Publicity is critical both to forming and to sustaining an NAR Section.
Print and Broadcast Media
Try using public service announcements in local paper and radio stations. Newspapers, particularly local weekly or biweekly editions, carry a “Community Calendar” of events. Your rocket club meetings and launches are legitimate candidates for these columns. Keep the information down to a minimum: time, date, place, and who to contact for further information. Also remember to keep sending in these announcements after your club gets going. It’s free advertising, and every spot you advertise may bring you more members. Check with your local papers’ requirements before submitting your announcements. Most will have no problem with an announcement like the sample below:
The Centreville Rocket Society will hold its meeting Friday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Town Hall, Room 310. Contact Bill Jones, 555-1234, for further information.
Local radio stations also run “Public Service Announcements.” Generally, the same text you sent to the newspaper will work here. Make sure you indicate you want a “public service announcement” made on behalf of your group when you write or call the radio station. Local TV stations sometimes have similar announcements, so check them out as well.
There are several ways you can use cable TV to your advantage. The first and simplest is to submit a form with a text ad announcing your new club. These ads typically run on page-oriented “community bulletin board” screens, or as “crawls” under the on-line program guide.
Even better, if you can spare the effort, you can videotape a club launch and submit it for airing on the local “public access” channel. Many cable operators are required to show whatever people in their community submit — but keep in mind, the more professional the product, the better it will draw new members. Most cable operators will help you edit and add titles to the video, and many can even teach you how to put together a professional production and even loan you the equipment to film it!
Don’t restrict your publicity efforts to those outlined here. Keep your eye open for any opportunity to get your message out to the public. And remember to keep up the publicity effort. It doesn’t stop after you have a club formed. You will always need to replace members who drop out, move away, or go to college.
One good way to attract attention and members for your new club is to host a rocket demonstration launch, usually known as a “demo” for short. This requires some equipment and some fellow modelers willing to help out — one individual cannot run a demo alone. Once you have four to seven dedicated modelers, you can make use of this method to start or expand your Section.
Line Up Sponsors
Hobby shops can provide a base of support for your demonstrations. A hobby shop owner may be willing to sponsor your demo — to arrange for your launch site, help with publicity, and perhaps even obtain engines or kits for you at low or no cost. Tell him in detail why you want to run a demo: to attract support and members for your club, and to show the public the safety, educational value, and fun of rocketry.
Arrange for a Launch Site
Secure permission to use the launch site. While this may seem obvious to many rocketeers, it is often overlooked in the enthusiasm of getting ready for one’s first demo. Many site owners will be unfamiliar with rocketry, so be prepared. Explain the basics of the hobby to the owner. Have explanatory drawings, photographs, or even actual models on hand for examination. Stress the impressive safety record of sport rocketry. Tell the owner about the public service he is providing to the community.
Issue Press Releases
Issue press releases to local TV, radio, and print media. Here is a sample:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO ALL MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES
Centreville Rocket Club Hosts Launch
The Centreville Rocket Society, in conjunction with Bob’s Hobby Shop, 123 Main Street, is conducting a public demonstration launch on Saturday, March 15. Over 50 rockets of various types will be flown from Memorial Park starting at 2:00. Included in the launches will be a scale model of the Space Shuttle “Discovery,” constructed by club member Fred Smith, and scheduled for flight at 2:30. At 3:00, club member John Miller will attempt to launch a raw egg 300 feet into the air and recover it undamaged. Further information on the launch is available from club president Bill Jones at 555-1234.
Local papers find stories on rocket activities interesting copy. Including a good photograph can actually help your chances of getting run — editors love visuals.
Send the release to the media about two or three weeks in advance of your event. The coverage after the demo will continue to bring members to your doorstep.
Prepare Launch Equipment
Assemble the equipment necessary for the demo. There are several key pieces of equipment needed to run a proper demo:
- A good public address (PA) system;
- A rack or satellite launch system with central control of all pads;
- Flag or rope barriers to separate the launch and prep areas from the public;
- Chairs and tables for your workers to use during the demo;
- Tested, proven, safe models;
- Engines, wadding, igniters, and other supplies for the models;
- Flyers describing your club, its activities, and launches.
Run The Launch Professionally
To run your demonstration launch, it helps to have someone comfortable with talking to the public. Your “Master of Ceremonies” should keep the public fully and continuously informed about what is happening. He should describe the models and engines used, and comment about flight characteristics.
Many successful demos start by showing a variety of model types. Fly streamer recovery first, followed by parachutes, gliders. multi-stage, cluster, scale, and specialized models. Talk up the impressive models’ flights beforehand, and let people know they are coming. This builds anticipation and holds crowd interest.
Also, remember you are supposed to be having fun. If you make the demo too serious and structured, your members will get stressed and the public is going to be unimpressed. Have your MC ask for rounds of applause for a particularly impressive flight. You will know you have got one when the crowd goes “Ahhh.”
Capture New Members in Real Time
Always have information about your club available and have one member assigned to signing up all rocketeers interested in joining. This is the key reason for running the demonstration. People’s interest will be high, so take advantage of the situation. Flyers like those you put in hobby shops are okay, but applications are better.
Another trick to keep the crowd buzzing is to raffle off a few simple kits every hour or so. This gets you names and addresses of potential members. You can buy the kits for the demo, get a hobby shop to donate them, ask members to donate a model, or raid your range store.
After the demo is over, have some members available to answer questions and sign up stragglers. There will always be a few spectators who want to ask questions after the demo is over, even if you had someone answering them during the demonstration.
Finish Up Responsibly
Clean the launch site thoroughly, especially if you ever hope to launch there again. If you passed out flyers, over 90% may be left as litter. People also leave soft drink cans and candy wrappers. Put all equipment away neatly.
Before you leave, get impressions from all members who helped out as to what could be improved next time. You may want to take notes while events are fresh in everyone’s memory.
Within two weeks of the demo’s conclusion, write thank you notes to everyone involved. Since so few people take time to say “Thanks” in writing, your group will be sure to be noticed by the site owner, hobby shop sponsor, and local authorities. Don’t neglect this important final step!
Making The Most of Your Media Exposure
Spreading the word about rocketry isn’t as hard as it might seem. It takes effort, some creativity, and knowing to whom you should direct your message. This article offers you some inside tips for getting coverage for your club. We’ll focus on media attention before and during your next major launch.
You really have two goals at work:
1. Draw a crowd (and get some new members).
2. Expose the media (and thus the public) to model rocketry.
Recruiting new members for your local rocket group is easier when word of your next meet is spread by the mass media. Radio, print and television can be powerful supplements to the most direct way of reaching hobby enthusiasts: putting up posters in schools and hobby shops. The posters will spread your message to people who already are hobbyists… much like direct mail advertising is used in business.
The advantage of media coverage lies in its ability to reach a mass audience. Start to harness the media’s power by examining your club’s commitment to publicity. Do you have a public relations or media committee to handle the job of getting the word out? Good P.R. takes time, tenacity… and usually lots of typing! A committee of three means there is one person each to contact the print, radio and television outlets in your area.
Before you can contact the press, you need a list of the local newspapers. Be thorough and include major daily papers as well as their weekly suburban supplements. Be sure to check the phone book or library to make sure that you know about all the smaller community newspapers. Don’t forget to look for monthly magazines in your club’s geographic area. Supermarket shopper’s tabloids and TV viewing guides often list community events to fill excess space between ads.
Once you’re confident you have listed the available print contacts, start on the broadcasters. Local radio stations usually have one person who handles Public Service Announcements (PSA’s). Radio’s value to your club is that it reaches the age group you’re looking for. Call the radio outlets in your area and ask to talk to the person who handles such announcements. Find out how much notice is needed and keep a note of the lead time.
Television is harder. Today, fewer TV stations maintain a public service department that produces PSA’s for the local audience. If your local stations don’t have a PSA contact, ask what department handles broadcasting notices of community events.
While you are calling the television station, learn the names of three key people: the Assignment Manager, the Weekend Assignment Editor, and the Executive Producer. Later, you’ll see why these three people are the primary gatekeepers who can make or break your television publicity efforts. Compile a list of these three people for every local TV station that does news. The list will need to be updated every three months or so for all your media contacts.
Now that you have a master list of local media, you have some event planning to do! If you have an upcoming contest, you need to double – check your manpower on the flying field. The last thing you want to do is to be surrounded by 100 spectators and 3 TV station crews while you and your range crew fumble around looking for spare igniters.
Check the date of your launch against any type of community calendar you can find. Are you competing with a county fair or other major local event? Your chances for publicity are greatest when there is no significant event that might otherwise attract the attention of the local media.
Once you’re satisfied that everything is ready, assemble a press release. Some tricks of the trade are:
• Make the releases short — no more than one page.
• Boldface the date and nature of the activity.
• Print or copy the release on something other than white paper. ALWAYS provide a contact person who is reachable during regular business hours as well as nights and weekends.
Releases should be mailed or delivered to each of the media outlets in enough time for the station to process the information. Send two releases to stations from which you want both pre-event publicity and day-of coverage. Your releases must be addressed to a specific person, usually the assignment manager for television news departments or the features editor for newspapers. Releases that look promising are filed according to date; others are simply pitched. Your goal is to get noticed. That’s where the boldfacing and colored paper come in, since your release is competing for attention with a few hundred others.
Once your releases are out, you’ll have the urge to call to ask whether they were received. Don’t! Newsrooms get zillions of such calls daily, and they end up damaging your chances. If you’ve done a good release, you’ll see and hear notices of your event in newspapers and on radio.
A day or two before your launch, an assignment manager or features editor will leaf through their press releases file and come up with a few stories to parcel out to the reporters and photographers. If your release is doing its job, you’ll get a call from a newspaper or TV news manager to set up the story. That’s why it’s important to have a phone contact during and after business hours.
Even if you get one phone call, you can employ some tactics the PR firms use. Call the newspaper feature reporter or the TV station Executive Producer. Tell them you don’t want them to be embarrassed by missing your event because one of their competitors has called to set up the story. Be sincere about it and you’ll stir their news gathering paranoia!
Another favorite PR trick is to deliver something to the newsroom that will generate talk about your event — like a ready-to-fly rocket! Make an appointment and tell a feature reporter or weekend assignment editor that if their news people bring the rocket to the launch, you’ll fly it for them.
By the day of the event, your advance work is over. The media will either come to cover your launch or they won’t. If they do arrive, have a PR committee member introduce him or herself and offer to answer any questions. For TV, offer to provide rocketeers who are glib and can “talk in 20-second sound bites.” You’ll end up launching a few demonstration rockets, so make sure you have something big and slow so the photographer can follow. Above all, let the reporter and photographer do their work without being pestered. You’re the expert at rocketry, they’re the pros at getting you to tell and show them what it’s all about.
After you get coverage, a nice thank-you note to the responsible parties is in order. Don’t forget the people back at the station or newspaper who helped you publicize the event. You might do well to note when you have a future event coming up so they can mark it on their calendar.
The media love rocketry because it’s visual and unusual. Capture those elements in your contact with the media and you’ll see just how easy it is to get coverage. Good Luck!
|NAR Membership Flier (2013)||May 27, 2014, 10:11 pm||1 MB|
|NAR Section Publicity Poster||May 27, 2014, 10:11 pm||2 MB|