August 15, 2012
Between The Berms: 7 Steps For Getting Press
OK. Here's some free advice.
Yes, I know you didn't ask for it, but you need it.
If you watched the Olympics you saw that real sports coverage is all about story telling. It's telling the viewer what they're watching, who's who and why they should care about them, and why it's a significant event.
All it is, is story telling. And the shooting community sucks at story telling.
I realize you have your own magazine, and your club puts out a spiffy black & white Xeroxed newsletter, but that is 'preaching to the choir.' I'm talking about telling non-shooters our story and that means going to 'The Mainstream Media.'
When it comes to media coverage of the shooting sports, the one thing you hear more than anything else is that "the media won't cover us because they're anti-gun." It's said so often, and with such conviction, that it's become gospel.
And that thinking has resulted in not communicating with the media at all. (Or has it simply become an easy excuse not to try?)
That way of thinking is also dead wrong.
Sure, the media in general is anti-gun, but that's primarily when it comes to second amendment issues and the politics of firearms. That doesn't mean they aren't interested in local news about local competitors. The old axiom is that "all politics is local." Well, more and more, all news is local.
The media will in fact cover the shooting sports. Whether you're talking newspapers, radio, television or internet, local media will, and have, covered the shooting sports.
Trust me, I've had just a tiny bit of experience in this area. The problem in getting media attention isn't with them, it's with us.
If you think back to the Olympic events you watched you probably remember getting a lot of back story on the athletes and the sports themselves. This is because a ton of research was done in preparation for the Games so that NBC's commentators have material to work from.
Not only did NBC have it's own researchers, but the sports' governing bodies provided material, as did the national governing bodies. And this is the key element you need to focus on.
Call up any shooting organization and ask who won a particular event - make it a major one - over the last five years and who the winner beat out to get that title. You will not get an immediate answer. Ask for the Ladies winners, the Senior winners, or the Junior winners, and the silence you get back will be deafening.
The shooting sports cannot tell their own stories. So it should come as no surprise that an NBC isn't going to be able to tell it either.
Generally speaking, I think it is safe to say that the best we've gotten in "shooting stories" from the sports themselves has been the flurry or releases from USA Shooting and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit during the Olympics. Though, that drops off outside of the media circus of the Olympics.
The other notable effort in bringing you the news from a match has been the work of Lars Dalseide over at the NRA Blog where they've been covering the Camp Perry matches which wrap up today. Do yourself a favor and follow that blog.
Outside of those two examples you'd be hard pressed to find anybody in the shooting sports actually doing what we think of as press for a match. My theory is that it has something to do with that horrible four-letter word: Work.
For some organizations it's a function of the costs involved. But in the volunteer-dominated shooting sports, seek out one who can handle this vital aspect of a match. Unless of course you're going to tell me that none of them can write.
And that's just not true.
So, instead of sitting around and complaining about what the media isn't doing for us, why not do your own work. Here's that free advice...
Step 1: Start digging up that info on your key matches. Who won what title? Who did they beat? Gather data so you can paint a picture.
Step 2: Come up with a story, or pitch, to send to the local media. Use that data you gathered to define the narrative(s) surrounding your match.
Step 3: Follow up. Think of it as follow through with your shotgun swing or trigger pull, just on a phone with a reporter. You sent out a release about your match. Now call the local reporters to a) confirm they received it, and b) see if they need additional information, photos, or interview candidates.
Step 4: Say YES and figure it out later. I was copied on a recent email where the head of a shooting organization was asked by a TV show about filming a match and the response was: We can accommodate you in any way that you need. You let me know when you want to shoot and we'll make it happen. Making things harder for a TV show or news crew just means they'll cover something else instead. If you lead with "no" you're going to get nothing.
Step 5: Don't kitchen sink it. If a reporter shows up at your match, don't get so excited to finally see an honest-to-God real live reporter that you feel the need to tell them absolutely every detail about everything shooting you think they should be interested in. Let them tell you what they are looking for then stay focused on helping them get that story.
Step 6: Follow up, again. If you get lucky and do get covered then let the reporter know your appreciation. Call or email the reporter to thank them, and tell them you'd be happy to help with any future shooting sports stories. Whatever you do, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES take the opportunity during your thank you call to tell them what they may have gotten wrong in their story. If this needs to be explained then you probably shouldn't be contacting the press in the first place.
Step 7: Photos. (Yeah, it's that photography thing again.) You've seen the comment in forums: This post is worthless without photos. Well so too is your media effort. At the very least try and get photos of the winners so you can send them to the local reporters.
Look, everybody thinks it's incredibly hard doing press. The reality is that it's not. It just takes time and dedication towards the objective.
If you aren't going to put in the work, then don't sit around complaining you can't get any attention from the media. Because if you aren't willing to do the work to promote your own sport then why should the media?
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network
Got shooting sports news? Send us an email at email@example.com.