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PR Success Story

Your assignment? Land two big front-page articles on adult education in six major Bay Area daily newspapers.

And while you're at it, we could use some accompanying front-page color photos and the most positive editorial in recent memory on adult school funding.

Actually, educational consultant Jan Arney was just trying to get a little media coverage for the Hayward Adult School June 2004 graduation when - with a little help - her efforts generated what amounts to a media blitz. Here's how Mrs. Arney, a retired Hayward Adult School principal who has always believed in student-centered publicity, did it.

The Pitch: "About a week before graduation, I sent an email to the education reporter for the local paper," said Mrs. Arney. "In it I highlighted three students who were about to graduate. When I didn't get a reply, I contacted my daughter-in-law, Elena Arney, a public relations professional for businesses and private schools. She recommended sending my story idea to Michelle Maitre, a writer who works for several regional papers."

The second email carried the subject line "Story Pitch: Hayward Adult School Embraces Grads" and text that briefly outlined the challenging backgrounds and future plans of three Hayward graduates. Ms. Maitre was immediately interested and phoned to say she wanted the story.

Background: A few days later in a phone interview, Mrs. Arney gave the reporter some basic information about the history and mission of adult education in California, along with the names of several Bay Area adult education administrators, web addresses of local adult schools, Department of Education information, and background regarding policies and regulations for offering classes.

"The reporter wanted to know everything about Adult Education and even called the CDE Adult Education Office in Sacramento for more information," said Mrs. Arney. With a photographer in tow, Ms. Maitre attended the Hayward graduation and stayed through all the ceremonies, meeting students and their families and friends. Separately, the photographer visited other adult schools and covered an ESL student and an ESL classroom. Other local administrators were contacted by Ms. Maitre and cooperated by providing information about adult education in general, not just about their own schools.

Results: The story, which started as a graduation pitch but grew to encompass much more, ran on Sunday June 27, 2004, in six major daily Bay Area newspapers: the Hayward Daily Review, the Oakland Tribune, the San Mateo Times, the Alameda Times, the Fremont Argus, and the Tri-Valley Herald in the Pleasanton area. The articles touched on the history of adult education, presented student statistics furnished by the CDE's Adult Education Office, and explained budget constraints facing adult education. Not only was the Hayward graduation covered, the articles were written in a way that benefited all Bay Area adult education programs.

Bonus Coverage: One week later a five-column, one-third page editorial appeared in all six papers. It was headlined "Adult Education Funding Formula Needs Updating" and supported pending legislation that would benefit adult education in California What's It Worth?: One can only speculate as to the value of such publicity, but the by-products surely must include heightened credibility for all Bay Area adult education programs, increased student enrollment, and perhaps most important of all, healthy doses of pride and feelings of self-worth for adult school students, teachers and administrators.

More about this school at Hayward Adult School. Email Ms. Arney at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Insider, 2004