By David Arkin, Local Media Association 

Back-to-school doesn’t have to mean boring stories on sales tax holidays and how excited teachers are to start the new school year.

Those stories are fine, but with digital tools, creative storytelling approaches and video, back-to-school coverage can actually be interesting.

Here are 12 ideas you could do this year:

1. Get hyper local with your schools: Depending on the size of your coverage area, do short chunks on each school listing the following: Name of school, number of students, names of new teachers, special events for the year and themes for the year. This approach allows you to feature new teachers and help parents understand what they can expect for their kids. If you cover a larger metro, focus on new schools.

2. Do a list of key dates: As a parent, it’s difficult to keep up with in-service dates, special holidays and more throughout the year. So create a story that lists the 15 dates — or whatever number you think is appropriate — that parents most need to know for the school year. This is a story that you could cycle through on social media a few times at the beginning of the year. Using a list headline will help in the engagement, like “Parents should know these 15 dates for the school year.”

3. Are you smarter than your kids? Create a quiz and ask parents to answer five questions that appear on their kid’s state test. Encourage parents share their results on Facebook with an invite to have their friends take the quiz.

4. First day 360: Take your 360 equipment to school on the first day and do a 360 of kids either walking through the front door or see if the school will allow you to get at an interesting angle like on top of the roof to capture all of the parents coming in. That angle would also make for a great gallery and 1A photo.

5. How schools perform: This is really the perfect time of year to inform parents on how schools they care about are performing. Some states release new ratings at the start of the year. This would be a good time of the year to showcase that data.

6. First-day jitters: Kids say the funniest things. See if you can ask 10 kindergartners what they are most excited or afraid about with starting school. It would make a great list or video.

7. Superintendent sit down: Interview your superintendent and opposed to a long narrative on priorities for the year, break down the story in different topics. The intro could note that you sat down with the superintendent and here’s what they had to say about these topics. Each topic could have a sentence or two explaining the issue and then feature their quotes. It would be a nice way to understand the school’s priorities in a breezy format.

8. Get those first-day pictures: Parents will be flooding Facebook with photos of their cute kids on the first day of school. Utilizing a social aggregation tool like Storify, use hashtags that can feature that content.

9. Share your staff’s first day photos: Using a juxtaposition tool, you could feature your staff’s first day photos with their kids’ first day photos. This is a great way to show a little personality.

10. The cost of going to school: It’s not cheap to get your kids ready for the start of school. Talk to an expert who can offer parents tips on how to spend wisely for not just the start of school but throughout the school year. Example: These tips will make school spending not so overwhelming.

11. Go live with your education reporter: Using Facebook Live, either have your superintendent sit down or host a Q&A with your education reporter. If you host an event with your education reporter,  have an editor ask them questions about the biggest school-related topics and stories of the year. It would position and brand your reporter as an expert.

12. Do a profile a day: For five days leading up to the start of the school year, find a different human interest story for each day. The school district could offer some ideas. Look for teachers who have a unique approach, a student who has overcome something or is involved in a neat project.

David Arkin is the Chief Content Officer at the Local Media Association. Contact him at