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Press Kit: Mars Team Online

This file presents you with the basics of preparing media releases in order to acquire press coverage for your Live From the Mars special events, as well as provides a sample press release.

We believe that you and your students' involvement in Mars Team Online will be an unparalleled experience in educational technology and science reform. Mars Team Online connects students for the first time with NASA scientists and researchers as they launch two missions to Mars. Students will join the journey to Mars by being eyewitnesses to and participating in real science, real time, at real locations, with real scientists.

We also feel it is important that you share your efforts with the Clinton administration, school board members and your community. Making the public aware of the extra efforts dedicated to quality science teaching and learning is an important part of your outreach efforts. Sharing this Passport to Knowledge project also helps "spread the word" and promote broader local and regional involvement.

This press kit includes important guidelines as you prepare your own press releases. Use the sample provided as a starting point, altering it accordingly.

Don't forget to send a copy of any newspaper coverage or a tape of the video clips from television coverage received, to:

Geoff Haines-Stiles
Project Director
Passport to Knowledge
P.O. Box 1502
Summit, New Jersey 07902-1502

Sincerely,

The Passport to Knowledge Team

Please contact Jan Wee, 608-786-2767 (8am-4pm Central) with any questions. Or email her at jwee@mail.arc.nasa.gov

----------------------------------------------------------------

PRESS KIT : 1996-97 Passport to Knowledge
Live From the Mars Project

Part I. General Guidelines:

  1. Your press release should always contain the five W's: WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY?
    (see sample press release)

  2. Be sure to include the name, position, phone and fax numbers of the person from your institution that the media should contact to arrange interviews, get additional information, clarify a point, etc.

  3. All the important information about the event and why the media should attend (what makes the event unique, special, relevant, significant to many people) should be detailed in the release.

  4. The release should be brief, never more than two double-spaced typewritten pages (probably one) in general, use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Never use a word that you wouldn't use in everyday language.

    If your release is longer than one page, type -MORE- at the bottom of the first page.

    Note: Different media people may prefer press releases of different lengths, but it is more common that more information is appreciated rather than less.

  5. Use school or office stationery. Never use carbon copies, although Xerox copies are fine. Always keep a copy of every release you send.

  6. Press releases should be double-spaced, on one side of the page. Make sure that full names are used, not one initial and the surname. Double check spelling of all names. Make sure all names, dates, etc. are correct. Include proper affiliations for all who are mentioned. Double check the date and the day of the week in your release.

  7. If you must ask for a specific publication date, it should read: EMBARGOED UNTIL (DATE AND TIME). Avoid "hold releases" whenever possible.

  8. Always start copy 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down the page so the editor will have space to write a headline for the story and give other instructions.

  9. All press releases should be distributed to the editor at small papers, the city or assignment editor at large papers, the campus media, the assignment or news manager at radio and television stations, and specific department editors and beat reporters who cover issues relevant to the story's content.

  10. Press releases notifying the press about an event should reach the media three to four days in advance of the scheduled event. Never give less than a 24-hour notice. All editors should be called the day before the event and reminded of the event.

    The best time to hold a press event is between late morning and early afternoon. The best days for the event are Monday through Friday because there are fewer reporters, camera crews and editors assigned to weekends.

  11. Use of quotes (also called "sound bites" in TV): Make your best spokesperson available (in this case one of your more eloquent students may be desirable); one who is both personable and enthusiastic. Encourage them to "be themselves."

    Most "sound bites" typically last 15 seconds. Due to such tight time frames, it is helpful to practice answering anticipated questions in advance.

  12. Use of props: If you have props (i.e. student-produced projects, classroom models of the Martian landscape, models of the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder or the "Sojourner" lander, background posters, etc.) be sure to use them as backdrops or within the interview for demonstration.

    Part II. Specific Media:

      For Newspaper coverage:

      • Attach printed background material along with your press release and give the reporter at least a few days to become familiar with the materials.

        To receive a copy of the updated Passport to Knowledge 1997-98 flyer, contact Jan Wee, education outreach coordinator: email- jwee@mail.arc.nasa.gov or call: 608-786-2767.

      • Provide quotes (the equivalent of sound bites for newspapers) and identify each person being quoted. (If you are writing the materials, feel free to quote yourself.) You may also wish to identify others in the field (along with phone numbers) whom the reporter can contact for additional quotes.

        Note your students' comments that relay a sense of excitement and motivation!

      • SELL the story to the newspaper reporter or editor. Tell them in writing why you feel this is an important event to cover. Share your excitement about the event!

      • A picture, especially one in color, helps to make an article more appealing and interesting. Check with your local papers as to whether they prefer color or black and white prints or slides.

        Capture your students doing hands-on activities: working with a model of the Mars mission vehicles, conducting rocketry experiments, visiting with an amateur astronomer, building a model rover.

      Local Television

      • Local TV coverage is a very effective medium for sharing your special events. Contact your local TV stations at least one to two weeks in advance of the event. Be prepared to describe what will be unique about your event and how it will appeal to the viewing audience.

      • Try an unusual angle, rather than a feature news story, offer a connection between the Live From Mars project activities and local geology, weather, or astronomy-related concerns or issues.

      • Make video clips available of related events that might be included in the report. Be sure to use high-quality tapes with clear sound recording.

      • Remember the use of "sound bites" (see item 11) -- quotes that are both concise and effectively stated.


Sample Press Release: Mars Team Online Project

For use by participating schools
Remember: Use letterhead stationery!

********************************************************

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!

For more information contact:

Insert headline here:

e.g. "West Avenue Middle School Students Explore Mars with Scientists"

Insert
Anywhere, USA, November 15, 1996

More than 125 sixth grade students will gather together on November 19th, 1996 at 1 p.m. in the West Avenue Middle School auditorium for a historic, live telecast from Cape Canaveral, Florida entitled "Countdown." This broadcast, produced by the innovative education project, Passport to Knowledge, will be carried via NASA-TV and PBS stations around the country.

This event marks the first time ever that a national project enables students to participate in a NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission to explore Mars. Students across the country will travel "virtually" to Mars via this electronic field-trip experience that connects students with "real science, real scientists, real time, real locations."

"Countdown" is one of four live broadcasts associated with the 1996-97 Passport to Knowledge education project, Mars Team Online. The Passport projects incorporate live TV, online networks, print, and hands-on materials that enable students and educators in schools, museums, science centers, and at home to participate first hand as co-explorers of scientific frontiers. Previous projects include Live From Antarctica, Live From the Stratosphere, and Live From the Hubble Space Telescope. Students from West Avenue Middle school also participated in prior electronic field trips. One student stated "I felt like I was right there, even though I was here in our classroom!" when asked why he liked participating in the field trips.

Mr. Stelk's sixth grade class was recently invited to submit a videotape of students asking questions of mission scientists to be incorporated into the first telecast, "Countdown." Students also have another avenue for receiving answers from real scientists and researchers during the projects. Their questions are submitted via email to the Mars Team Online Question-and-Answer forum.

The students will also be participating in a collaborative online activity that emulates the work of Mars mission scientists. Over the next month students will simulate the process of deciding what science instruments should be carried by a spacecraft like Pathfinder. They will debate the merits of their instrument package online with students around the country and share the data collected locally online.

Following the first broadcast on November 19, 1996 students will be sharing the special group research projects with students in fourth grade classes and interested parents and guests. Models of the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor, Mars landscape models, and rocketry experiments will be shared.

We believe this is a unique opportunity to share how our school is integrating leading edge technology into the science curriculum. Please plan to join us for this extraordinary event.


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