Media and Visibility
Working with the news media can be an effective, low-cost strategy to promote and expand Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. The news media can have a tremendous effect on the attitudes and behaviors of their audience. When news anchor Katie Couric underwent a colonoscopy live on television, rates for the procedure across the U.S. jumped more than 20 percent (Bjerklie, 2003).
While the influx of consumer-driven media, such as YouTube, is on the rise, traditional media sources are still the primary source of information for most people. Nearly 74 percent of consumers get their information from local television news and approximately 69 percent read the local newspaper. Local media are also considered highly credible sources of information by consumers, along with national newspapers and broadcast news (University of Southern California Annenberg Strategic Public Relations Center, 2007).
Media attention surrounding a SRTS program can help grow a program by making more people aware of its existence. For example, media attention could increase community participation in a Walk to School Day or help garner support from local elected officials.
Promoting SRTS programs through the media may also impact safety surrounding schools and neighborhoods. Announcing the launch of a program in the news media can alert local drivers that more children will be walking or bicycling in the neighborhood, possibly encouraging them to be more alert.
Getting information out in the headlines about Safe Routes to School is worth the investment. Use this chapter to learn more about increasing the newsworthiness of your SRTS program and maximizing your media relations activities.
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