As a 30-year industry PR man and promoter, I think I know something about media relations. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, but at least I was successful in my time. Recently, I encountered two general aviation examples of how — and how NOT — to do it.
I happened to contact Jones Brothers Air and Seaplane Adventures just as they were preparing to host Orlando TV’s Fox 35 affiliate for an upcoming story. This was not going to be the final, on-site reporter shoot. Jones Brothers was sharp enough (and generous enough) to host their cameraman first for pre-story “B-roll,” as we say in the business. That’s background footage of action and other scene-setters to be inserted into what the reporter might eventually say to the camera on-scene.
TV loves nothing better than good pictures. Aviation can offer lots of action and exciting video, given the time and inclination to do it right. Jones Brothers flew two C-180 floatplanes out of their Lake Dora base, one the “subject” plane I was aboard and the other the camera platform for Fox 35.
Flying loose formation, we got the water takeoff, climb-out over tourist town Mount Dora, and on to air-to-air shots and a landing on nearby Lake Apopka. With the camera plane on the water, we then did some low passes. Tech-savvy Jones Brothers co-owner Eric Weaver was perched atop the floating Cessna, shooting his own video of our fly-bys for JonesAirAndSea.com. Then, co-owner Ricci Rowe and I split off to do my story on lakeside restaurant landings. What synergy! Not cheap, but very productive.
Jones Brothers does a surprisingly skilled and insightful job of media promotion. In return, their new business has enjoyed spectacular exposure in the aviation press and general media – plus profits, too! And later this spring, that Fox 35 story will probably air just before the Father’s Day gift buying season. Smart-like-a-“Fox,” that Jones Bros. seaplane operation.
Far less impressive was another organization. I felt they were under-promoted. I wanted to help. They didn’t make it easy. Despite a personal visit two weeks prior, advance emails and lots of good rapport with “the troops,” management saw me as just a potential free-loader seeking flight time. They were aghast that I might take away a seat that someone else might pay for. They then argued that I couldn’t occupy a “good” seat and displace a paying customer, despite my need for a good camera angle. I finally flew, and even made a donation to their cause, but the lasting impression was of “media relations ignorance.”
What went wrong? Reporters always feel that publicity is good, at least in a “puff piece” or a weekend fun feature like these opportunities. They do hope you’ll make it easy on them, because they need to get the story straight, get good pictures and then “get-gone” to their many other assignments.
When I recently found an airshow website warning that bloggers, book and web-based authors were ineligible for media credentials, I realized the world had changed. I guess there are many now who could present themselves as media but act only for hobby interest — and perhaps a free ride.
OK, I get it. So I guess the challenge for aviation organizations and businesses is to discriminate as to what’s worth your investment of time, money and hassle. (Do be kind to those student reporters, though. Hey — high school kids are a market!)
About gaining real, valuable media attention? You don’t get it for free. You have to work at it and be imaginative — but mostly you must be accommodating. Meet the media’s desires for a good story, good pictures and helpful consideration of their needs. At your event or promotion, that could range from some generous (but well worth it) flying time to just easy, convenient parking and hassle-free access to the story.
You’ll get back what you put into it.
Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.
People who read this article also read articles on airparks, airshow, airshows, avgas, aviation fuel, aviation news, aircraft owner, avionics, buy a plane, FAA, fly-in, flying, general aviation, learn to fly, pilots, Light-Sport Aircraft, LSA, and Sport Pilot.