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ECI Communications Toolkit

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How to Write Earned Media

Earned media is media promotion you obtain through submitting your own stories and letters. In this communication toolkit, we will be focusing on writing and submitting op-eds and letters to the editor (LTEs) to publications around the state.

Choosing and Checking Content

When choosing a topic, and what you will say about that topic, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my point?
  • What position will I take, and what is my argument?
  • Why should the reader care about this?
  • Am I presenting this to an audience who will care about this? What publications should I submit to?
  • What solution will I offer?
  • What can the reader do to implement to solution I give?

All of these questions should be clearly and fully answered before you expand upon them and write the piece in its entirety.

Finally, when checking your content, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my point clear?
  • Did I state my position? Is my argument strong and specific?
  • Did I make a proper appeal to why the reader should care?
  • Does the audience I am presenting this to fit the topic and argument? Will they care? Does it fit the correct publications?
  • Do I have a defined solution to the issue?
  • Does the reader have avenues to implement the solution I gave?

All of these questions should be answered “yes” before you proofread for grammar and spelling mistakes. Once all edits are finished, you can now submit to the publications that you have identified.

Op-Ed

The first 2,000 days of a child’s life determines how they will function for the rest of their lives – so why are we failing at setting our children up for success during this this crucial time? 

In Iowa, more could be done to set children up for success in their first 2,000 days of life. Between 2016 and 2018, 53 percent of young children in Iowa (ages 3 and 4) were not enrolled in a preschool program, missing key opportunities to improve kindergarten readiness. In 2018, 15 percent of children ages 0-5 were living in poverty—one of the greatest threats to healthy child development.

The data shows that Iowa could be doing more. As a business owner, this is personal for me. My employees that have small children worry about covering the costs for child care or if their kids will be ready for school in a few years. I am concerned for them and I’m concerned for the future of our workforce. If our children are not getting the resources they need to be successful in their first 2,000 days of life, will they be prepared to take on the jobs of tomorrow? The future of my business and our community depends on how we treat our youngest residents today. [Use this paragraph to make the op-ed more personalized. Add details that are specific to the signee or the community]

Luckily, we are not alone in ensuring that children are supported in their first 2,000 days. I was recently introduced to Early Childhood Iowa. Their entire purpose is to provide a network to families that ensures the best possible early childhood development for Iowa’s children. ECI has local boards across the state, including one right here in [INSERT COUNTY NAME], that provide funding for organizations that serve young children and support for families who need connected to programs and services. I was relieved to know that we have early childhood experts who are doing this work, but they need help. To reach more kids and families and to have a greater impact on the community, they will need our help volunteering on their board, telling our friends and family members about their resources, and speaking to policymakers who control the funding for the agency.

Now that I am aware of the importance of the first 2,000 days and the work that Early Childhood Iowa is doing to support children in their first years of life, I am going to do my part to help make sure that we can connect this agency to as many families as possible. If you are concerned about the young children in our community or the future of [INSERT TOWN NAME], ask yourself: what can I do to support an organization that is making a difference?

Example Letter to the Editor

The first 2,000 days of a child’s life are the most crucial and set a pathway to success for all children. However, we are far behind in ensuring children are enrolled in the correct programs for proper development. As a state, we could be doing more to create a knowledge network of programs that positively impact early education, children’s health and family support.

Many children are not having the experiences needed for cognitive, social and emotional growth – 27% of children do not access preschool prior to kindergarten and only 61% of kindergarteners meet basic literacy benchmarks. Early childhood care, health, and education services provide a foundation for children so they enter school ready for academic success – and this success translates into a stronger workforce, a better economy as well as public health, and reduced crime rates in the future.

Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) is a state agency that works to unite all state agencies and early childhood programs to create this network of children’s services to inform and engage parents and communities about what services are available to their children. With a network of local boards, Early Childhood Iowa has dedicated themselves to the whole early child. This cannot be done alone, and Early Childhood Iowa is always in need of public support to continue their work. Engage with your communities about the services that wouldn’t be possible without Early Childhood Iowa’s commitments. Speak with community leaders about the importance of investing in quality services for young children and their families.

Talking Points

Use the following talking points with community members when working to engage them with the Early Childhood Iowa network.

Parents

  • When it comes to programs for young children, quality can vary. High quality child care programs can help your children be successful when they start kindergarten and beyond.
  • Early Childhood Iowa supports high-quality programs for families and young children. We can help you get connected to some of these programs in your community.

Policymakers

  • For every $1 spent on early childhood, there is a future return of $17 back into the economy. 
  • Early childhood services and programs create more chances for academic and career success – meaning future generations will have a greater earning potential. This decreases the likelihood that they will need to rely on social safety net programs as adults.
  • This increased earning potential means adults who had access to early childhood programs are more likely to pay more in taxes as well.
  • Having access to early education prepares children to do well once they enter the K-12 school system. Highly educated citizens are needed for a strong and sustainable workforce.

Business Community

  • 26,216 parents in Iowa are making career sacrifices because they do not have access to stable child care.
  • Lack of access to early care leads to higher rates of absenteeism and turnover in the workplace.
  • Having child care not only keeps parents in the workforce, but allows them time to continue their education to gain more skills.
  • Having access to early education prepares children to do well once they enter the K-12 school system. Highly educated citizens are needed for a strong and sustainable workforce.

Faith-Based Community

  • All children are born with potential to serve their communities – this potential is increased when the have access to early childhood services.
  • We have a moral obligation to provide all children the same opportunities to meet their maximum potential.

Health Care Providers

  • Starting children on a path with healthy behaviors improves their physical health for the rest of their lives.
  • For children, better health means improved cognitive development, emotional development, and academic achievement.
  • When all children start out healthy, community and public health continue to improve for years to come.

Social Media Platforms

Using multiple social media platforms will be best in helping you to expand your message reach to a diverse audience. Here is a brief overview of the most popular social media platforms and how to utilize them for the most impact.

Facebook

Facebook is a social media platform that connects members with others that they may know to share information in the form of “posts”. Facebook can be used by agencies and organizations by creating a “page” as opposed to a personal page tailored for an individual. Others who have an interest in your group, or would like to receive frequent updates about what you are up to, can “like”, “follow” or “join” your page.

Facebook is best for sharing articles, pictures, video or simple text posts. Because there is not a character limit on posts, Facebook would be best for sharing larger pieces of information. With its added “events” feature, it is handy in creating e-invites and raising awareness of potential events you may be hosting in the future.

Twitter

Twitter is a social media platform that allows you to “follow” other users. You can expand your network by “following” other accounts of individuals or organizations that work on similar issues or interests. Twitter is quickly becoming the preferred social media of organizations, because of how it keeps you in constant contact with your followers.

Because of its character limit on posts, Twitter is best used for short messages and updates. As stated above, by using its “thread” features which allows you to have a conversation with another user, this is the best platform to use when you want engage directly with those who interact with you. Twitter is also a great tool to generate action, especially immediate action in the form of action alerts.

YouTube

YouTube is a social media platform dedicated to video content. Users can upload videos to share with their “subscribers” and anyone looking to view their content. Utilizing YouTube can be an interesting way to keep community members engaged by switching up text post content with occasional video content.

YouTube is best used to share any video content that your organization may want to share. Because it tends to not be the best in connecting viewers with the video publisher, it is best used to post or upload video content that you may want to share by way of other social media platform – either by posting it to Facebook, or tweeting the video link through Twitter.

How to Build Your Social Media 

Go on a following spree

This is the most basic form of growing your social media network. By following other organizations that have similar goals to you, you are almost guaranteeing a follow back. This expands the direct network who will be seeing your post, but also increases the likelihood that you will receive more shares, gaining more passive engagement. Consider following pages like Every Child Matters (Twitter/Facebook), Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (Twitter/Facebook), Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral (Twitter/Facebook), your local United Way, local parent groups or blogs, and local Parent Teacher Associations.

Use personalized, catchy hashtags

Search trending hashtags for content that is similar to yours. Jump in on hashtags that you can use to increase the likelihood that others from outside of your network will see and engage with your content.

Make it entertaining

Find more things to connect ECI’s message to that would be entertaining. Jump on trends and find daily national topics to rally around.

Encourage engagement

Have as many engagement events (tweet chats, tweet storms, etc) that you can. Keeping your audience in the loop and active is the only way to continue growing your network beyond its current state.

Implement more visual content

Change up the content by using photos, gifs and videos. Infographics and curated videos/photos will grab more of an audience attention than a simple text post will.

Responsiveness is key

If your followers are engaging with you, make sure to reply back in a timely manner. If you aren’t responsive, the follower won’t think you are interesting or engaging.

Make time for social media

Growth on social media can require daily upkeep and attention, but growth can also be achieved by checking in when you can. Use as much time on social media that you find applicable.

Use a call to action

End every tweet with a call to action to pull your network into engagement beyond social media. Link a donate page, link to research, etc.

Use analytics to set goals appropriate to what your organization would like to achieve.

Social Media Ideas

  • Find a way to match ECI topics and services to awareness/history months and talk about these topics all month long.
  • Hold weekly twitter chats about an ECI service or topic, engage with other organizations to participate using a common hashtag. Twitter chats are basic call and response type of event, where you alert others about the tweet chat and then send out questions that other accounts can respond to.
  • Highlight a service provider or partner organization every month to promote the work they do for ECI. Every Wednesday during that month, take time to tweet at them and their networks.
  • Participate as frequently in other organizations social media projects to learn from them while growing your network.
  • If possible, make at least one post to social media daily. If time does not allow for this, aim to post to social media once a week, on a regular time schedule (i.e. every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.).
  • Tweet about events you have held following the event wrap-up. Use photos you took during the event and caption them with important notes about what was happening.

Social Media Policies

Social Media Terms of Use and Comment Policy

State of Iowa departments and agencies use social media to present matters of public interest to the citizens of Iowa and to enhance communication between the public and the State. Social Media Sites are for informational purposes only. Please visit our website for official information, https://iowa.gov.

We strive to foster engaging, productive conversations. To that end, we encourage you to submit questions and comments. We also encourage you to submit photos and videos to showcase what is happening between the public and the State. However, please note that visitors are responsible for what they post on this site. Any views or opinions expressed in visitor-posted content reflects the views of the comment’s author and are not the official views of the State of Iowa.

We will try to respond to questions on this site as frequently as possible. However, we cannot promise we will respond to any or all questions posted on this site. To ensure your question, comment, or concern is addressed please contact us at IowaFeedback@iowa.gov.

We monitor all comments and content visitors post on social-media sites to ensure all content is constructive and suitable for all viewers, while respecting a range of opinions and points of view. Social media is a 24/7 medium. However, we cannot monitor comments 24/7. Moderation will take place during the State’s normal business hours. We reserve the right to remove any comments or content that fail to comply with our Personal Conduct policy, below. We also reserve the right to suspend comment privileges of anyone who violates these rules.

When the State follows or “friends” persons or organizations, it is not an endorsement by the State of Iowa, but instead is intended to facilitate communication between the State and the person or organization. Additionally, some links on this site may lead to external resources. These links should not be interpreted as an endorsement by the State of Iowa of these sites or their content, viewpoint, accuracy, opinions, policies, products, services, or accessibility.

Please note that social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) may be governed by their own internal policies, including a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. In addition to the State’s policies, these policies may also apply to your use of this site.

Personal Conduct.

We reserve the right to delete a comment or other content if:

  • It is not topically related to the content being commented on;
  • It is obscene;
  • It visually depicts sexual conduct by children;
  • It is directed to incite or produce imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action;
  • A reasonable person, familiar with the context, would interpret the content as a serious expression of an intention to inflict bodily harm;
  • It contains a commercial message that is either misleading or relates to unlawful activity;
  • It compromises the safety or security of the public or public systems;
  • It contains private personal information or private medical information of any person, such as social-security numbers, phone numbers, or home addresses;
  • It infringes on any copyright or other legal ownership interest of any other party;
  • It is comprised of malicious code that contains a virus, worm, defect, trojan horse or any other item of a destructive nature that may interfere or disrupt the State of Iowa’s technology services, servers, computer systems or networks.

Privacy and Public Records.

Please note that all content posted to this site is public information and available to everyone. If you post any personal content, you do so at your own risk.

We are required to comply with Iowa Code Chapter 22 (Public Records Law) and ensure government is open and that the public has access to public records and information of which the State is the custodian. To that end, we automatically collect and store all information you post on this site. All information you post on this site may be subject to public disclosure under chapter 22, even if we have previously deleted it from the site for a violation of our Personal Conduct policy.

We may also share information you post on this site with other state agencies for governmental purposes, including improving state government services. The information is not collected for commercial marketing purposes and we do not sell or distribute this information for commercial, educational, or promotional use.

Some of our social-media platforms have social-sharing enabled. This function allows site visitors to “like” or “share” our pages or posts on our site. Visitors to our site may be able to see who has shared or liked our pages our posts on our site. However, site visitors may not be able to see any information about people who have liked or shared our pages or posts on our site, unless they are friends with them on the respective social-media platform. The State does not collect or have access to any of this personal information.

Please review additional State of Iowa policies, which apply to social media.

Audio/Photography/Video and Release Guidance

I hereby grant Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) and its designees the right to take, use, and publish photographs, films, slides, voice, video, and/or other images or representations of me for early childhood education purposes.

This grant includes without limitation the right to edit, mix or duplicate and to use or re-use in whole or part my images or representation as Early Childhood Iowa may elect. Early Childhood Iowa and its designees shall have complete ownership of the images and representations in which I appear, including copyright interests, and I acknowledge that I have no interest or ownership in these images of representations.

I confirm that I have the right to enter into this Agreement, and that Early Childhood Iowa has no financial commitment or obligations to me as a result of this Agreement. I expressly release Early Childhood Iowa and its officers, employees, agents and designees from any and all claims known and unknown arising out of or in any and all demands for compensation and any and all claims for libel and invasion of privacy.

I have read the foregoing and understand its terms and stipulations and agree to all of them. List out signatures, titles, and dates.

Resources

 

New Research: Early Education as Economic Investment. NCSL. https://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/new-research-early-education-as-economic-investme.aspx

Iowa Early Learning Factsheet 2019. Center for American Progress. https://cdn.americanprogress.org/content/uploads/2019/09/12065409/Iowa.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/policy/hst/hi5/earlychildhoodeducation/index.html