New Ideas for the New Year – Let’s go… Media!

How to create Public Interest in Soaring

How to create Public Interest in Soaring

On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean most media only pick up negative stories about air sports. I hate to see that in public our beloved hobby has quite a negative image. While living in the United States I regularly found articles about crashed planes in my local paper, and I always felt the strong desire to read some more positive flying-stories in my daily paper or online news. How could I make my “pedestrian” friends believe that soaring is a wonderful sport? Our flying is quiet, and we are often high up in the air. Nobody can hear or see us unless he stops by at an airfield, finds the gate to get through the fence and dares to ask what we are doing there.

How can we raise a little more interest in what we are doing quietly and high up in the air? I can of course show pictures to my friends and explain about my passion. You can invite friends out to the airfield and show them around. But how can we get the public interested in our activities, or hook them up and show them how to fly?

Boulder's pilots go Media (by Shawn Eggleston)

Boulder's pilots go Media (by Shawn Eggleston)

While I was still soaring in Germany my club had regularly invited the local media to our airfield. Whenever we had something interesting going on reporters joined us for a short wich launch. They always took pictures during our annual open house event. Sometimes they even wrote (boring) stories about club meetings, winter work or board elections. Our more interesting achievements were published as well. I was wondering if this could work in the American Media World?

The year 2011 had been quite amazing in Colorado. My Boulder-club had achieved the highest OLC-scores ever and in October 2011, I proudly sent out a well prepared press-release to several papers and online newspersons to let them know about our wonderful season. Nobody answered… I tried it again, then finally figured this would be a hard one…

Glider pilots around the world do have quite a good network. We can read and publish our stories in Soaring Café, OLC and with the national gliding organizations. But who will be reading these stories? My guess is, 99% of the readers are glider pilots. While writing for the soaring community, I kept on nagging the local media… Maybe it was my unpronounceable name or my foreign e-mail-address, which made it hard to get through?

It took my Boulder club almost another year to finally get in touch with a “local” paper. But it was worth the effort: A huge report in the Denver Post about soaring the Rockies was the result of a morning’s meeting with a reporter and a flight with a professional photographer. We had a lot of positive feedback. Friends and neighbors called, curiously asking more questions. The next public appearance - a video - occurred only a week later. We spread our big news around the US. The whole soaring world had access to it. Again the readers were probably 99% glider pilots... Then it became quiet again.

When visiting Moriarty I learned, the club’s president is also the airport manager and member of the City council. Awesome! During a contest in Moriarty the media will of course come out to the field, take pictures and talk to pilots. People in town read the newspaper and drive to the airfield to watch the live-activities. Does your club have a media manager? Is there someone responsible for public relations? Is he or she always in the middle of things and knows what is going on? How about his or her connections to papers or online magazines?

Now I am back in Germany in a less favorable soaring area. Last December my club’s media manager “retired” and asked me to take over his responsibilities. "Okay," I thought, "let’s give it another try…" My first newspaper article appeared right in the middle of a long winter: A short report about some club members working around the airfield, cutting wind-broken trees and bushes, piling them up for a future campfire. Wow! The story was really nothing exciting, not even about soaring. But it was decorated with pictures of our (deserted) airfield and nicely titled. I was astonished but at the same time understood that our gliderport activities are not exclusive. Due to the club’s long tradition of media contacts we are part of the local community.

Looking far westward to Colorado, I recently found another nice story reporting from the annual Labor Day Camp. Again nothing big but exactly the kind of news people are looking for. Isn't it great to know what is going on in your local area? A regular media presence is one of the keys to create more public interest. To survive as a soaring community, we continuously have to attract new folks to our sport. Or taking it further: When one day I retire, I still want to meet young students and pilots at my airfield. So here’s my 2014 resolution: Let’s go… Media!

Elke Fuglsang-Petersen

Elke Fuglsang-Petersen started soaring after she finished her school and college education and found herself locked into a small office for the next 45 years. In German soaring clubs she met a lot of new friends, enjoyed a great way to get out, could see things from a different angle, and gained a better overview.

Meanwhile, she has traveled a bit, flown a lot, and lived in the US.She is happy to now know glider pilots from the US too and says, “they are as amiable as everywhere on the world.” She feels fortunate to have found a temporary soaring home in Boulder, surely one of the best and most scenic places to fly on Earth!

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  1 comment for “New Ideas for the New Year – Let’s go… Media!

  1. January 28, 2014 at 5:13 am

    Working with the media is all about persistance. Don’t expect them to jump on an article you write once every five years. It’s all about maintaining communication with your key local newspaper, radio stations, tv stations. Keeping them posted, even if they don’t publish your literary work of art immediately. Also: write stuff so that it can be published right away – these guys are always pressed for time. Sending them stuff, that needs half an afternoon of professional rework won’t fly. Same holds for local city, county officials: keep them psoted regularly, visit them, invite them. Over time that helps build a network that will eventually start to spread your message. Takes time and effort but is well worth the while.

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