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How to handle the media - Australian Flying Disc Association (AFDA)

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How to handle the media
By Jason de Rooy, ACTUA
During Nationals I was interviewed several times by media outlets, and had done a bit of local media stuff in Canberra previously. Each time I learnt something new, and for a while I've been meaning to write something up and/or share the thoughts with others who have probably done similar things around their neck of the woods.
If people are interested in this topic, we may look at putting together an overview for wider distribution (both on-line and a short version in AU, as to me everyone has a role in marketing ultimate). At this point I only have a random collection of thoughts.
To anyone who works in communications, this is probably all obvious, so forgive me but enlighten me also!
Basically, promoting ultimate through the media goes better with preparation, and particularly if you've thought through the *key message(s)* you want to convey, and who the audience is (both the 'reporter' and the 'reader').
I've put out four different press releases to local Canberra media, as well as one for Nationals to several National media outlets. Here's my thoughts.
If you're doing a press release, think about the three types of 'reporters'.
1. Press releases to small papers (eg those local free newspapers which exist due to their advertising) are generally lifted word for word to fill space, so write them exactly how you'd like to see something in those publications. The staff there just have to fill up the non-advertising space as quickly and easily as possible. Small papers also have a very local focus, hence local hooks (such as mentioning local fields, local identities etc) are a good idea. If you have quality pictures, offer to provide them.
2. Press releases to radio, particularly local radio, should be aimed at getting them to get you on air, either in the studio or over the phone. Hence, you need to get them to call you to chat, so they can discover what an entertaining and capable speaker you are.
3. Press releases to larger papers + radio + tv are aimed at getting an editor to send a journalist and/or photographer to get a story. Hence, the hook needs to be "something interesting is happening" or has happened. Generally, this should be quite short (they'll send someone to get more info, and short means it's more likely to be read), and emphasise the size or importance of the event (eg 200 ultimate players will be there; or this is the National Championship) to get interest.
Keep the description of the sport to one sentence at most, particularly if your message (see below) is that Ultimate is legitimate. Include a website reference should the reporter want to do initial research. Keeping it short also can generate interest via "mystery" ie "what the heck is ultimate? I'd better look into it".
Always always include a phone number, and one that will always always be
answered first time they call. The phone number can be marked "not for publication" if you're worried about this. But its essential as a first point for the journo to contact. Email won't quite do, as they need to confirm you're not a nutter (which is more easily hidden in email!) - still, a good backup. More info on website is good too, although website design is a whole other issue.
Try to think through what the journo is after or is interested in. It wasn't until after I chatted to the guy from 'Inside Sport' that I learnt he wasn't interested in how cheap and easy to learn Ultimate was, messages that I try to use with more local media to promote people participating. He wanted to hear about how exciting the sport was, who the personalities involved were, what made it special.
Ditto the guy who rang from the Gold Coast News - luckily I realised early that he wanted a Gold Coast angle. I managed to dredge up some memory of people being based out of Bond and playing regularly in the Brisbane League, and that the Gold Coast would be perfect for a National Beach tournament. As you can see, sometimes you have to wing it a little - fortunately he didn't print that so I didn't have QUDA thinking me to be some unknowing nut.
Give "paragraph" answers to questions, rather than "sentence" or "one word" answers. This is where the rule of 3 (see below) is useful - say three things in response to each question. Also, anecdote is a very useful tool - it provides plenty of flavour, personalises things, and helps if you're not a great speaker. Everyone has a story about ultimate!
There are pros and cons of being interviewed "at a game". For radio (outside the studio) its, essential, as it builds atmosphere. The Jim Trail from Triple J for example was very keen for crowd and game noise to be in the background. TV also likes to have a bit of action in the background
"Staging" can help a lot here too - you can "rig" this a little by letting players know beforehand to expect some media, and also it can be good to have a pre-arranged "quality" cheer ready to "spontaneously" occur. However, at the fields it is often easy to be distracted, particularly if you are otherwise involved in organising or playing, and also it can be difficult to get "other voices" (ie people) as they may be organising and playing.
Also, try and pre-arrange where possible to have more than your own "voice" involved - eg for radio, make sure at least a guy and a gal are involved. Other dynamics can be "new enthusiast and old hand"; "young person and older person"; "Aussie accent and non-Aussie accent". This makes it more interesting, and also emphasises the diverse context of Ultimate - contrast it with ex-football player interviewing football player. This is particularly important for vision (below). Helps a lot if you're going somewhere like a radio studio for interview also - if you fumble your partner will catch and vice-versa.
Vision does a lot to market Ultimate - people understand it if they see it, and they can get a sense of how spectacular it is. It also gets more attention in newspapers etc. Wherever possible, offer, arrange, promote, beg to show VISION.
Journos often don't travel with photographers - they come by separately.
Remember the obvious, photographers are after ACTION, so providing it helps a lot. This can be particularly encouraged through "staging" a bit. Photographers also don't need a game - just some people throwing, leaping, diving, contesting, etc.
Have photo ops ready to go at the drop of a hat. For example, should people want new pics of ACT ultimate, we arrange a time within an hour that we can get at least two people to an oval at ANU.
Keep a record of which places have taken photos of you in the past. For a recent piece in the Canberra Times, I was able to tell the journo that they should already have some pictures in the files from around September last year. This was good for them as it sped everything up (and we got to see shots of Stew who's since left!).
It's rough, but if you're lucky enough to score TV, think hard about your on-screen talent, and again about your message. If someone makes it onto Channel 9, then IMHO (and shoot me down) I want to have fit looking young models on there (assuming they can still hold up the conversation). If it's for the local news and you're trying to encourage new players, then groups with a mix of male/female, young/old, etc is desirable.
Remember the rule of three - if you can have prepared, get across and re-emphasise three main messages, you've done well.
Messages of course vary depending on audience and how you want them to respond. Ideally each point falls out into three other points.
I really welcome feedback and discussion on the key messages of ultimate marketing, as if some common "Australian" approach can be agreed to
Recruitment Messages: 1. Cheap (no refs etc mean low fees; you don't need special gear; hippy/student tradition). 2. Social (emphasis on fun not winning - no grumpy coaches or player-aggro; boys and girls play together; post-game socialising).
3. Easy (rules are simple; throwing is easy to learn; subbing, non-contact and player-matching means you don't need to be super-fit/tough).
General Public Messages:
1. Growth/Success (grassroots participation is increasing (include figures or percentages if possible); growing State/National level competition (eg mention how many teams attended last few Nationals); elite success is increasing (mention recent worlds or similar results).
2. Distinctiveness/Contrast with other sports (Men and women, young and old are able to compete equally together; SOTG means Sportspersonship which many sports seem to have lost (note, these are complex messages - make sure you have time to convey this; unique personality/character of players and sport).
3. Excitement to Watch and Play (anyone can play (see recruitment messages); high speed of game; amazing athleticism of top players).
Australian Flying Disc Association Inc
Recognised by the Australian Sports Commission
Australian Flying Disc Association Inc.
1 Eccles Streetphone0430 076 807
Ermington NSW
ABN 54 767 962 634
Recognised by the Australian Sports Commission
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