Press Relations

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Press Relations are the backbone of your publicity machine. In return for handy news content for their media, you get public exposure for your event.

Tell the local newspaper, magazine, television, cable access, and radio people that you are having a convention. Be nice to them, and maybe they'll be nice back. The media are not your enemy, but you cannot entirely trust them either. Remember that their primary goal is to find something that piques public interest, and they will run with whatever angle they find most likely to achieve that goal irrespective of whether or not it presents you in the best light. Be careful what you feed them.

First thing: give them plenty of warning and a useful description of the event (Press Release, phrased in a compact and friendly way), maybe as much as several weeks in advance, but don't pester them. Most likely your event will be treated as a fill in feature, not breaking news, so there is no guarantee about how extensive the coverage will be. See the Checklist for an outline.

Consider who you want to invite to be press at your event. Tabloid newspapers and 'shock jock' radio shows are generally to be avoided. In addition to contacting reputable media sources, also consider other media outlets such as youth radio stations, geeky TV shows or that free newspaper that gets distributed at train stations. These other outlets may be perfect for reaching your target audience and earning future attendees to your event. But also an article in a mainstream, reputable media outlet is great as this reaches a wide audience and may be useful to show to advertisers, future guests of honour and so on as a way of proving the reputation, importance and professionalism as a convention. (Providing the article is favourable, that is.)

Once you've successfully contacted a media outlet who is willing to attend and cover your event, they will need to know when to be there, who to talk to, and what they are likely to see. Do not leave this up to chance. Make sure you have their mobile numbers and that con staff know that this person or group is arriving. Prepare a packet for their arrival including background material, contact information and a press ribbon. Arrange for meetings with the ConChair, one or more Guest(s) of Honor, photography session at a live demonstration or with a high quality costumer, or with a FirstFandom member. Confirm all appointments and meetings the day before, and be sure to meet the press guy up front, then escort to every one of the meetings. The escort must be someone prepared to do the job right, and accurately answer questions as necessary, or know where to get the answers, then get them (quickly). Coordinate the on-site visit activity with the hotel or convention center management. If you are lucky, they've done this before. Many of these meetings can be done before the convention, which is preferable so that the article can run right before the event.

Next, there is no such thing as "off the record". Never try to use it. If you don’t want it reported or repeated, don’t say it in the first place.

Never assume the reporter has the same frame of reference you have. That’s a fatal mistake! Assume the reporter knows nothing about what you’re trying to tell them.

Don’t use acronyms, "fannish" words, or jargon. Use simple words in short sentences. Imagine that you are explaining this to a fifth-grader. If a 10-year-old can understand it, then chances are the reporter will, too.

You may know very well what you told the reporter, but you really don’t know what they heard until the story comes out. Since reporters will almost NEVER give you their story to check over, the next best thing is to ask them at the time you’re talking to them to tell you what they think they heard, especially when the subject matter or concepts are complex. They’ll normally do that because most reporters have accuracy as their #1 priority.

Don't waste the press guy's time, they have lots of other things to do and they are giving you free publicity.

It’s extremely important that we understand what the story is that we want told. Thinking ahead about what they’re likely to ask is helpful. They’re after the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of the story. They normally answer the first four of these in the first couple of paragraphs, then use the rest of the paragraphs to explain further, telling the most important parts first, heading toward the least important aspects toward the end of the story.

Don't do anything to embarass yourself, or you really will make the news, but not in a good way.

Don't forget to write thank you notes to the press after the convention. This can be a good time to ask permission to post copies of any articles on the convention web site as well.

In Arisia's experience, this job takes approximately 5 hours per month from five months out to six weeks out, 3 hours per week in the six weeks leading up to the convention, and perhaps as much as 10 hours at the convention (although it is expected to take about 5).