September 18, 2012
How to Get Good Press for Your Ham Radio Club
How would you like your ham radio club to be featured in a story in your local newspaper? Would you prefer your club to be on local television instead? Or perhaps you want the fancy exposure one gets with a full-color spread in a glossy magazine. You can achieve all these things, grow your club membership and build awareness of the hobby if you understand how these publications work.
Be aware that newspapers, magazines, and radio and television shows need content. Stories are the fuel that keep them operating. Editors, reporters and television news directors are constantly looking for great stories.
Understand where your story belongs. Traditional daily newspapers have a Features section that's made for stories like this. Pitch the Features editor. I happen to live in central New Hampshire where a weekly newspaper called the Weirs Times is published. This paper doesn't have any hard news in it at all. They constantly are looking for feel-good stories and ones that are community oriented.
Television stations typically have a weekend morning news show that's perfect for a story like this. Keep in mind that the regular newscast is devoted to hard news stories, not fluff pieces. Pitch the wrong person and you'll just waste their time and yours.
If you want a story done by a publication, it's best to approach them with your story idea in the format they deliver the content. If you're pitching a TV station, go there with a simple two-minute video telling the story you're trying to pitch. Take lots of fantastic color photos to show a magazine editor, or write up an outline of the story to pitch a newspaper editor.
Here's a non-professional video showing an antenna going up. Imagine a video you could piece together showing from start to finish how your club sets up and operates at a public service event. Splice together ten different aspects of the event that tell the story. Look how fast two minutes and 21 seconds of video goes by:
Avoid pitching a newspaper on a Monday or a Friday. Those are the hell days for newspaper editors and reporters. Contact a television station late in the morning or early afternoon. Never call a station at the end of the day as they rush to put together their newscast.
The story idea needs to focus on what ham radio does for the community. No one likes selfish people, so your story idea can't be about your wonderful club and its smart members. Pitch a story about how ham radio helps the community during emergencies and provides invisible communications at public service events that help maintain a safe environment and you'll likely get the attention of an editor/reporter/news director in seconds.
Don't dwell on the technical aspects of the hobby. Everything needs to be so simple a sixth grader would understand and be interested in the story. Avoid all the fancy words like repeaters, transceivers, band plans, etc. If you have to spend ten seconds explaining a word, it's far too technical.
If you're going to pitch a television station, you must have a club member that won't look like a deer in headlights when the camera lens is two feet from their face. It takes a special person to look deep into a lens and tell a story. If the television station decides to put you on live TV on a weekend show, you absolutely need a person who'll not freeze up. Think of all of this before you approach a television station.
Tim Carter - W3ATB - is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and founder of www.AsktheBuilder.com. He's worked with newspaper / magazine editors and TV news directors for nearly twenty years. Carter's also the publicity manager for the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club.
September 9, 2012
Another Reason Why You Need a Ham Radio License
Dr. Jerome Nadler was recently found alive after four days of being lost. He was severely dehydrated and bug bitten. You can read about his saga at FoxNews.com.
There's no doubt that he either was not a Boy Scout or if he was, he forgot many of the basic survival skills. What's more, he probably was not prepared.
One thing's for sure, if he was a ham radio operator and brought along a small handheld radio preprogrammed with all the local repeater frequencies, he probably could have gotten help in minutes. I love my HT, a Yaesu VX-7R.
Smithtown, NY is located in the north central part of Long Island. Long Island's pretty flat and there are a boatload of two meter repeaters on Long Island. What's more, he probably could have easily hit a repeater located on a tall building in New York City.
I say this because just two days ago I made a simplex contact with a ham radio operator that was 50 miles from me and up on a mountain near Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. He was transmitting at 5 watts, the standard power put out by a handheld ham radio.
I carry my Yaesu VX-7R with me every time I go hiking. You just don't know what may happen. And remember, handheld ham radios are far more powerful than your cell phone. The typical cell phone transmits radio signals at one-half watt. That's one tenth the power of my Yaesu VX-7R.
But it gets better. If I have my truck with me and my HT can transmit a signal to my truck, I can boom a signal out of my truck at 50 watts. How's this possible? The mobile ham radio in my truck is a Yaesu FT-8900R.
This radio has a fantastic cross band repeat function baked into it. I can have my handheld radio set to a 70cm frequency and the radio in the truck set to the same frequency. Since the 8900 is a dual-band radio, it can have a different frequency set on the other half of the radio. When you link the two bands, the smaller HT all of a sudden has the power of the 8900 because the 8900 is actually acting like a repeater.
Isn't that cool? Not all mobile radios have this cross-band repeater functionality. Believe me, it's great to have.
I use this cross band repeater functionality all the time when I'm a radio operator at a public service event.