Let's Show and Win Big!
By Darol Dickinson
The trophies were shiny, the cattle were smooth and pretty. The kids wore their nicest Western hats and clothes. Bright silver trailers were in the parking lot, pulled by colorful trucks with all kinds of chrome, but ... no one was in the grand stand watching the show. The parents, the hired man, other exhibitors, and a few unknown faces were sprinkled around a huge government built arena. Someone commented, "No one came to watch the show." How can this be?
“In this day of continual entertainment of every kind, there are plenty of things to do … Will they come to see a Longorn Show?”
In this day of continual entertainment of every kind, there are plenty of things to do on a Saturday afternoon. People are traveling across the nation, sitting in front of a computer, watching videos, watching sports, at a horse show or a dog show, at an amusement park, side jobs, hospitals, funerals, fishing, golfing, swimming, sun bathing, in jail, or just sitting in front of a huge screen TV. Will they come to see a Longhorn show? Can they be pulled away? Maybe, if we use the same methods used to pull them to the theater, the park, or the political rally. The media, the press, the TV, and all types of communication entice people to go somewhere and do something every minute of every day. Will Rogers said, "All I know is what I read in the papers." This is still true for everyone today. You can have the greatest Longhorn show in the world, and if there isn't a promotional effort in the local news papers, livestock publications, or any media, don't be surprised if there is a very poor spectator attendance. Preparations for show spectators starts six months to a year before the show. The ITLA show materials encourage the appointment of a show Press Secretary. This person can be experienced as a news writer, which is good. If not, the ITLA Event Promotion Manual provides all the information on how to do it.
Here are some of the duties of the show press secretary.
1. Once the date of the show has been determined by the show sponsor or the affiliate organization, and the judge has been hired, you have a news event. This basic information about the date, name of the show and name of the judge should be sent to the Texas Longhorn Journal On Line, the ITLA Drover, Longhorn Roundup, and 20 or so other livestock publications that publish a calendar of events. This is free. No one charges for the calendar of events listing. It allows everyone plenty of time to plan in advance for attendance. This is extremely important. In this day of continual entertainment of every kind, there are plenty of things to do . . . Will they come to see a Longhorn show?
2. The Press Secretary needs to build and retain a mailing list. It should include each ranch that entered last year's show, each member of the local affiliate, and ITLA can provide a printout of members within a 300 mile area. Those are the prime target prospects for exhibitors and spectators. Other interested entry level people should be added to this list as they are identified.
3. The Press Secretary needs to build and retain a list of media addresses within the target event area. Associates can help locate and develop this list. It should include 25 or more TV, radio, magazine and news paper contacts. It is important to provide these contacts information early, and often. The more the better.
4. The ITLA Event Promotion Manual teaches how to prepare a press release. This is a brief story containing all the basic WHO, WHAT, WHERE. WHEN. and HOW info. It can be very brief, and if a sharp photo is included it will more likely be printed with good reader positioning. This release is sent to the list of media (prepared earlier) two months before the event. For long deadlines, like Drover, sometimes perhaps four months in advance is best.
5. The mailing with entry information, show fees, motel location, etc., should be mailed to the big ranch list about two months before the show. Remember, people are very busy, so they need time to plan well ahead.
6. A clear, exact map should be included with the mailing to prospective exhibitors. These are people who may have never been to this area. The map should include the fair grounds entry gate with signs noted, how to get to the motel of choice, and perhaps the best local restaurant. A piece of information about where to go on the grounds, where to purchase hay, and where to park cars or trailers would be thoughtful. After someone has driven all day. it doesn't make their attitude improve by getting lost in the last hour while orbiting the event location. Just because you, a local person, can find the interstate exit doesn't mean out-of-staters can guess at it correctly. The map should also show a TV crew where to park close to the action. They may have fifty pounds of equipment to carry.
7. Locate a photographer. They can be professional or another Longhorn producer. But, every show must have a photographer. Memories are recorded photographically only the day of the event. Once it is over, it is too late. Photography is like an auction . . . you have to bid the day of the sale. . . During the show, the Press Secretary should be a SPOTTER PERSON who can identify dignitaries, the fair grounds manager, county commissioners, local celebrities, and media personalities. These are perfect people to pass out ribbons and trophies. They can be welcomed into the inner circle of the event. These people can be recognized during the show by the show announcer. It is always prudent to acknowledge special people publicly in recognition of their authority or contribution. Perhaps a show sponsor shows up who donated money. Spot them for sure, if you ever want a repeat donation.
8. The Press Secretary will spot media representatives (anyone with a camera or a note pad) and introduce them to knowledgeable exhibitors or producers. Make sure they photograph the championship cattle (not the ones that placed last) for the newspaper front page. The media people have deadlines and a tough job. When the Press Secretary helps them achieve their goals promptly, you can bet your best trophy that more favorable press ink will follow.
9. After the show is over, the Press Secretary can send out a news release about the show champions, along with a good photo. It should go to the Drover and the rest of the above mentioned list. Yes, you are right, it won't make any more people attend the show (the first objective), but it makes the exhibitors feel they won something valuable when their photo is on the front page. And, it makes the other people kick themselves for not attending when they see what they missed. It sets the stage that a serious event has happened of real Longhorn importance and don't ever, ever miss it again.
Is the Press Secretary an important person? Does President Bush have a Press Secretary? Should all Longhorn events have a Press Secretary? Do you want a delay of show while extra bleachers are prepared for a huge crowd of spectators? You decide!