Sometimes the story writes itself. But even then, it needs to be told.
David Balogun from Bensalem, Pa., was graduating from Reach Cyber Charter School. Oh, and David is 9 years old. So, I invited media to interview him and his family at the school’s headquarters in Harrisburg, amidst an array of cookies and drinks.
Local TV stations instantly jumped on the opportunity. And who could blame them? Someone who normally would be in the third grade graduated from high school! I watched in awe and admiration as David, his parents, his younger sister and Reach Cyber staff sat in front of three different cameras, one after one, talking about David’s journey and how humbled they were to witness his remarkably fast academic growth, thanks to his intelligence and the school’s flexible pacing options.
As soon as the event wrapped, I made sure to send b-roll footage to media that were unable to attend, and I coordinated an interview for Sunday, two nights later. Several stories ran over the span of the weekend. All done, right? Not even close. The next week, my inbox blew up. All kinds of outlets from the likes of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Lower Bucks Times, KYW Newsradio, FOX 29 … all wanted to talk to David and his family about his accomplishment. Local requests soon turned into national requests from CNN, Good Morning America, The Washington Post … you name it. Booking producers of The Kelly Clarkson Show and the Drew Barrymore Show reached out. Even outlets from overseas contacted me. As the weeks progressed, hundreds of headlines kept dropping.
But, through this journey as the family’s and school’s publicist, I learned some valuable lessons that might not always be obvious:
1. Build the relationship: My first discussions with David and his family began in late 2021 when he was an eight-year-old eighth grader. Telling his story took over a year’s worth of getting to know the family, checking on David’s progress, and ensuring their comfort and confidence in us sharing his story while weighing potential risks.
2. Be on constant alert: I don’t think I ever looked away from my phone and email, due to the volume of requests that were coming in. It sounds overwhelming, but it was easier to manage requests since I checked my email often as opposed to letting them pile up.
3. Check in with the client frequently: I had dozens of phone conversations with David’s mother, especially since outlets often reached out directly to the family’s social media platforms and emails. Conversations ranged from, “Here’s who reached out to us…” to “How is David doing with managing all of these interviews?” I also checked in with Reach Cyber staff frequently to share with them the progress and brief them on any interviews they were participating in.
4. Staff the interviews: Yes, the benefit of staffing is making sure the messaging is there, but really, it comes down to making sure your clients are comfortable. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that your publicist is by your side just in case.
5. Thank media: I am always thankful when reporters reach out with interest in my client’s story, let alone publishing or broadcasting a piece. Plus, you never know when you may need them again, or when they may need you.
So yes, sometimes the story writes itself. But, by managing and maintaining media and client relations, you have the power to tell the story and keep it going.