April 4, 2017 — Teachers looking for ways to create awareness for their PE programs might follow the example set by the General McLane School District in Erie, Pa.

In early March, the Erie Times profiled the physical education program at James Parker Middle School. Students, the story explained, had begun giving unprecedented effort during class following the introduction of “cool gym devices” – the IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors.


Erie Times photo

The Erie Times’ original story published Saturday, March 4, in conjunction with an editorial extolling the technology’s positive influence. By Monday, March 6, the Associated Press – a national wire service that sends both original and published content across the country – had picked up the story and it began appearing in publications outside of Erie, expanding on the awareness generated by the original story. While the story didn’t go viral in the sense of a Facebook Live feed of a zoo where a giraffe is set to give birth, the story definitely gained footage well beyond the local market.

Origin of a story

Coverage began simply enough – with a note from physical education teacher Bob Santos to General McLane School District Public Relations Manager Marissa Obranek before winter had arrived. Santos contacted Obranek to see if the district would bring awareness to an art department project to create a media room where the PE department could store its new technology.

“When he told me about it, it was more because the art department was working with the phys ed to create a media room for the equipment,” Obranek said. “So naturally, I inquired about the equipment! The art room was delayed until after Thanksgiving, so that is how we launched awareness for the new equipment.”

Obranek took some pictures and developed a press release that first published on the school district’s Lancer Life blog. She also sent a press release to the Erie media while making sure to contact a few more directly.

“I have a handful of writers that I have pretty good relationships with and know the kinds of stories that they are looking for — naturally, this was one of them!” she said. “So I sent out to my media contacts, but specifically followed up with the handful that I think could include this as part of what they normally cover.”

Engaging the local media


Erie Times photo

In February, the Erie Times’ David Bruce contacted her, asking to meet with PE teachers and watch as students used the new technology – the IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors and IHT Spirit System® software – during a PE class.

Bruce published his story in early March, much to the delight of Santos and colleague Heather Karns. The teachers were able to demonstrate to the entire community how they are using new technology to improve student performance in both PE and beyond, and community members got a glimpse at exactly how funding had been spent.

Websites including the Washington Times, U.S. News & World Reports and publications in Indiana, Ohio and beyond picked up the story about how Parker’s students have learned to work hard and push through barriers during PE with a boost from IHT’s technology. Even at the end of March, the Parker Middle School story still had life, appearing again in the Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal.

We are thrilled that the local newspaper, with its 4 million page views per month, profiled students benefitting from our tools. We are equally thrilled that news outlets across the country, including U.S. News with its 160 million monthly page views, showcased the students’ efforts – and IHT’s technology – to a much broader audience. And it all started simply enough – with a teacher reaching out to the school’s public relations manager.