Heinzman: Back to school

Heinzman: Back to school

By Don Heinzman

When I was manager and editor of the Elk River Star News, I quickly realized that regular revenues kept the doors open and special sections produced the profit.

I intend to tell what I’ve learned about producing profitable special sections and I am interested in your winning special sections to share with others.

Start with “Back-to-School” sections, based on one of the most important dates in your communities:  the start of another school year.

You know that many of your advertisers have back-to-school items, and generally they like young people and want to see them succeed.

Start by establishing the rate for your special section advertising, including a spiff for the reporters who must write it. (Considering staffing these days, you may want to hire a free-lance writer to produce the stories, and build the cost into the rate.)

Develop “spec” ads for the section of all sizes.  I found “spec” ads were easy to sell because most advertisers have difficulty visualizing what their advertisement will look like.

Plan the content. I once was a school communications director and I was eager to supply the local press with stories, realizing they would be printed.  Many school districts have full and part-time public communications position.  Meet with them and the superintendent of schools and explain the special section.  Superintendents will buy into the section because positive publicity about the schools helps them.  Publish the photo of the school board, because you need to have a good relationship with those members.

Some story ideas I’ve seen in your papers:  Messages from the Superintendent, a high school and elementary principal:  message from the senior class president, the nurse, the food service manager on school lunch changes, and particularly information from the school counselors.

Other content:  Names and photos of the new teachers and all staff.  A photo studio might take the photos and sponsor the content.

My reader research showed that the top two subjects parents want addressed are: What is my child learning and how well are they learning it? Therefore, parents want to know changes in the curriculum and in the grading system.  (You might even plan the content with the help of a small school staff advisory committee.)

I have one other suggestion.  Take the lead on inviting the community to make sure every elementary student has a backpack containing start-up items they will need on that first day of school.  Involve your local food shelf in identifying what families cannot afford to buy backpacks for their children.  Be sure and print the names of all the stores that contribute to the project.

Finally, be sure and include your community education director in planning the section, and if you can’t print the fall brochure, offer to distribute it and sell an ad announcing when and how it is coming.  Community Educators have marketing funds.

Respond to : Consultant Donald R. Heinzman at  dhein0219@aol.com. , 325 W. 98th St.,Bloomington, Minn., 55420.