When the local media features a story about a kid who came second in a state archery competition, it’s not because the sports editor was out chasing the story. It’s because the kid’s archery club contacted them.
The vast majority of “success story” type news comes about because the media was informed about it by a person or organization associated with the successful person. So next time you have a student who performs well in a concerto competition, or is a finalist in a composition competition, don’t just publish the fact in your studio newsletter. Put together a press release, and send it to local media.
They might run it, they might not. But if you don’t send it in the first place, you are guaranteeing that they won’t run it.You can make it easier for them by providing all the details in the release itself, together with any scanned photographs on disk. Sometimes editors with a tight deadline looming won’t go for the best story—they go for a story that will be easy to write. You never know, your story might just be what they need to fill that awkward space on page twelve.
If a story does run, it’s tremendously exciting for all concerned. Not only does it provide a well-deserved public pat on the back for the student, it also provides a tremendous boost to your studio’s profile. The student will be forever grateful that you took the time to organize the publicity, and will have yet another reason for wanting to stay in your studio. And you can put the icing on the cake by cutting out the clipping to add to your Wall of Fame in your studio, so that prospective students can see it during the interview, and so that existing students can be inspired during their lesson.
Everybody wins, and it costs you nothing but the courage to submit the news.
Keep schools informed too
Much like the media, schools can only highlight the successes of their students if they know about those successes. Your student may well have just won second place in a flute competition, but you can’t simply assume that they will tell the school about it.It’s up to you to make that phone call or visit. Bring some details of the triumph, so that it will be easy for the principal to gush at assembly.Most principals are delighted to hear about the achievements of students, and your student certainly won’t mind basking in the extra glory. Taking the time to notify the school like this helps boost the profile of the student at school (which helps the student), provides the school with someone they can hold up as Role Model of the Week (which helps the school), and prompts the question as to who this child’s music teacher is (which helps you).
It’s another everybody-wins scenario, and also helps make the student a celebrity for a day among their peers. Everyone likes to have their name mentioned at assembly, and this promotion technique will not only raise your profile, but will probably have your students practicing harder afterwards too.
What sorts of achievements are newsworthy?
You don’t need to wait until a student wins a major international competition, or has a new recital hall at Julliard named after them. Any time they have a success that has a tangible reward—a ribbon, a trophy, a place, a certificate—it’s something the school should not only know about, but actually see. Not only is your studio benefiting from the extra exposure, but new support networks and interest will spring up for that student at school. When a teacher on playground duty chats with them, instead of just making small talk about what a nice day it is, they’ll probably ask the student how their music lessons are going.
All of which makes it much, much harder for them to quit—thus having a subtle but positive impact on your retention rates. In other words, the few minutes you took to keep the school up to date on a high achieving student could have an impact for years to come.
If all else fails, post it yourself
Independently of whether or not the local paper decides to run your stories about student successes, you should consider taking out an annual ad that highlights student achievements from the year that was. These achievements don’t have to be competition victories. You might mention the hardest practicers, the most improved intermediate students, or the best new student. In other words, you’ll be creating categories so that you can mention as many of your students as possible (in fact, you should really be trying to mention all of them!)
It’s similar to the awards that you might have handed out anyway after an end-of-year recital, but the acknowledgements this time are very public. Which means they can serve two functions.
Not only will those students be bursting with pride (everyone loves seeing their name in the paper!), but the ad will also be noticed by parents of potential students. This advertisement won’t need to say anything about your studio except the studio name at the top—the very existence of such a public acknowledgement of your students’ efforts will tell parents more good things about your studio than your most eloquent copywriting could.
And as an added bonus, knowing that the ad exists is a powerful incentive for students who are already in your own studio. They’ll want their name in lights again this year, and will practice just a little harder to ensure it happens.