as students in a positive learning organization represent themselves and the members of that community in other areas of the city, state, and country.
The support garnered outside the immediate school community can be successfully obtained through the use of positive public/media relations.
Read John Gallagher’s presentation Usable Public Relations Techniques to Advocate for Your Program for more information and techniques on this subject.
See NAfME’s Public Relations 101 resource for more ideas.
About the Author
John J. Gallagher, Ed.D.
NAfME member, Dr. John J. Gallagher is the Director of Fine Arts for the Longwood Central School District where he supervises 49 teachers of art, music and family & consumer science in the District-wide program. He se rves as State Chairperson for Public Relations and Information for the New York State School Arts Association (NYSSMA); and spearheaded the Long Island Scholar Artist program to spotlight student achievement in the Arts.
Departments under his leadership have received the designation of being among the Best 100 Communities for Arts Education in America and have received the designation as a Finalist in the Grammy Signature Schools program three times. Bands under his direction have been featured in such venues as Walt Disney World, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the Empire State Plaza and Madison Square Garden. They have received high ratings in concert performance and his marching band earned a 2002 State Championship.
Along with being a clinician, public speaker, and a member of NYSSMA’s Executive Council, Dr. Gallagher is a NYSSMA-trained All State Brass Adjudicator and member of the National Association for Music Education. He serves as director of professional development for the Suffolk County chapter of the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education (NYSCAME), and chairperson for commercial membership for the Suffolk County Music Educators Association (SCMEA).
John lives on Long Island with his wife and their three children.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.