School reputations suffer in digital media age

by Brett Henebery24 May 2016
Australian schools have suffered reputational damage over the last few years because of the changing needs of the news media, according to the author of a new book.
 
The need for school leaders to understand these new requirements – plus others that have been around for decades – are the focus of Pete Burdon’s new book: ‘Media Training for Modern Leaders’.
 
Burdon, who trains school leaders in Australia and New Zealand, told The Educator that “the need to respond to news media requests within minutes” is often not understood.
 
“In the old days, people either got their news from tonight’s TV news or tomorrow’s newspaper, so there was no urgency for reporter to get their stories completed,” he said.
 
“Now, stories are often on websites and social media channels within minutes. If it’s a serious issue and you don’t get back to the reporter in time, the comment will merely say something like ‘Principal Blogs refused to comment, which implies some sort of guilt.”
 
Burdon – a former education reporter and government press secretary – says this also means that schools should have media statements ready to send out on serious issues before they are needed.
 
“This is often the only way of getting yourself into the story, even if it’s just saying you are aware of the situation and are doing everything to resolve it,” he said.
 
“If you don’t comment quickly in these scenarios, you look incompetent or uncaring. Many schools have been hit by this over recent years and are likely to be hit more if they don’t take action to protect their reputations from media scrutiny.”
 
Burdon said the amount of time media spokespeople have to make their points has also been cut as sound bite lengths have fallen consistently. He says the average length is about seven seconds.
 
“If you don’t cut what you want to say to its absolute core and make it interesting to the reporter, you’ve got a high chance of being quoted out of context, or misquoted when the reporter tries to paraphrase,” he said.
 
“It’s important to know that if this happens, you are usually responsible, not the reporter.”
 

These points, plus other issues that require new skills, such as how to handle Skype interviews, are all covered in Pete Burdon’s new book “Media Training for Modern Leaders.” This book is selling at Dymocks across Australia, while the accompanying online media training course can be found at his website.
 

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