Publicity (from French publicité, from public ‘public’) is the movement of information to the general public from the media. The subjects of publicity includes people (for example, politicians and performing artists), goods and services, organizations, and works of art, and entertainment.
“Within Public Relations circles, there is an old story that helps to define what PR actually is all about. In the story, a circus is coming to a small town. You paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming Saturday’, that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s Public Relations. Finally, if the town’s citizens go the circus, and they spend a lot of money, that’s sales.
“Public Relations is about creating positive relationships. It is developing the image that an organization is made up of the kind of people you actually would like, trust and want to know. It is the basis for everything else we do. It comes before marketing, recruitment, or any agreements. Just as you choose to go elsewhere rather than deal with a store that you do not like or trust, people make basic decisions all the time on their perceptions about us. Personalities, initial presentations, images – all these play into any decision we make when we choose a product or become allied with some group. Vast amounts of information are available about how a person makes these decisions, but this topic is beyond our scope here. Most of this material examines why people buy certain products. In our case, we set the stage well before that action. We focus on making friendships for Amateur Radio. If we can accomplish that, all other things are possible.” -ARRL PR101
Amateur Radio is no different from a Fortune 500 company. It, too, has a valuable product to promote. All too often though, amateurs fail to “toot their own horns” when providing much needed communications in times of disaster or during a community event. The public often attributes hams’ good deeds to “Citizen’s Band operators.” Or they simply don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s where an organized cadre of ARRL Public Information Officers, led by the section Public Information Coordinator can help.
Local Public Media
Many print and broadcast opportunities exist to promote the hobby service. Some recent stories about Amateur Radio in the local media describe Field Day, emergency communications, and notable individuals who are licensed radio amateurs.
Local AM/FM broadcast stations frequently book interviews on interesting topics for evening slots. And don’t forget: almost every town and city in Eastern Massachusetts has a local community access television channel.
The number of print newspapers continues to diminish, but there’s been a tremendous increase in online magazines and newspapers like WickedLocal.com that targets individual towns. They offer easy, on-line forms with which you can submit pre-written stories or press releases along with accompanying photos.
Need some talking point ideas? Check out Giving a Talk About Amateur Radio?
Public Informational Displays
Public information booths and displays are another great way to get out the message about our hobby service.
Annual ARRL Field Day events are wonderful opportunities to promote the hobby-service to the general public. Be sure your club planning includes appointing a PR chairperson. And don’t forget to allocate a budget for signage that guides the general public to your operation, and funds an attractive and informative table or display.
Whitman Amateur Radio Club members, assisted by other area amateurs, set up tables and a portable station over the Thanksgiving weekend and operate as NI1X at the Plimoth Plantation, the home of the Mayflower II in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The participants demonstrate Amateur Radio to tourists and visitors. In the past the group has logged over a hundred HF and VHF contacts with US and foreign amateurs, including a contact with Plymouth, England.
Plymouth Air Show
The Whitman Amateur Radio Club staffs a weeklong booth at the annual Marshfield Fair in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Using the station call NN1MF, the group makes on-air HF and VHF contacts, interacts with the fair attendees, and hands out prepared materials describing Amateur Radio, how to become involved, and contact information.
Public Information Coordinator Description
The ARRL Public Information Coordinator (PIC) is a section-level official appointed by and reports to the Section Manager (SM) as the section’s expert on public information and public relations matters.
Requirements: Full ARRL membership; professional public relations, journalism experience, or background in dealing with the public media preferred.
- The PIC is responsible for organizing, training, guiding and coordinating the activities of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) within the section.
- Goals may range from recruiting potential hams for a licensing course to improving public awareness of amateurs’ service to the community. A successful PIC effectively conveys a story and generates the desired results.
- PR activities must be well-timed and well-coordinated within the amateur community, so that clubs, Elmers, instructors and so on are prepared to deal with the interest the PR generates.
- Effective PICs will convey this goal-oriented perspective and attitude to their PIOs and help them coordinate public relations efforts with others in their sections.
- Advises the Section Manager on building and maintaining a positive public image for Amateur Radio in the section; keeps the SM informed of all significant events which would benefit from the SM’s personal involvement and reports regularly to the SM on activities.
- Counsels the SM in dealing with the media and with government officials, particularly when representing the ARRL and/or Amateur Radio in a public forum.
- Maintains contact with other section level League officials, particularly the Section Manager and others such as the State Government Liaison, Section Emergency Coordinator, Affiliated Club Coordinator and Bulletin Manager on matters appropriate for their attention and to otherwise help to assure and promote a coordinated and cohesive ARRL Field Organization.
- Works closely with the section Affiliated Club Coordinator and ARRL-affiliated clubs in the section to recruit and train a team of Public Information Officers (PIOs). With the approval of the Section Manager, makes PI0 appointments within the section.
- Works with the SM and other PICs in the division to develop regional training programs for PIOs and club publicity chairpersons.
- Coordinates public relations efforts for events and activities which may involve more than one section, and provides input on matters before the League’s Public Relations Committee for discussion or action.
- Establishes and coordinates a section-wide Speakers Bureau to provide knowledgeable and effective speakers who are available to address community groups about Amateur Radio, and works with PIOs to promote interest among those groups.
- Helps local PIOs to recognize and publicize newsworthy stories in their areas. Monitors news releases sent out by the PIOs for stories of broader interest and offers constructive comments for possible improvement. Helps local PIOs in learning to deal with, and attempting to minimize, any negative publicity about Amateur Radio or to correct negative stories incorrectly ascribed to Amateur Radio operators.
- Working with the PIOs, develops and maintains a comprehensive list of media outlets and contacts in the section for use in section-wide or nationwide mailings.
- Helps local PIOs prepare emergency response PR kits containing general information on Amateur Radio and on local clubs, which may be distributed in advance to local Emergency Coordinators and District Emergency Coordinators for use in dealing with the media during emergencies.
- Works with PIOs, SM and ARRL staff to identify and publicize League-related stories of local or regional interest, including election or appointment of ARRL leadership officials, scholarship winners/award winners, QST articles by local authors or local achievements noted or featured in QST.
- Familiarizes self with ARRL Public Service Announcements (PSAs), brochures and audiovisual materials; assists PIOs in arranging air time for PSAs; helps PIOs and speakers choose and secure appropriate brochures and audiovisual materials for events or presentations.
- At the request of the Section Manager or Division Director, may assist with preparation of a section or division newsletter.
- Encourages, organizes and conducts public information/public relations sessions at ARRL hamfests and conventions.
- Works with PIOs to encourage activities that place Amateur Radio in the public eye, including demonstrations, Field Day activities, etc. and assures that sponsoring organizations are prepared to follow-up on interest generated by these activities.
- With the Section Manager’s approval, may appoint club publicity chairpersons or other individuals recommended by affiliated clubs as PIOs. Where the responsibility cannot or will not be assumed by a club, the PIC is encouraged to seek qualified League members who are willing to accept the responsibility of PIO appointments.
Public Information Officer Description
ARRL Public Information Officers (PIOs) are appointed by their Section Managerand report to their ARRL section Public Information Coordinator (PIC). The Section Manager may, at his/her discretion, delegate this appointment power to the section PIC. PIOs are generally recommended by an affiliated club for appointment consideration and must be full ARRL members. Training for PIOs should be provided regularly on a sectional or regional basis by the PIC and/or other qualified people.
- Establishes and maintains a list of media contacts in the local area; strives to establish and maintain personal contacts with appropriate representatives of those media (e.g., editors, news directors, science reporters, etc.).
- Becomes a contact for the local media and assures that editors/reporters who need information about Amateur Radio know where to find it.
- Works with Local Government Liaisons to establish personal contacts with local government officials where possible and explain to them, briefly and non-technically, about Amateur Radio and how it can help their communities.
- Keeps informed of activities by local hams and identifies and publicizes those that are newsworthy or carry human interest appeal. (This is usually done through news releases or suggestions for interviews or feature stories).
- Attempts to deal with and minimize any negative publicity about Amateur Radio and to correct any negative stories which are incorrectly ascribed to Amateur Radio operators.
- Generates advance publicity through the local media of scheduled activities of interest to the general public, including licensing classes, hamfests, club meetings, Field Day operations, etc.
- Publicizes League-related stories of local news interest, including election and appointment of local hams to leadership positions, QST articles by local authors or local achievements noted or featured in QST.
- Maintains contact with the Emergency Coordinator and/or District Emergency Coordinator. Helps prepare an emergency response PR kit.
- Assists the section PIC in recruiting hams for the section’s Speakers Bureau; promotes interest among community and service organizations in finding out more about Amateur Radio through the bureau and relays requests to the PIC.
- Helps individual hams and radio clubs to develop and promote good ideas for community projects and special events to display Amateur Radio to the public in a positive light.
- Attends regional training sessions sponsored by section PICs.
- Becomes familiar with ARRL Public Service Announcements (PSAs), brochures and audiovisual materials; contacts local radio and TV stations to arrange airing of Amateur Radio PSAs; secures appropriate brochures and audiovisual materials for use in conjunction with planned activities.
- Keeps the section PIC fully informed on activities and places PIC on news release mailing list.
Public Information Officer Appointees
A list of Eastern MA Public Information Officers can be found on the ARRL Hq. appointee database.