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  • Writer's pictureTony Harrison

Our Governor can code! Can yours?

Updated: May 7


People at laptops writing computer code.
Idaho's Governor levels up his coding skills with the help of a student. Photo: Otto Kitsinger

How COMMposition delivers results for the Gem State's STEM champion.

 

the client

 

The Idaho STEM Action Center has relied on COMMposition as its PR agency of record since its infancy. The agency is part of the Executive Office of the Governor and was created by the Idaho State Legislature in 2015 to help prepare the workforce of tomorrow by advancing science, technology, engineering, math, and computer science education.

 

the challenge

 

Raise awareness of the fledgling agency, its mission and programs, and the need for greater STEM literacy, as well as cultivate a basic understanding of what STEM despite a shrinking news hole and diminishing staff resources at many local news outlets.

 

our approach

 

Focus on noteworthy events with visually compelling elements. Gather and distribute high-quality assets for media that can’t attend. Leverage local angles at every opportunity. That’s our general approach to media relations for the STEM Action Center.

 

Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code are a prime example. Considered the largest learning event in history, Hour of Code is a global movement Code.org founded in 2013 that has reached more than 1.7 billion learners ages 4 to 104 in over 180 countries. Hour of Code events coincide with international Computer Science Education Week and offer a one-hour introduction to computer science and the basics of coding via fun tutorials in more than 45 languages.

 

CS Ed Week is an annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science and celebrate contributions of students, teachers, and partners in the field. It played host to more than 19,300 events worldwide in 2023, including over 7,800 in the U.S. and at least 80 in Idaho.

 

The STEM Action Center secures a CS Ed Week proclamation from the Governor annually and also arranges for the Governor or Lt. Governor to attend an Hour of Code event at a school to read the proclamation and code with kids in the classroom.

 

We lure media to the event to cover it as news by carefully crafting media alerts we distribute to local newsrooms several days in advance.

 

We work with one of COMMposition’s strategic partners, photographer Otto Kitsinger, to capture action-oriented candids and create complete captions for a dozen or so selects.

 

We prepare a news release in advance of the event and distribute it along with the photo selects and any b-roll we are able to capture to media shortly afterwards. Although many TV stations won’t use outside b-roll, they will create photo-based stories if we provide them with a nice array.

 

As we distribute these materials statewide, we include a custom intro that highlights a local angle whenever possible. For our CS Ed Week distributions, we highlight Hour of Code events in the local markets of each media outlet we email the news release to.

 

our results

 

Leveraging events in this manner consistently yields great results. Again, CS Ed Week and Hour of Code is a good example, garnering coverage throughout the Gem State in such outlets as Idaho Education News, Idaho Press, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, KTVB-TV (the state’s leading broadcaster), KBOI-TV, and KIFI-TV, as well as Government Technology magazine in 2023. Combined, the three TV stations and their three sister stations (KTFT-TV, KNIN-TV, and KIDK-TV, respectively) aired their stories 34 times in three of the state’s most populous regions — Southwest Idaho, Southern Idaho, and Eastern Idaho.

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