Monday, August 6, 2012

Back to #SchoolPR Tips: First Day Photos

Cute kid photos are like gold for school PR people. As a practice, we get to go around through the school year for events, programs, or any random opportunity to shoot photos in our campuses and school districts. We search for those elusive shots that capture the excitement, interest, and intrigue that can be found in education. A prime opportunity for these photos occurs during back to school.

But what happens when you can't be at all campuses at once? How can you get those first day photos with the bright smiles, carefully chosen threads, the occasional tears from the little ones and their parents, and other such images? Let the community submit these photos. Here's how:

User-Generated First Day Photos

I started our school district's first day photo concept back in 2008. The idea is simple: Put out the call for photo submissions via the communication channel(s) of  your choice website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

We do with a website posting like this 'Photo Gallery Request - Send us your first day photos' along with the criteria. We ask that users email photos taken during the first few days of school. I use Google applications for a number of other district-related items like the school district's blog, website analytics, and more so naturally I let folks email their photos to the Gmail account for quick access and labeling.  To make things even easier, we only accept .jpg format images.

We also note that by submitting photos, users are agreeing to allow the district to display the images among other submitted photos on the district's online gallery site. Users also agree to allow the district to use the images for other district-related print or electronic publications. 

These photos then get uploaded to a First Day Photos gallery for that year. (See our galleries from 2009, 2010, or 2011 for more samples.) We try not to show names or other easily identifiable images. 


I've been very impressed with some of the quality of images sent in by families. When I started this, I figured we get mostly younger kids. Surprisingly there are typically plenty of middle and high school students submitting photos as well. 

We get all kinds of shots like photos as kids walk out the door in their homes, standing in the driveway, climbing on the bus, walking up the school sidewalks, in the hallways and classrooms. 

In four years, we've posted over 540 photos that were sent in for the annual first day photos galleries. From these photos I've been able to pull images for use on the district's blog and website and in some cases, in print when the quality and resolution have both been high enough. Plus, there's the added bonus of being to get photos from almost every campus if we've done our job of effectively communicating the submission opportunity.

Creating a way for your users to submit photos is such an easy way to engage your families, drive traffic to various communication channels through cross-pollination of content, and mine that school PR gold. 

What do you think? What are some ways you have used back to school time for school public relations? The comments are yours.