LAST UPDATED: 5 May 2023
Engaging Local Media
USA Triathlon Innovation Award winner Gabriela Gallegos walks us through strategies of engaging local media and getting your event featured on TV.
If there’s one thing that often sets apart races that go on to do really well from others that struggle to gain traction in their community, it’s the ability of the former - and the inability of the latter - to engage with the non-race world. And nowhere is this more evident than the way in which events interact with local media.
The truth of the matter is, very few people participate in races. And very few people outside of those who do care about anything race-specific a race has to say.
So how can races hope to reach out to the broader public? What stories can they tell that are relevant to many more people than the ones who show up at the start line on race day? And how can you, armed with those stories, get out and pitch them to your local paper, radio or TV station?
That is what we’ll be discussing today with my guest Race El Paso owner, Gabriela Gallegos. Gabriela is a triathlon race director, so it’s not totally unfair to describe her audience as a bit niche, by broad-appeal standards. Yet, Gabriela managed to make triathlon the talk of the town in El Paso, TX through a series of media engagements culminating in the live broadcast of her all-female Mighty Mujer triathlon by her local NBC affiliate, an achievement for which she was recently recognized with USA Triathlon’s annual Innovation Award. And today she’ll be helping us break down the art of engaging local media, from finding the story to pitching the people that matter.
In this episode:
- Why developing a local media strategy matters
- Which kinds of stories get the local press excited (and which don't)
- Being deliberate about bringing out the stories in your event
- Human interest stories: what they are, and how to promote them
- Writing engaging press releases: the 5Ws + who cares?
- Beyond human interest stories: expert advice stories & op-eds
- Matching the tone and content of your story to your target press outlet
- Finding the right press contact and pitching your story to the press
- Media alerts and monitoring online media
- Working with TV stations on live race coverage
Thanks to RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 26,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.
Gabriela, welcome to the podcast!
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Well, thank you very much for coming on. I'm guessing you're based in El Paso, Texas, right?
Yes, that's right.
Awesome. You are the owner of Race El Paso - it's a multi-sport event company. And from what I managed to figure out on your LinkedIn, you've been running that for 13 years. Is that right?
That's right. I founded it in 2009 and produced the first event in 2010.
Awesome. In the off chance that we have another race director who's also a lawyer listening in, can you give them some tips on how to balance being both a career lawyer and a race director?
Well, I'm now on career number three - they've all had a little bit of overlap but they kind of all come together in the end. I started out at a large law firm and practising law. I did a lot of litigation. I was in the appellate section. I was the research-writing, make the arguments once people brought me the facts kind of person. So that was fun. I got to see a lot of different types of cases. Then, I moved back to El Paso, which is my hometown in 2008. Before that, I had gotten excited about triathlon and had started participating in racing and triathlon where I had lived previously in Dallas. When I moved home, I realised this big gap. There were just not high-quality events that I could see. Those who were doing triathlons were travelling to Phoenix, or Dallas, or Austin - none of which is particularly convenient. Just to give you an idea, Phoenix is about a 6-hour drive away. So if that's your closest outlet, it's a little bit difficult to get started. Since I had such a transformative experience myself of not being somebody who grew up particularly athletic or playing team sports, but who always enjoyed exercise and always did something, this was kind of the way to go. So it was really just born out of looking around, seeing that this is something that could be useful, and a community that doesn't have that should, and getting it started. So there was some overlap between the law and the race directing. A few years after starting to produce events, I actually left law full-time and started doing race production full-time with the law on the side. So things switched a little bit.
It was really interesting. I interviewed a couple of brothers who formed this company, 3 Bros Running out of Orange, Texas. They did their first race - William and Jeremy Fermo are both MDs, by the way. So all kinds end up being race directors. I guess there's too much of an attraction in this job. How did you manage to do both your legal job and being a race director for the first two or three years of Race El Paso?
Well, I had a great team and I kind of attacked this like I might have in any other legal question, which is I pulled together the best people I could imagine to create a committee. I got myself certified as a USA Triathlon certified race director. So that was kind of my first step - find out what I don't know. Funny enough, a lot of it was about liability, which was not particularly new to me. So it was a good fit from there. But I did things like I found an accountant who was a triathlete who ran our registration system. We had the highest-ranking Marine in El Paso who was our safety director. I really was able to connect with some impressive folks who were also just very excited about offering this in El Paso for the first time. There had been very small events before, but this was kind of the first that was trying to raise the quality of events here.
And these are a big triathlete community in El Paso?
There is now, but there wasn't at that time. So I found most of these folks through-- well, who can I ride with? Where do I go? What streets are probably the safest routes? By trying to find those things out myself, I was able to connect with a small but very active group of triathletes - many of whom were not from El Paso but were here for work or for other reasons. So those from El Paso were not particularly familiar with the sport or engaged in it, but we aim to change that and that's really what has happened over the past 13 years.
Awesome. Through your career now as a multi-sport race director, you also ended up being a board member for USA Triathlon. I guess you're deriving great satisfaction from that role.
I am. It's really been an honour to serve the sport at that level. I started out by being invited to participate in strategic planning for USA Triathlon before I had become engaged in the board. And really, that was because I attended a conference and was talking to people about what we had done in El Paso. I think that change in the community was pretty evident and I was invited to participate in-- which I love. Right? Like, I actually love the aspect of planning and engaging people, and trying to think big about where we can go. And I think my perspective is a little bit different from those who have been in markets that are extremely well-developed, and maybe have larger races - national and international race production crews coming into town. They have a different perspective than those who might be starting in a community without as much exposure.
And how's the sport looking, actually - since we have the USA Triathlon board member with us? How's the sport looking, I guess, right now from the events point of view? Is it in a good place? Are things happening around triathlons in the US?
Yeah. I think things are really changing to some extent after COVID. Right? Like, there has to be a lot of examination of-- race directors looking at what was working, what wasn't, what can we do better, what is important to us as a business and as a sport. So I think what we've seen is some consolidation, some events that perhaps were just not going to make it through the pandemic, and race directors considering, "Okay, I would rather have a few high-quality events where I can really drive participation instead of a lot of events that might have smaller participation." The big challenge that I've seen across the board is the increasing costs. I mean, it is not insignificant, it's dramatic, and it's across a lot of different areas - everything from police support equipment to getting T-shirts. Just the supply chain issues, really, are impacting race directors as well and it's making us make some different and tough choices.
I guess multisport, when I'm looking at things like RunSignups RaceTrends reports and data that bring together and compare running alongside multisport and other stuff, it seems to me like it has a little bit of a life of its own. It doesn't necessarily follow the wider trend around running and those kinds of events. It almost, like, has its own trajectory of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and interest and stuff. Do you see that at all?
I think that's right. I've had to kind of walk people through what the logistics look like for a multisport event because there's so much different than it is for a running event. With a running event, if you close the road, you're closing them for 10 people or 10,000 people. It's the same road. The road can handle a large number of people. If you were closing the roads for something that includes cycling and running, it's a lot more mileage, so a lot more distance, a lot more intersections, a lot more impact on the community, costs, and all of those things, and it's just a different animal. So I think that what you see is kind of what's happening on the ground, and changing what's available and changing the options just because the participation follows what is offered for a lot of the events as well.
Cool. So today, I was very keen to discuss with you about local media. It's something that I touched on in the past with my previous guest of mine, Meg Treat when we're talking about public relations. It's a topic I wanted to get back to with you, specifically, both because you've had some great success getting all the way up to live TV coverage, which I guess is the holy grail of local media coverage, but also because you're you sort of coming into this from the perspective of the multisport director. And I don't know whether it's basically whether it would be easier or harder for a multisport event to enjoy the kind of media coverage that your event has. But I'm guessing some of the touch points are going to be the same - and some of the challenges that any event would face. I want to get started with your thoughts on why local media coverage is important to the extent to be worth the effort because there's some effort in developing those kinds of channels-- they don't come for free and there's work that needs to go into that. Why do you feel that it's worth putting the work in to end up with local media coverage for your race?
Well, I'm gonna put this in, kind of, the context of a broader idea. So I do sit on the USA Triathlon board of directors and I also sit on the World Triathlon executive board. And all of us have to engage with the local community for every event that's put on, whether it's put on by a local race production group or World Triathlon, which is a very high-level production. But still, we need the local support, right? So at a very basic level, we want to engage the community to create fans and to create future participants, but also to introduce and educate those who are going to be there on the ground about what triathlon is. It is still not completely known by everybody in the world, what this sport entails, what order it's in, who does it, and how accessible it is. All of those kinds of opportunities to engage the local community make a big difference and I think they can contribute to a long-term successful event. So if the community is enraged because roads are closed and don't want it, they have options to reach out to their elected officials and say that this is just not what they want. So I see local media as an important component of long-term success just everywhere that there are races.
As a communications tool, I guess. And a community engagement tool is definitely very important. Would you also see value in getting publicity like that as a more direct sort of, like, short-term sales tool also for the sport and for the event?
Oh, absolutely. There are so many dimensions that are supported by having local media coverage. So if you are able to speak to a potential sponsor and say, "Let me show you how we were highlighted in the past, how important this race is to this community, and how the engagement goes well beyond just the participants. It goes beyond the volunteers. It goes beyond the spectators on the ground. It actually has a much broader reach. You can start looking at the numbers that a particular news station might have, as far as viewership, when a story was aired." And that is a very big audience for a sponsor to reach and really a big added bonus, right? There are ways that we'll get into a little bit later to integrate sponsors into something that is much more of a human interest story or a more organic highlight of the race. But you can integrate sponsors in a way that makes it important for them and they can start seeing what their money is going to as far as how many touch points they have with participants, volunteers, spectators, and now of viewership.
And in terms of the media outlets themselves, how much of an appetite do you see for the kinds of stories - examples of which we're going to share in a minute as well - that typically do come out of a race news cycle? Is our industry a place that media look upon favourably for events and stories, generally?
I don't know that we're always on the radar. I think when it is a very large event in-- you think about marathons that are in large cities - those are going to have media coverage because you have thousands of people running through the streets of downtown. It's a beautiful photo opportunity. All of those sorts of things make for an exciting event. If it's a qualification event for something, even more reason. But for smaller local events, I think there needs to be more education and work to engage, and I've thought of that on kind of a number of different levels. While it is beneficial to have the actual race and results covered, it's even more beneficial to have early and consistent stories leading up to the event. Right? So if they are talking about, "There's a triathlon in town this weekend," that's not gonna help participation, that's not gonna have volunteer recruitment, that's not going to necessarily help spectating. But if you have a number of stories in the three months leading up to the events, it will start to be on people's radar and it will make engagement for participation volunteers, sponsorship, and all of that a little bit easier.
I think, actually, this is probably the most important thing that people need to take away from this. Usually, when people think of, "My race, a story, local media," the thing that I'm guessing comes up for most people is local half marathon takes place this Sunday, road closures, blah, blah, blah, etc, right? To put it in the words of a guest - I had Oli Hills when we were doing a TikTok episode - no one cares about it, do they? I mean, no one cares about your race. I mean, seriously - we need to be serious about these kinds of things when you said earlier about results - no one in the local community cares about who's first, second, or third in a local triathlon or a local 5K. Right?
Yeah, that one's a little tricky. I mean, the road closure press release still has to be done. You can't underestimate the importance of that because there is a certain amount of backup that you're offering yourself if you do get complaints - this is what we've done to notify the community and you kind of list out all of your things. So I don't want to undervalue that, but that is definitely more of we're checking the box to make sure that we're doing what we need to versus we're gonna get something out of this. We have a story to share and we have engaging content that local media is going to want to use.
And I say this because I see this theme carrying through on social media as well with the content people put out, and even people's race websites. You see all of those being centred around the race. Like, the race is going to be in that location and on that date. Like, in two weeks' time, that's going to happen. And that seems to me to fail to engage the audience outside of the audience that's already aware of the race, which is already sort of, like, in the bag. You want to be probably focusing on the wider circle of people that are not familiar with your event and, as I said, probably don't care about your race, when and where it happens, and who won first or second place.
Absolutely. And that's really where kind of individual stories come into play. They're interesting. They highlight somebody's challenges or experiences and how they got into the sport. There are so many different important human aspects of what's happening at an event, and sometimes race directors can lose sight of that because we are worried about the logistics, the safety, and all of the moving parts. But when you start engaging with your participants, listening to their stories, and thinking about, "Wow, this is incredible. This woman just overcame a cancer diagnosis and is using this to celebrate her healthy body," that's a great story that local media can do. It's not an emergency, so they don't have to do it the next day. They've got some time to pull together a package, take photographs, and take some videos. All sorts of things come into play that makes it something that will be interesting, whether it's aired today, next week, three months before the race, or that week.
So let's take one of those examples because you've had a couple of wins with that kind of coverage leading up to your races. Just looking at those from a race director's point of view, first of all, you sit down, pen and paper, how do you think about these kinds of stories that would be within your race? How do you bring them out of people? How do you even identify the right people to speak to, I guess? I mean, if you have a race of 1,000 people, you can't just go around asking someone, "Hey, is there something special about you? Is there something special about you?" So what's the system you put in place to drive that process and get those stories out?
So I've done it a few different ways. Sometimes, it truly is as simple as having an interaction where somebody pulls you aside to just say, "Thank you for this event. This is my story." So sometimes, truly, you get pulled aside or you get introduced to somebody who is just enjoying participation and wants to share their story with you. But I've also done it more deliberately. So, early on with Race El Paso, we were building a website and we were trying to figure out what to put on it and we wanted to highlight members of the community who people could relate to, so that you would see a story, you can think-- if you've never heard of triathlon, you might think that this is only for those who were college athletes or who are in a pipeline to be more of an elite athlete. But really, we wanted to open up that. So engaging people and asking them to share their stories was something that was done on social media. It was done on the website itself where we create a link with, like, a Google form that asked a few questions about them, and then just pretty much asked to share your story, and then included, "Do you give us permission to share this outside or can we contact you for an interview?" Those sorts of things. And then, sometimes, we would just follow up on those. Some of the stories that we got, were just incredible. So holding on to those and seeing people evolve over the years with either becoming somebody who was aiming to finish, to becoming somebody who was aiming for the podium, to moving on to a longer distance event - we could see that evolution as well. But a lot of it did happen through just getting to know your athletes. So packet pickup-- if you have an engaging team that is working packet pickup, some of them come to you later, "Have you met this person? Did you know that this is what his story is?" And so you kind of start just keeping track of some of those. I also have an ambassador team and, in the ambassador application, we asked them to tell us about your story, what brought you into the sport, and what is your favourite thing about it, and that gets people talking. So you start getting different perspectives. I've deliberately tried with our ambassadors to be very inclusive with who is an ambassador. For a local community, I'm thinking about areas of town, I'm thinking about different professions, different age ranges, or different levels of entry to the sport. So all of those sorts of things help create a community that feels inclusive. My aim is that anybody in the community who hears about the event can find a person that has something that they might relate to, so they think, "Oh, maybe I can do that." So their mind gets a little bit open to the idea that this is not only for a certain kind of person or whatever they think, whether it's for somebody with a specific body type or somebody with a specific athletic background. All of those sorts of things are preconceived notions that we're actually trying to break down through these stories.
I think you guys are doing a great job, whether it's at the national level or the world level. I too, and I bet lots of race directors who are mostly familiar with running may have this impression of triathlon being that kind of sport like a superhuman type thing. They may think, "Yeah, 5K's super accessible. You can turn up with whatever body type and you can just run it. But triathlon-- Oh no, that has to be harder." And I do notice that, particularly in the US, triathlon, over the last few years, has become a lot more accessible. You really see people taking great enjoyment - all kinds of people - taking part in triathlons and I don't know whether that was, like, a deliberate thing or just sort of, like, worked itself out that way, but it's definitely moving in the right direction. I did see that, in one of your triathlons, Mighty Mujer, if I'm pronouncing that right, there was a story - I just want to use that as a bit of an example to see the sort of, like, the logistics of that from story to press kind of thing - about a family training together. You had the mom, the daughter, and like the aunt or whatever. So it was a really, really engaging, sweet story about that. It actually also made it into TV and into the local TV station. With that specific example in mind, can you just roughly walk us through how the story originated, how did you decide then to take it to print or on air, and how the whole thing basically works from A to Z?
Absolutely. So there were two young women who were in their 20s, who were featured, and then it was their mom and all their aunts, which was a large group of sisters. So Mighty Mujer is an all-female event. It is a sprint or a super sprint. So it is a very accessible distance, although it's a pretty challenging course. So even though it's short, it's tough, and that is all by design. Christina, who was one of the young women, had been an avid triathlete for a number of years and she was actually one of our ambassadors. She was excited to participate to get the word out and, I think, she talked to her mom and aunts into considering it because she would train them. So she was getting certified as a coach and she's a nutrition expert by training - that's her background - but had recently moved back to El Paso and was also just excited about this. I think she put the bug in one of her aunts, who was just very excited about it. So the group started training together. They had a family Whatsapp that started being about their training plan and pushing each other to meet at 5 AM for their swim practice and they got very competitive about it. It was a lot of fun to watch. So, that to me is exactly what triathlon can do. It doesn't have to only be the 24-year-old who has been doing this for a number of years, does long distances, and has travelled around the world for events. It can also be her mom, her aunt, and her sister who was another one - who was not somebody who was active before that, but got excited about it - and doing that together was really important to the family. The women are all doing it independently. They may not be training together in the same way that they did for that first one, but you see them at events all over the place. I've seen them doing longer distances and it's really become a lifestyle.
And I guess this is a bit of a recurring theme I see with these human interest stories that come out of endurance events. I bet, if you just Google it, for a couple of weeks, you'll see this story, particularly along the lines of, "Ex potato couch, guy loses 60 kilogrammes or whatever pounds and runs a marathon kind of thing." because I think it crosses that divide between the public's perception of these events - like running a marathon or whatever - right? And then, the Joe Blows kind of person who just gets up and runs them. So, trying to basically steer people towards some kinds of examples of human interest stories, these are things that you see very commonly around events - like, "90-year-old runs 50th marathon or something." - and these kinds of things, and the family trains together type of thing goes along those kinds of lines?
Oh, absolutely. And these stories are all around. I think it is difficult because races sometimes get put into, "Okay, this is about the most competitive athletes or this is community participation." But I really see that there's room for both of those in the same events and there is always going to be both of those in the same event. So it doesn't mean that you're only focusing on making it more accessible to maybe those who went from couch potato to 5K or couch potato to marathon. There's room for all of it. So you can also have a story of somebody who is trying to qualify for Worlds. Let's look at their journey. They're in a particular age group that's very competitive. This is what they do. That is just as interesting as it is when somebody says, "I never thought I could do it and this is how I'm getting ready for it." They have different audiences, but it really helps, kind of, change that stereotype of what people might imagine a triathlete or runner to be, and that is one of the things that I think is important to us as a sport, right? If we're to survive, we need to grow participation to make sure that people are interested and excited about being part of these events. There's room for them to be having a goal to finish or a goal to win, and they should be able to get the same high-quality experience, regardless of what their personal goals are.
And armed with that raw material around the story, what's the next step from there? Do you offer to write it up? How do you even think of what kind of medium to pitch it to? Because we sort of mentioned that there are all kinds of local media in this discussion, right? There are papers, there's radio, there are TV, there's all kinds of specialist press. What was your next step with a story like this?
So for most things, I focus on TV or print, both of which, I think, are useful and have slightly different audiences. Media has taken a big hit and it was pre-pandemic, during the pandemic, and it is very difficult to have a large staff of reporters and photographers just at the ready. So, I've tried to make everything as easy as possible. With a press release, I want to make sure that that press release could practically be copied and pasted with a few changes so that it's ready to go. So the way that it's written, I think, is important to consider who their audience is, what their stories look like, structurally laying all of those sorts of things, including things like interview contacts - these are two people that you could interview about this. Those sorts of things are very important. But the pitch is a little bit different and it kind of depends on what your relationships look like with different parts of local media. So with the NBC affiliate here in El Paso that I had developed a relationship with a number of years ago, once we knew that they were going to be sponsoring-- and I know what we'll get into that a little bit in more detail later. But once we knew that, I also was hoping to have a long lead-up. So in the two to three months before, I really wanted to have feature stories leading up to it. So that was part of what I was pushing for him. In that, I literally put together a spreadsheet. Here's an idea, here's who I would talk to about it, here are the interviewer contacts, here's a short 2-3 sentences about what this idea is, and kind of just had that populated. From there, I was reaching out to those contacts. I would always make that contact first with any athletes that have participated in my events to ask them, "Would you be willing to share your story? Can I share your phone number? What's the best way to contact you?" Those sorts of things. And then, sometimes, it is a direct pitch, right? It might be to a lifestyle reporter rather than to a sports reporter because of the nature of the story. If there is something that is a little bit more about something in sports, specifically, for example, a qualification bid or something along those lines, you might pitch it to the sportsperson. A lot of those people are directly accessible. They have their contact information up on the website. Some news organisations only have kind of a catch-all email address for press releases, but what I would suggest is trying to figure out what reporters might be covering these types of stories because it may capture their attention and that may be kind of what they enjoy highlighting. The other thing has been to look at-- some of the news outlets have, like, an early morning talk show or a noon show where they do kind of more community-based news - it's much more lifestyle than hard-hitting reporting for those early and midday shows - and they're always looking for guests. They're looking for content. They're looking for engaging local content. So by reaching out to them, "I could be available for an interview. I would love to invite this person who can share their story. Is there a time?" And that's something that can be done fairly easily because they are often looking for good stories and interviews. Prepping that person in advance is usually been pretty minimal if you were sending somebody. We wanted to make sure they had accurate information about the event to share and that they knew how to do that. But beyond that, they're really sharing their story, and what you're doing is simply having a quick conversation with them to make sure that 1) that they're comfortable doing it, and 2) that they will be a good interview. Right? This is not the time to find somebody who will just say, "Yes, that happened." You want to find somebody who is eager to share their story and you want to make both yourself as the race director and the event production company look good, as well as the news outlet look good.
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode… So it's interesting because it sounds like in your case, you did more of a kind of all-encompassing wholesale deal with a network. How do you work actually? Did you just say, "I'm doing this triathlon and I know we're going to be generating lots of interesting stuff for you in the run-up to the event?" Because you didn't just go to them with a story you have - as you said, like the full schedule of stuff, almost like they were, like, a media sponsor for you guys. How did that work?
Well, before that, I can describe kind of what we would do. We still had a good number of stories that would get out into a range of media, and it would be this, sort of, reaching out and saying, "We have this content. Here's the idea." That sort of stuff. So that was really in the developing relationship phase where you were accessible, you made sure that you were accessible, and could be where you needed to be for whatever they might need, and could give a good interview and could provide exciting content. So that all held true before, kind of, this deal with the network. But with the local NBC affiliate, the news director at the time who is now a good friend of mine, had participated in Mighty Mujer So she was aware of it. And at some point, we got to talking about-- and again, this was, at that point, really a professional colleague and one of my participants, not somebody I knew particularly well. She reached out and we've done a few stories here and there that you've kind of offered. What would it look like to do more? That was kind of where I started thinking, "If I could dream pie in the sky of what I would want, what I really want is live continuous coverage of these all-female events that is a pool sprint just to drive it home for folks." I don't know if other all-female events have been televised locally. In other markets, we're kind of medium size. We're not a major market, but we're also not a small market. So then, I kind of started going through who she had referred me to. So I had to pitch it both on the news side and on the advertising side. And in news organisations, those two don't mix. So the news is completely independent, but both had to be on board in order to be able to reserve that time, and that was really the trick. That was kind of, "I can make the intro and then you're on your own. If they like it, I'm all in. But if they don't, I can't do much about it." It was kind of what that looked like, initially. So I considered a really big range of what we could do. The live coverage was one thing-- but also providing content, interviews, stories that are going to really put a face on what these women are doing from those who have been doing this for many years, and who have gone to big events, and who are very, very competitive to those who are doing this for the first time, don't know how to swim, and are learning how to do that from the ground level. So, really, put together-- "Okay, if we did a story a week, let me think of what we could offer," and then provided them with that information. Frankly, at that point, they took it from there. So then, they could kind of meter things out, schedule when they would be doing things. I would provide a schedule of opportunities for footage. So if we had a clinic where, maybe, I was running a brick workout and we would expect 30 women to show up and we were doing a short brick workout, make sure that they knew that they could come because there would be a good visual for a video that they could see. They would be able to interview people on site, they could follow that, and all of those sorts of opportunities that really need to be orchestrated because, otherwise, you get one shot on race day and that's it. Unless you can consider how to make it visually interesting leading up to it as well as kind of the story for print, it's not really going to go anywhere. So what do you show for a news piece if it's truly just a person being interviewed? Is it pictures? Is it a video? What do you have? So it was sometimes a combination of footage we had from previous events, and then we would kind of provide opportunities for that, but really considering all of the different areas. Some came up with, like, weather. So the weather forecaster would start, kind of, "Okay, what is race day weather look like?" So, for that week leading up, that was part of the weather report. So you would have the event logo and it just felt very integrated because there were things that they were doing to build up excitement and to generate kind of that value on their end. But for me, it was also bringing in spectators. It was bringing in people to come to see, "Well, what is this all about? And why is it special? And what's the road? Can I just show up?" Those kinds of questions were starting to be asked more often.
And in terms of that series of initiatives that you guys undertook before the race day coverage itself, which was sort of, like, the summit in all this, how much of that did you feel you were pushing versus them pulling? Were there lots of appetite on their end? And were they sort of, like, telling you, "Give us more"? Or with whatever you may have been feeding them, they were, like, thinking, "Oh, what a great idea. Let's do this. Let's do that." Or did you feel like you were driving the process? Was it you going to them pitching, "Oh, we should do this, we should do that."? Or was it them basically that was really open to doing more and more around the concept of covering the race?
So I think it was actually a really good partnership, where I was providing a lot of the legwork. They were not having to dig into old race results to try to find somebody who might have an interesting story. I was providing that for them. Once I had a kind of created that, it was literally, like, a Google Doc and this is what it looks like. These are who I would suggest for these contacts. They ran with it. So I was truly providing a kind of snippet of an idea, making sure that the interview contacts would be prepared and happy to be interviewed and to participate. Some of them got contacted. I think that they went through most of the ideas that I had put together, eventually. But if they were doing a story of each week and you've got three months, all of that is what they were going through. Negotiating that part was important, when I was initially putting this together and putting a sponsorship package together of what it would look like. That was one of those commitments of a story a week. Again, I'm a little fuzzy on which year, there was a story week. But, once we had done a few leading up, going into it, others were, "Okay, we want to do it longer than that now." Can you do more than just a couple of weeks in advance? And again, as I mentioned earlier, my interest was as early as possible because that would start generating interest, excitement, and potentially more registrations. But really, once you've provided those nuggets, they were able to run with them. It just had to be complete. Like, you couldn't just say, "Here's a name, email, and phone number of somebody who can speak to this."
And before you actually reach that point where you had such a deep relationship with the station, the journalists, and all of that, and the stage, which you mentioned came before that, which is you just, like, sending stories out - more of, like, practical, opportunistic, and one-of type of stuff - how did you find, generally, the response of media to be to these kinds of stories? Because another thing we discussed with Meg in the public relations episode is that there is a lot of reluctance among race directors of thinking of bits of their event as newsworthy. I feel like they're quite reluctant in reaching out, thinking they're going to be turned down, and no one's going to be interested in their stories. So firsthand from someone who hadn't had the success you later developed in all this, what was the reception you got from the media sending out stories like that?
It was really mixed. Sometimes, you don't know what is going to capture attention. So I would do press releases periodically leading up to the event. It might be something as simple as, "Registration is open", but try to include something interesting in there like a quote from a previous athlete, or from a city council member, or from a sponsor. What is going to potentially capture attention? Including interview contacts was always important there, but not all of them stick and not all of them are that exciting. But is there a new course? Is there some sort of aspects that you can introduce a human story? And those, I think were more likely to capture attention than those that were just, "Registration is open. New course announced." Those might be small links that are offered up, but they don't actually generate exciting coverage or more in-depth coverage. So I was really finding that those more personal stories and starting to appear or send somebody to appear on some of those talk kinds of segments was really that intro. You kind of start being known. People see you. They get comments from viewers. And so, that kind of helps support them doing a little bit more of that.
Did you find that it takes some particular expertise to write a press release in the style that would make it more attractive for a journalist to pick up?
I don't think so. I think the basics are there. Like, we know the who, what, when, where, and why. I would add to that, "Who cares? What is the point? If you are able to do something that might capture the attention of their audience, I think that is going to be a little bit more interesting and engaging, something that is also useful is-- again, you're making it as easy as possible. So the website is there and available. The description of the events is after, kind of, the hash marks that kind of show the end of the press release. You might also attach pictures or a video clip and show what this looks like. Maybe show - if you're showing these women who are training together - a race finish picture. Maybe it's a couple of other things, but that helps them see the story and imagine what this could look like because that's truly what they're doing. Like they might be reading a press release, but if they're a TV, they're thinking about, "How does this translate into a minute? How does this translate into an interview? What footage could we use that is going to be exciting and interesting, and work with the story?" So all of those things, I think. The easier that you can make it, if you're kind of putting yourself in the position of, if I was deciding whether this was going to make the cut, what would make that decision for me and trying to provide that. It still may take time. Like, it's still not a guarantee that anything will get published, but you've made it very easy and you've also positioned yourself as somebody who could be contacted for more of that.
Yeah, one easy way, as you say, to sort of step out of the natural involvement you have with that - the emotional involvement - is, I guess, like, if you saw the story that you want to put out and, instead of running and your race, it was a story about golf or something. Would there be anything in there-- not take a dig at golf, but would there be anything in there that would be familiar to you and non-golfer in a way because that's what you're trying to do? You're speaking to people who are not runners or triathletes, and you want to have that bridge to make them be interested in the story-- and the journalist, first and foremost, I mean, they're the people you're pitching to before even the audience. They need to be able to pick this up,
Right. Well, you make a good point. You may not read a story about golf, like, about a tournament and who won, but you might read a story about the 18-year-old who wants to go pro and is trying to raise money to get to that next big tournament, and that will be generally interesting. People will then potentially learn more about golf and how it works. But the story is more about what this person's journey is.
Absolutely. So beyond the human interest stories - which I think are probably the one easy area to focus on because they do get lots of results - I guess there are other things that people with a background in events, and the expertise race directors bring - the technical expertise - can also contribute content around, probably more so in things like multisport where you have all these different equipment to write stuff around, like, how to service your bike or whatever. Like, I sometimes see stories like that originating with people who are attached to races - like, races put those stories out. Is that something you guys did or maybe have seen success around?
So I haven't had a lot of experience doing more, kind of, technical things like gear reviews or those sorts of things. But one area where we have done some work is bicycle safety - looking at sharing the road, considering yourself as an advocate for safe bike lanes, and opportunities for cyclists to be on the road with cars. And so that is kind of another aspect that I think reporters are going to look for somebody to talk to about, and being able to make yourself available in those respects, I think, offers another opportunity.
And are those stories that you can drive from scratch in the sense that you can come up with a road safety story? Or are you going to be more of the, sort of, expert that's going to be in someone's Rolodex when such a story requires your expertise to comment on. So it's going to be more like a reactionary thing where a reporter reaches out to you as the local expert in road safety? Or can you actually sit down and say, "I know how to tell local runners how to hydrate on a hot day, for instance. Let me write something around that."
So I think that that there's a great opportunity there, especially in the heat, especially as those sorts of things are happening, that you can comment on and offer a story that is already written as this is what I think is important to our community right now. The other thing that I think is underutilised is op-eds. So, writing something that is an opinion piece about something that might be happening in your community locally, whether it is, again, about bike safety or about changes that perhaps are being made, or construction or danger. All of those sorts of things that can be done pretty easily. And a lot of times, especially print media is looking for well-written content that is expressing a clear opinion for the piece on hydration - and I think that's another great possibility. The audience for whatever outlet it is really drives where it would make sense. So doing a gear review for a local paper is probably not so interesting and probably not so useful just because it's a niche audience. But if it is about, "Are you thinking about swimming? Here are some safety tips or here is how you would get started. Did you not learn how to swim as a kid and can't find any adult swim lessons? This is what I would recommend." Those sorts of things, I think, can be a general audience and a little-- you can be a little bit more proactive about putting that out there.
At a store like that, how do you see the association with a race coming through? Because with a human interest story, it's clear you can say "that lady, couch-to-marathon", whatever, and they'll be doing our marathon. So the race comes a little bit more naturally through that because it's part of the story. With a story where you write a piece around, for instance, pool safety, at what point do you sort of bring you, the race director, and the race into all of that? Is it going to be just a mention at the end of the article that says, "The person writing this article is the race director for Mighty Mujer" or something? Or do you try to weave other connections in that piece, somehow, and bring out the events through the story?
The latter. Definitely trying to leave it throughout and kind of bring the race into the story. So it might be personifying it. Maybe you are thinking about somebody or multiple people who have learned to swim to participate in this event. They could be somebody who is quoted in the article, that says, "I didn't learn how to swim as a kid. This is how I got started." And then you kind of have a little bit more education to it. But there are people who are learning to do this for your events. So, it is a natural combination to put those two things together. It can also be something that frames what you're discussing. Like, as people have had more opportunities to participate in bike races, you might see more bikes on the road. So-and-so is training for this one. This is how they stay safe. So that is something that can be done early as kind of helping to frame the entire concept rather than just thrown at the end, "This person is race director for this race." I think it's much more effective to integrate it and it is a much subtler way to mention the event without it being a marketing piece.
Yeah, that makes sense. Moving on a little bit to the pitching side of things, the boundary where your rubber hits the media road, so to speak, and getting traction with that. You mentioned earlier that those relationships and understanding of the dynamic within the media outlets that you're pitching are really very important. And of course, more recently, you had the good fortune to have a journalist be one of your participants, and they reached out to you. When that wasn't happening, how do you go about finding whom to reach out to in a local media outlet? You mentioned emails that may be on the website. Is there a system to all that - like, finding the right person?
Yes and no. So there is usually a catch-all email address where press releases are sent, and you might find that on a news outlet's website of, "Press release at ktsm.com," or whatever that is. So that is one direction. What I had done is really pay attention to who's reporting on what and reach out to them directly as well. So you might send it to a few people at once and maybe send something a little bit more personal to that individual contact, like, "You've done a great job or I've seen that you often cover these sorts of events. I have something that might be great for that." Those sorts of more specific contacts. There's often for those kinds of earlier or noontime kind of talk shows. There's also a specific contact generally that is available for that. They're often looking for content, saying, "I would love to bring an ambassador and talk about what they're doing. This is a little bit of their story. This is when the race is. This is where it is. This is how many participants." You give a little bit of a snippet, and then kind of make that pitch of why it is important for the community to know about it and why either you or the people you are suggesting are the right people to talk about it.
So it could be the case that there might be three different programmes you want to reach through on TV, and they will be sort of in three different silos kind of thing, and you'll need to email or call the specific people around a specific programme.
That's been my experience. It is not just you send it out into the world and hope that somebody picks it up. That's kind of how a lot of times press releases go that are more technical. If it is about road closures, you might have a list that you have created of all of the media contacts locally, and you just send it out. That one is a little bit easier in that sense because you're just putting it out in the world. Hopefully, it's picked up and road closures are announced. But it is not the case with those that you are suggesting a more in-depth story. That's really just an announcement for all practical purposes. And so if you are trying to develop those relationships so that you will have a channel for ongoing content, it needs to be a little bit more specific, a little bit more targeted. Of course, that still doesn't mean it'll be picked up, but you are getting on the radar of those who will be making those choices in the future and might reach out to you if they now see another press release come through a few months later about a different event, and they're like, "We've got this opening on Wednesday at 12.30. Would you be able to come in and talk about this half marathon that's about to come up?"
And is there, really, in this day and age, with so much news going out digitally-- I mean, there's only so much coverage on TV, but only so much airtime to cover, and then you have lots of stories going out on media websites all the time. Do those come from the same news desk or whatever driving both of them? Or do they have a little bit of a separate track to them? How does it work?
So my experience is that it's a separate desk. So those that are doing some of those-- I think just web content might have a different person who is in charge of that web content. Your press release or story might be more easily picked up there, and that's kind of where I've seen that road closure press release close to entirely duplicated for a web story, and those are still useful. That is still useful for your sponsors, useful for kind of other uses even though it's not maybe a TV story or a print story. That's kind of where I've seen a lot of those press releases be picked up, and that's a different channel. They are not doing the same in-depth interviewing and reporting that might be done on TV and then linked to the web. Those that are only web are more from press releases, more bite-size, and more announcement-type rather than in-depth reporting. But like I said, I still think that has a lot of value because you will be able to show the reach of your events, you'll be able to talk about how some of those things have gotten picked up, where they've gone, what you've gotten out of them. You can amplify that on your event's social media to put the word out to your participants, and that helps drive that reach as well.
So a little bit of a lower bar to get in there, a little bit more of a cookie-cutter type thing but, still, being online-- like, lots of people visit local news websites. It's a good chance that you might get some value out of that kind of coverage.
Absolutely. Well, I'm sure many others do this as well. I have the event names all set up as Google searches, so I get an alert if there's anything on the web that has the name of one of my events. And then, I can see, "Well, where are our stories coming out of? Did the press release get anywhere?" You might have sent it to one place, but it might have actually gotten picked up in a much bigger publication because it was on a wire and made it there. So those are the sorts of things to keep your eye on because that can help you tell the story when you're going to meet with sponsors, going to meet with even city officials about permitting the events and if there are misgivings, "Look, there is a broad audience that is interested in this and here's why it's important for us to move this forward."
Yeah, we forgot about the whole permitting local authority-type angle beyond the sponsors. I guess it sort of rolls under community engagement and general public relations, but it is really very important. And as you say, it's almost like newspaper clippings. I mean, if you have enough of those, you can put them in a presentation. It's just savvy to use that kind of coverage that you may get in to give sort of, like, credence and authority to your race?
Oh, absolutely. You're really showing your value.
Yeah. In terms of the information that you would want to include, can we just go over it just one last time? So what's the kind of stuff that you should absolutely not forget to put in a story that you're sending out to people?
Who, what, when, where, and why is very important, and also telling the story of why should they care. Why should your audience care? Interview contacts are very important as well. So make sure that that is somebody who knows that they might be contacted. You don't want to suggest someone and then they get a cold call, don't know what's happening, it appears very disorganised, they're confused, and the reporter is confused. So having interview contacts who know that they might be contacted is important. Then, I think providing information about the event itself. I usually do that, again, after those hash marks so that you just have the date, the location, where they can come for video opportunities, and include things like packet pickup, or a race briefing or a clinic leading up because those are all opportunities for them to interact with those who are participating in the event that is not only racing. Because, again, newsrooms tend to be very short-staffed. They might have one person who is sent to go take videos at five different spots. The reporter is sent elsewhere to cover another story. So they're truly piecing things together quickly. Your race may not take place where they have somebody who goes out and covers it. So if that's the case, you can send pictures after, you can send a little clip, you can kind of, again, make it available to them in a way that it does not necessarily require an additional camera person and reporter.
And you mentioned some tools there in terms of monitoring media - sort of like news alerts. What do you use?
So mine, I do through Google. It's just kind of putting a Google word search. I can't even tell you exactly how to do it right now. I did it years ago and I've done it every time I add an event. But essentially, anytime that phrase appears online in anything, I get an alert saying Mighty Mujer triathlon, and then I get a list of what those are. But I do it through Google with, kind of, the word alerts.
Okay. And do you often get surprised with things that you didn't know were happening around your event - like, people were picking up and putting out stories about the event that you weren't necessarily actively driving?
I do actually, and sometimes pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, it's that press release that you sent out that was more, kind of, just "I check the box because I know we need to do this, but you don't know if it gets published." And then you find the few places that it is published. If you have put your events on, of course, national and local calendars, sometimes it gets picked up as the featured events that is coming up in a publication. And so, I've seen those that will have a little paragraph describing the event, "This is coming up. Here's how you learn more," That had nothing to do with a press release or a pitch. It just ended up being featured as one of those events that are coming up. There's been a couple of times where there have been stories that I had zero to do with, and there was a full story done on this person who was preparing for the event, and those are kind of the best surprises. So there was a woman who, I believe, had just finished cancer treatment and was training for Mighty Mujer triathlon. Some of her friends were very excited about it, and she needed a bike. So they approached a local bike shop, and talked to them about her story and what could they do to help her get ready for it. The bike shop got very excited. They've been connected with the event in the past, knew what she was training for, knew what that looks like, and ended up getting her a bike. There was press around it. They got her a coach. They turned into kind of this beautiful story that a different station that we had not been working with was really taking charge of and they did this beautiful package featuring her, her friends, and interviews about why this was such a monumental thing and a big accomplishment of culminating with the bike shop bringing out her new bike. And so those sorts of things don't happen often but, when they do, they're just really, really exciting to see and make you proud that you have put this out in the world and that others are taking that same kind of joy in it.
I guess, it's a bit of an acquired talent. When you say this example with a bike shop getting involved in getting that lady the bike and all of that stuff, I bet everyone listening in gets lightbulb moments on the back of that in the sense that you can see the alignment, you can see why the bike shop would want to get involved, you see what the station finds in that story, you see why it's beneficial for the race. It's like, when these things work, and the circumstances make sense, and the story is great, which I think all events have - at least a handful in them. It all somehow works out and it's completely kind of, like, effortless because everyone wants to do it - these stories that you said before. Journalists-- that's their job and there's not a lot of good stories around, to be honest. So, like, by giving them that kind of stuff, not only will they not shut their door in your face, they would actually be grateful to have the opportunity to cover great stories like that.
Well, to give you another example where a sponsor came into play, we have a hospital system locally that had been a significant sponsor of my triathlon in the past, and one of the stories that I pitched was a person who worked at that hospital to be featured. She did that and I engaged the hospital with that pitch so that they knew that it was coming. She was wearing her staff shirt in the interview. They did some of the highlighting videos at one of the locations where she would leave work and ride her bike, so it was featuring them. So it was a really nice, subtle, but effective way to feature a real person who was a physical therapist working at this hospital, and could really show how it was connected without talking about-- and they sponsor the event like this is a product placement sort of pitch - it was not. It was able to be done in a way that they got great coverage. It was fantastic to show how they were supporting their employee who was taking this on. That sort of story was able to be done for a sponsor without it being a marketing story.
Yeah, I guess the other lesson perhaps here - what comes to my mind - is there are lots of common threads between engaging media and activating sponsorships in the sense that the platform is there - like, the raw material is all there. It just takes the skill - which is an acquired one - of actually connecting the dots and making everything work, whether it's a sport-- because in a way, crafting a great story out of bits and pieces you may know of a participant doing something or a sponsor being involved with something is a little bit, like, driving a great sponsorship initiative out of - a little bit information about - what does the sponsor care about, what do I have to offer, how do they all come together, and what's the thing that's going to highlight all of that kind of stuff.
Oh, absolutely. And it's making those connections that I think are just so effective in the general outreach, right? That general outreach might drive your number of registration. It might drive sponsorship numbers. It might drive volunteer efforts and spectators, but it kind of all has to have that symbiotic relationship, if you want it to have the impact that you're after. It is more difficult to have an impact if they are all very small, self-contained, and siloed. But when you start seeing those connections come through, not only is it a more interesting story, but it's also more useful for you in the future.
So I want to wrap up with a bit of a look at what was, I guess, the pinnacle in all this for you, which was actually getting a TV station to cover the race itself, which you said was sort of, like, you what you were aiming for, which is quite remarkable, if you think about it, to have a local race like that - a triathlon, of all things - in the sense that it's not a very mainstream sport, even less so than running, but still being covered by a station. Obviously, the journalist who you said was a past participant had lots of involvement in that, but you mentioned earlier that when you reach that kind of level when you're actually taking up lots of air time, things get a little bit more complicated in terms of the commercial side of things and, like, it becomes a thing for the station. It's not just another story. Do you want to talk to us a little bit through the dynamic of that and, basically, once you reach that level, how you navigate all of those complexities and conflicting objectives that a station has between the news desk, the salespeople, all of those logistics?
Absolutely. So what I learned quickly was that there is the news side and the advertising side. Those two are generally very independent, completely siloed off. One, the advertising side does not make decisions on what news will be covered, and the new site is not thinking about how to sell anything. So both of them had to be on board for this live coverage to happen. What it was-- I believe it was a two-hour block that was going to be continuous live coverage on a Saturday morning. What does that mean for the ad side? On the new side, I had, I think, an easier go of it because she had participated in the event - that was the news director - so she kind of understood what that could mean, what it could look like, and how engaging it could be, so it had kind had a high end, high level of vision, and I'll get into that a little bit more because, as soon as it was given the green light, then, the real work began with everyone else because, maybe, she knew what that could look like, but nobody on the ground or who was going to cover it had any idea. I didn't really know what their needs were. But before then, I also had to meet with the advertising side and talk to them about the race demographic, and what sorts of ad revenue might they be able to generate by featuring this. So the event that was pitched on that was televised, was an all-female triathlon, had an age range from 12-to-70-something with-- of course, the average age is generally 37. The greatest participation is between about 35 and 50 year olds. So kind of talking about, "Okay, this is who the demographic is." I had information from past survey data about - and just registration information about - income levels, business owners, what industries people were in, and those sorts of things, so I could kind of talk about who the participants were. But then, I could also talk about what sorts of products and services might be appropriate to be featured during that time. Is it things like medical care, urgent care centres, or even things that might be products and services that women might buy or have the decision-making power for? So I would talk to them about that. Like, who is driving the family decisions for certain items, and who are your current advertisers that you would want to engage on this. I didn't have a list of who they already worked with, but I could talk them through, "Here's the demographic. Here's what I think you could feature. Here's how it could be done really well and how it could be useful on the advertising side." So they kind of had to come to their own conclusions, but I could share who past sponsors were, who the audience was, and how that would be useful for them to align in the future beyond that two-hour segment. So that part was, then, kind of out of my hands, but the groundwork for the actual production on race day started and, for me, that meant figuring out what does this look like as far as their commitment - it was multiple live shops during the events. I had to really sit down with and be like, "Okay, it is a time trial swim start in a pool. Okay. So a new participant starts every 10 seconds. That is the beginning. Then, there's a transition. Let me tell you what that looks like and what happens. Then, there's the bike segment. It's a hilly course. There are some beautiful shots of what that looks like when somebody is climbing or descending, and what could be done there." Then, I took the crew and drove around and we're like, "These are the spots that I think might be interesting, but these are the different components of the events you'll want to have someone at the finish. If you have somebody in the pool start, that person could go over to the finish and cover that as well." So they had to understand what the travel looked like from the beginning of it to the end, and at what points there were crossovers so that they could kind of start to chart out how many spots - like, physical locations - they wanted to be filming. There were some things that I hadn't considered. Like, some spots were not good locations if they were doing continuous coverage because of where towers were located, and that was stuff that I had never considered. They also needed WiFi. So I had to contact the city to make sure that the library nearby was going to have a signal strong enough to be appropriate for live coverage. So there were those kinds of logistics. "Where's the news desk going to be?" Because we did have live, kind of, colour commentary by two people who were running the show, kind of, at a news desk. So where could that be situated? And then, all the wiring, cabling, and power sources. So I had to go look around the race venue and figure out what that might look like. So all of those kinds of logistics was its own production. But having done the groundwork, once they showed up, it was done. Like there, was a whole lot of setup, but it was laid out, you had to spend the time and invested in advance to make sure that it was going to work, that the shots were going to be good, and that they had the personnel to cover it and everything that they needed. The last thing that I did was, the week before the race, I went and asked to meet with anybody who would be covering it. So they brought all the reporters and camera people together and I gave them, basically, a triathlon 101. "This is what's going to be happening. This is what that looks like. This is who's participating." So I gave them some data that they would be able to use during their reporting, but I also walked them through the logistics of it and what the terminology would be. So if they were looking at transition, what does that look like? What do they need to know? What do they need to know about how people are participating and what they might be - that sort of stuff - and that was actually super useful because most of them had no idea what they were about to see and were preparing to report on a sport that they did not have a lot of familiarity with. And so, doing that, I think, made them much more comfortable with talking about it, thinking about how it would be covered, and much more confident with knowing what was happening in what order, how would it look, what can they imagine, and those sorts of things. I think that made a very big difference with all of them being able to do just a beautiful job on race day.
And what has been the feedback from the station after? Was it everything they expected the event both commercially for them-- as you said, the sales dimension is quite important also. I guess they're following numbers on their end in terms of how many people tuned up and what it did for them. Did they feel happy with the outcome for the station of having covered the race live - those couple of hours - on Saturday morning?
I mean, it's a huge lift. So the resources that they dedicated to were tremendous. So it had to have been what they were after for them to be willing to continue that. So we have been on hiatus. We did that for two-- gosh, no-- three years. We had that live coverage, and then COVID hit and everything changed - as well as staffing has changed. So people don't work where they used to and new people have been brought in and all of that sort of stuff has kind of shifted the ground a little bit. But it was - for their viewership - very successful. They were able to interview people who saw something on television, got in their car, and went to the race to cheer. So there were interviews that were done with folks on the street that they would ask, "Well, what brings you here today? Do you know somebody who's racing?" And they're like, "No, I saw the coverage. I live nearby and I couldn't believe this was happening, so I had to come." So that's the sort of engagement that they really enjoy because that means people are watching. People are actually watching. They can tune in. They got a very broad reach because, as an event, we would also put it out. So we did a lot of work on our social media and through the channels that we have control over like newsletters, emails, and things like that to make sure that people knew how to tune in. Because it was simultaneously broadcast on their Facebook Live Channel, we could have people from around the world watching and we did. And so, that was really where they saw a tonne of traction. People were watching live from all over the world and that was something that I don't think that they had anticipated. They had expected a kind of local response, but they had not expected the level of traction that they have through their social media.
And where were those people? Like, what was it in it for them - the people tuning in from overseas?
Most of them were friends and family of the people who are participating who were tremendously excited. But that spreads, right? Like, you have folks who are in other places who say, "Oh, are you watching this live?" And they can share the link. So, I think people became interested to be able to see somebody like their cousin, their sister, their mother racing - actually be able to watch it. It'd be kind of a full production of something that is very much a community event. It is not, like, watching the Olympics where you were watching somebody that you have been following for years and you know their name. This was now cheering on somebody who didn't fit your idea of what a triathlete looked like to get up the hill, and you couldn't believe that this person just passed this person, that's not what you would have expected, and those sorts of things.
I think there are some very encouraging bits in all that. I think people will be surprised to hear that a local race will, A) get to the point of monopolising our time in a cable affiliate for a couple of hours, even if it's Saturday morning. I don't know what it was displacing, but it's a couple of hours on a Saturday morning that something else would have been on. So it's really encouraging to see a race take its place. It's also really exciting. I've seen it with other races getting coverage like this, which is actually not that many, unfortunately, but when they do, you do see them coming back year after year. Like, once those races make it on there, lots of them engage people sufficiently like it works for the stations - the whole thing works - and they keep coming back year after year. So there seems to be something in these local races making it to where it's something that people really want to see on their Saturday morning, once in a while. I'm sure, if it was every other weekend, people would--
Probably not every week, right?
I think it's exciting. I mean, there's really a huge range of opportunities everywhere in between, right? So whether it's a human interest story from-- I had one that was covering a physician who hadn't learned how to swim to be part of this and talking about her busy schedule, about like, "This is what it looks like on the day-to-day basis when I'm trying to get ready for something." But it made it very relatable for women who might be balancing family careers and figuring out, "Do I actually have time for this? Can this be something that I care about?" So highlighting somebody who had done it can be very interesting, very exciting, and very engaging for a pretty broad audience.
That's a great note to end on - the huge opportunities. And I do agree that there are huge opportunities. People need to be bold. If it's not obvious from this chat today, you don't have to be the New York Marathon to get into local media. There are all kinds of opportunities at different scales, obviously, to get exposure for your event, and it's a great opportunity. Obviously, it's not something that happens magically. There needs to be some effort put into it, but it does pay dividends down the line. So I hope people end up doing more of that. I want to thank you very much, Gabriela, for talking with me today. It was really interesting to get the perspective of a multisport race director, which we don't often do on the podcast, and also listen to these great stories and examples of how people can leverage human interest stories and get into local media. So thank you very much for making the time to speak with me today.
Thanks to everyone listening in. And we'll see you all on our next podcast!
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode on engaging local media with Race El Paso race director, Gabriela Gallegos.
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