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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 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.

Posted by Tim Carter at September 18, 2012 7:20 AM

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