Peter Clark and Anna White shared their experiences at a TESBBC Schools and the Media conference in London on Monday, after turning the "worst school in Britain" into what the Sun called "the school from heaven".
Mr Clark, now back at Rastrick high school, near Halifax, and Ms White, currently headteacher at The Ridings, arrived in October 1996 to find the school frozen in the media spotlight.
They started a successful campaign to change the school's image by inviting newspapers to report positive news, although some journalists felt the coverage was being orchestrated and returned later to film outside the school.
Mr Clark said a more honest and open approach was required in dealing with the media.
"People in a local community admire you if you say black is black and don't confuse the issue," he said.
He felt the tabloids had helped the school come out of special measures sooner than expected. They had made amends for "disgraceful" stories and some reporters had earned "grudging respect" by apologising to pupils.
"The Quick and Dirty Guide to PR for Schools" was launched at the conference and is published by the Institute for Public Relations for Schools at Pounds 3. Tel 01249 706561.