Publicity 101: Making your club news

Writing headlines takes work, but it's worth the effort

Every week throughout the year, members of the B.A.S.S. Nation conduct tournaments, initiate conservation projects, and direct charity fundraisers that their neighbors know nothing about. If they did know, the neighbors might want to participate. Sports writers and broadcasters often are focused on the big spectator-sport organizations, such as NASCAR and the NFL, and college and high school teams. Smaller newspapers and television stations usually don't have enough people to cover every sporting event in their areas. The amount of newspaper space and broadcast time for mainstream sports is also shrinking.
So, how does a fishing club make news in the community? First, get the message out. The local paper or broadcast outlet may be happy to cover a regional tournament or event, especially if it performs a public service, like a shoreline clean-up, or benefits a charity.
Find a contact If your local newspaper has an outdoors writer who regularly covers fishing, e-mail or phone that person. Many newspapers publish the writers' e-mail addresses and phone numbers at the end of news stories and columns. Contact the writer first by e-mail, and if you don't receive a reply, make a phone call. A few days before the event, make a polite reminder call.
If the paper does not cover fishing regularly, call or e-mail the newspaper's city editor or the regional editor who covers your area. To find the right person, call the newspaper's newsroom and ask the person who answers the phone for the name, e-mail address and phone number of the editor who makes news assignments. Ditto with television and radio stations: If the station doesn't have someone who regularly covers fishing stories, ask for the general assignment news producer.
When to make contact E-mail the newspaper or station several weeks before the event, and follow up with a note each week as the event approaches.
Avoid calling a newspaper or broadcast facility during production, their busiest time. Here are some tips:
• The best time to call a daily newspaper that's delivered in the morning is late afternoon.
• The best time to call a weekly newspaper, published midweek, is Monday.
• The best time to call an evening news program is morning.
What to say
In your initial contact, tell the news outlet the "who, what, when, where and why" of your event. For example, the beginning of an e-mail might say something like this:
"The Forrest County Bassmasters club is expecting 300 anglers to compete in its fifth annual open charity tournament and auction, April 6 on Smith Lake. The event raises money to support emergency services at the county hospital."
Then provide some support information. For example:
"Last year's tournament and auction raised $10,000 for the hospital, and tournament organ­i­zers hope to raise even more money this year. Rick's Appliance Store has donated a flat-screen, high-definition TV, valued at $2,000, to the auction. 'The generosity of our county's business community should help us raise more than $15,000 for the hospital this year,' said Jim Brown, president of Forrest County Bassmasters."
If you're trying to attract competitors, add information about prize money, registration fees, the entry limit, and times of the launch and weigh-in.
At the end of your e-mail, always provide contact information. For example:
"For more information, call Jim Brown at 555-1212 during the day or 555-1213 during the evening, or e-mail jimbrown@fcbassmasters.com."
If your initial contact is a phone call, be prepared to provide the same information in a conversation with the assignment editor or reporter.
Be flexible. If an editor says no one is available to cover your event, offer to send results and photos afterwards. Important note: If you're sending an e-mail, put all the information into the main body of the e-mail, not in an attachment. To prevent software viruses, some news outlets block attachments, and others discourage staffers from opening attachments. Also, in your subject line, include the words "News Release."
The day of the event
Assign one or two members of the club to be hosts for reporters and photographers — before, during and following the event. Provide the hosts' cell phone numbers to invited reporters and photographers so they can find them during the event.
If the event is a tournament, the hosts should have a boat available for taking reporters or photographers out on the water.
Be prepared for a quick visit. Weekends are especially busy for sports reporters and photographers. If they do go out on your photo boat, they may have to return to shore quickly to get to another event.
Club hosts should know what's happening and be able to explain it, in simple terms, to a reporter who may know nothing about fishing. If it's important to get tournament results in the paper, offer to e-mail them to the reporter. In the results, include the full name, hometown and catch weight of each of the top anglers.
And be sure the basics are covered: Make parking available for reporters and photographers. Offer them cold water or soft drinks, caps if they aren't wearing their own, and raingear if necessary. Be positive, and remember to say thanks for the coverage. Simply be a good host.
After the event
Offer to e-mail results and photos.
If it's a tournament, include with the tournament results a brief quote from the top two anglers about the day's fishing conditions and what they did to win.
If the event performed a public service, stress its results. For example, "The clean-up removed two truckloads of debris from 20miles of shoreline," or "The event raised $15,000 for the county hospital."
Most newspapers prefer action photos over "grip and grin" shots of people passing checks or trophies from one to another. They prefer shots of an angler landing a big fish, the winner with a lunker at the scale, or a volunteer performing a public service. Make sure your photos are sharp, the shade isn't covering the subject's face, and the camera is set to medium or high resolution.
Most important: Always say thanks for the coverage, whether you liked it or not. A brief note or e-mail to say thanks for covering this event is an investment in getting more coverage next time. •

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