(Updates and later comments are in red).
The Media Is Your Friend
(Or Should Be)
"SCA in The Media" Supplement, Pennsic xxiii, Summer 1994 c.e.
10/96: I wrote this over two years ago, from a Community Paper Publisher's point of view. I was so employed for my skills as art director and content coordinator, not as a salesperson or promotion coordinator. As gentles who know me will surely tell you, I am no chatelaine. I strongly suggest anyone coordinating a demo get in touch with a reputed Chatelaine to supplement the information I offer here.
The advice might prove useful to you outside the context of the Society For Creative Anachronism. The general ideas apply to all local community organizations and most local papers. Local media cannot compete with national and international media. It must therefore focus on the individuals of its region to rise above redundancy. Most local chapters of organizations do not capitalize on this.
Some fear public awareness of their groups can only do harm. Especially recreational organizations that, to a misinformed outsider, seem to promote dubious activities like fantasy roleplaying and alternative lifestyles. These are not central to the SCA, even if unusually common (or perhaps just more freely admitted) among our participants. It benefits everyone to make sure people know we serve a useful historical, educational purpose, and demonstrate that learning is a vast source of entertainment and social interaction.
Following my own rules for concise formatting, (which are nearly impossible to maintain here due to the nature of the WWW), the original paper handout was edited down to one page, and was meant to be used as reference for my lecture. I will expand explanations here as asked. If you have any recommendations, typos, etc., they are appreciated.
Preparing For The Media
- Compile a list of all the local media, with at least one person's (legal) name as a contact person. Include daily & weekly papers, free papers & shoppers, local magazines, local special interest publications, any local college media, local community-oriented web sites, radio stations, TV (don't forget that mysterious "blue channel"). Update this list at least annually. Many publications & contact people won't last the year. (Lazy? Find another organization who will share their media list.)
- When you're going to present a demo, someone in the SCA should send out a press release as soon as there are enough concrete details.
This must include:
It may include:
- time, date & place of the specific event you're publicizing (in the first paragraph, first sentence if possible),
- a brief description of the SCA, Inc. (the ubiquitous blue card info),
- our status as a not-for-profit educational organization, and
- a local contact name & number for further information.
- a description of the local group,
- its name & the modern geographic territory it serves,
- time & place of regular local meetings,
- a schedule of activities at the event,
- a copy of the current known world map,
- kingdom & local group heraldry,
- photographs (see below), etc.
- Send your press release at least a week before the publication date, 2 or 3 weeks if possible & you want it in their (printed) calendar.
- Avoid using someone who works in the media as your contact person. They can, and should, help you create your press release, but try to leave their name off of it.
They may color a competing media's opinion of the entire group.
- Maintain an up to date photo collection of local people doing various SCA activities. Include a decent photo of people in armor, and other good options include dancers, musicians, jugglers, royalty (including baronesses), and anyone doing a photogenic craft, i.e. someone with a drop spindle, but probably not someone sewing.
- Good photos can be color or B&W. Whenever possible, they show high contrast & uncomplicated backdrops. They are not cryptic looking or unflattering. Hopefully, the subjects are not distorted or have trees/antennae coming out of their heads or shoulders. If they are holding things in their hands, hopefully not in front of another object in a compromising way, (i.e., does it look like they are grabbing their groin or in the middle of telling a dirty joke?) The photo itself is balanced and hopefully energetic, even if a stationary portrait.
- You may consider contacting local photographers and offer to trade modeling such unusual subjects for a few good promotional photos.
- As soon as you get photos, identify people (by all names) & activities, and credit the photographer. If it's at a demo, mark down the date and place. Write this on the back of the photo or tape it to the back of the photo. "Sticky notes" fall off.
- Submit photos with small descriptive paragraph, including a contact number, to your local paper before AND after any local presentation by the SCA. Some demos are not open to the public, i.e. schools, but would benefit from the post-event coverage.
Make sure the descriptive paragraph lists specific dates of the event pictured. I presumed a local daily to have a sentient workforce. A photo of one of ours at "Last weekend's Pumpkinfest" (an autumn event) was used to promote a spring demo, and was not updated before it went to press.
- Have several prepared, completely & properly labelled, photos to give to reporters at demos, even if they brought a camera with them. Their photos might not come out.
Report On Things Other Than Demos
- Send announcements of regular meetings to local events calendars (time & place), mention that your group is non-profit & educational. Don't mention any site fee. You should waive it for newcomers. If it's free and/or the public is invited, say so! They may assume there's a cost & it's a private meeting if you don't indicate otherwise.
- Announce "election" of new officers in your local group.
- Just like your high school yearbook, your local newspaper likes to have "candid" photos of things happening in its community.
- If someone has received a big SCA award or won a tournament, their hometown paper might just consider it news.
- Send a brief announcement, use their legal name, what award they got, why they got it (i.e. for their valuable extensive research on 13th century mud-flaps, for their extensive volunteer work with children, for winning a medieval re-enactment tournament, etc.)
- If their parents live there, mention their names & hometown.
- Send a photograph only if appropriate, show them doing what they received the award for, i.e., doing or displaying their craft, wearing armor, obviously & photogenically helping out. If they receive a visible award, (tin hat or peerage), perhaps a formal portrait in their new regalia, hang their (royal?) banner in the backdrop.
- Remember to explain the regalia, meaning of award name (if it has an easily understood & appropriate modern reference, i.e. Laurel, Pelican, Keystone).
- Meet their published requirements for submissions. Submit information in order requested. (Time, Date, Place, Description)
- Make sure your local contact person is moderate and/or respectable. Support from the Village Idiot or Ubiquitous Vocal Extremist won't help the reputation of the SCA. (Most readers aren't "PC" or forgiving). This is where you need to inspect your highly enthusiastic local coven. You know "witches" aren't harmful. You'd like the rest of the world to accept this, but such tolerance is not period - then or now. You are not out of line to request that evidence of what would have been heresy be eliminated. Subtle, but documented "secret identification", such as a Blue Feather, is acceptable. Would your persona have been eager to explain to outsiders?
- Be the Lords and Ladies you say you are. (20/20 hindsight, offered in pentinence).
- Stay in period. Don't discuss your favorite (Science/Fantasy) program. While there is a definite element of fantasy and revisionism in the nature of SCA, there is no place for it when we are trying to educate people.
- Be chivalrous. Don't swear. I didn't realize I was doing this. Others at the demo hoped our guests didn't notice and hence were reluctant to point it out until after it was too late.
- Should you leave your crowns at home? Can everyone present avoid sinking into political sniping in their attempts to explain the Royal/Noble hierarchy of the SCA? Politics, especially when fresh, often overwhelm our best attempts to be honorable. Sometimes it might be easier to remind people to be chivalrous by eliminating all of the regalia and not risk someone on the sidelines muttering, "You're only impressed until you realize how so-and-so got that..."
- Should you leave yourself at home? It's an ego thing. If you're mature enough to entertain this thought, you're probably not a hopeless case.
- Arrange time before or after the demo, when you won't be on display, to share your non-SCA interests and maintain whole friendships with people in your group.
- Always include the generic description of the SCA, and time, day & place of regular local meetings.
- Be the reporter, write & submit your own story. Indicate if they may use your name. Give your address & phone number.
- Type up a description that would be an adequate story. Give enough information to make it interesting. (One page, or you'll scare them.)
- Type up a reference sheet for SCA terms. Include a list connecting the correctly spelled persona names to the correctly spelled legal names of gentles who attended and where they're from. Indicate any local connections to that publication.
- Remind the publication to carefully proofread the names. Offer, don't demand, to proofread the article.
- Send a thank you note shortly after publication. Don't mention any mistakes made, misspellings, etc., unless they're flagrantly wrong. Did they deliberately misrepresent us as SCAndalous, for the sake of selling papers? Or are they merely guilty of not knowing Gaelic?
- Smaller, more specialized publications usually will have more room for you, i.e. weekly community newspapers or artsy magazines or the daily's specialized, probably weekly, publication. With bigger media, send information directly to their community or events editors, or to the editor of the specialized publication.
- Don't take it personally if your story doesn't get in right away. If it isn't timely, they may be waiting until they have enough room to do it justice or they have geniunely misplaced it. (Newsrooms = chaos).
- Keep sending stuff in to everyone. Remind the public and the media that you're still there. Don't give up.
- Be a real (positive) news item. Be something they just have to cover. Volunteer in the community. Have the SCA help raise money for some community need, i.e. underprivileged people, etc. Be the opening event for some museum exhibit or important local fair.
Some Known Published Articles:
"Inviting 'Media Rex' to your Event" by Timothy Garagchan O'Leitrim, Tournaments Illuminated, issue 92, AS 24
"So You Want to Run a Demo?" by Nicholaus der Auslander; TI, issue 99, AS 26
"You Mean, There Has to Be A Point to a Demo?" by Nicholaus der Auslander; TI, issue 100, AS 26
"How To Catch New Members Without Using a Hook Line & Sinker" by Julie White, AEstel (AEthelmearc Newsletter), Spring AS 29 (April-May-June 1994 c.e.)
(Unpublished, as far as I know, but definitely worth the read.)
"Positive Publicity", by Della Hutchison.
ADEPT, Thescorre Demo Troupe, has a good, lengthy handout - listed in its entirety at this link - on how to prepare & present academic demos.
I am always looking for copies of any local or national media coverage, magazines, newspapers, radio, video, cartoons, and I even know of a few museum exhibits on the SCA. I am specifically looking for coverage by modern, non-SCA publications. Please send me copies or addresses where I can get copies (if it's video or radio).
If you need to be reimbursed for color photocopying or anything like that, send the receipt with the copies you made & I'll try to be prompt. Thanks!
10/96 - I am not as active in the SCA at this time. I haven't been updating the Media Collection. Being stuck with a room full of news articles alone all day while you're friends take all the cool classes gets really old fast. Pennsic? Don't let me get started.
I still have the collection. I still accept new articles. I can still get it out to events. My personal collection is still rather small. It essentially can be set-up and left alone.
If you want to enrich such displays, which I highly recommend, make arrangements with your kingdom archivist. Pack a lunch and bring some portable A&S project. You have a duty to make sure the official archives don't get damaged.
Compiled by Julia of Dunblane (aka Julia Tenney)
(Common Law) Copyright 1994, 1996.
Please respect this. Permission granted to reproduce this article in local SCA publications, or as SCA class handouts, ONLY if full credit is given to the author. Do not otherwise reproduce this information without my consent. Please let me know before you link or mirror this page. Thank You. Julia
On This Page: |
Preparing For The Media
Report On Things Other Than Demos
Some Known Published Articles (and Links)