Wednesday, January 28, 2015

An Ode to Media Deadline Management: A How-To with Lynn Johnson!

Media planning is the art and science of ensuring that the adverts our clients want, appear in the right place at the right time to ensure they reach the best and widest audience. I love this definition. RIGHT TIME AT RIGHT PLACE. 

So, listen to this hypothetical scenario.  Boss comes in and says she has booked an internationally acclaimed Dance Choreographer to come in and do master classes with our dancers with disabilities and we’ll be doing a final performance open to the public.  Questions that should already be going through your head are:  When, Where, Who, What, Why (my last input is cost?).  At that point, you maybe have no answers except that he’s coming within the next two months.  SO:  Important piece of information here.  Know your media deadlines for your city, i.e. appropriate magazines, TV, Radio, PBS stations, local newspapers, and online calendars.  Media deadlines are timeframes set by each media organization as to when you must have your information to them to enable them to post to their readers and listeners.
Important Step:  You should already have a media list comprised of emails, websites, and phone numbers of who to contact to find out their media deadline schedule. 
Hard at work!

When I started out researching a media list of contacts for VSA Texas, I looked at the existing media list for Austin and then looked up all the publications, TV Stations, Radio Stations, on line Community Calendars. After, I expanded my research to include other cities where VSA Texas has events, workshops and classes.
Saying that this doesn’t take a little work is not exactly truthful.  You must be diligent in gleaning information from each of the media outlets you are interested in.  If you can't find deadlines for a certain organization online, call them! Mention you're a nonprofit and see how they can help you promote your event.
Next Step:  Make yourself a non-complicated spreadsheet (can be in Excel or if you're more comfortable, on paper with a ruler and pencil) with a timeline guide so you can plot out the deadlines for your Press Release, PSA and any other form of communication you want listed for your hypothetical choreographer.
To sum up:  A checklist
1.       Include contact information on every press release or PSA you send out. This means name of person, phone number and email. . Do not give multiple contacts as it only confuses people.

2.       Provide in the first paragraph  the details: who, what, when, where, why , and what the costs may be

3.       In your press release, write a personable paragraph or two about event- Don't be afraid to be creative! Be clear in what you want to say and engage your audience.

4.       Don’t forget your sponsors information (if you have a sponsor). That includes website, facebook information, etc.

5.       Always include the correct address of the event.-You’d be surprised how obvious details often get forgotten! The year is also especially important, especially for annual events.

6.       Proof read, proof read, proof read.

NOW- if you find you haven’t been supplied all of the above, or you are getting conflicting information, I remind everybody they have a specific timeframe! I usually stretch the truth about their deadline to give me some breathing room to meet the publications deadline.
It comes down to getting your information, making your deadline chart and keep reminding everyone who is planning the event how excited people will be when they learn of the great dance opportunity (or whatever your own event is!).  Think of it like your own “The Field of Dreams-” if you build it, they will come-but if they don’t know about it, they won’t. 
Thanks for your time today everyone! I hope my tips are helpful in your own planning, media-related or otherwise!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

VSA Texas Unsung Hero of the Week: Chris Strickling!

I want to tell you about another unsung hero of VSA Texas.  For over 14 years, Chris Strickling has graced us with her talent and generosity.  Starting in 2000, when she approached me to help make her vision of an inclusive community of people with diverse disabilities bringing their stories to life on the stage, Chris has been a selfless supporter of the celebration of the ordinary, and sometime extraordinary, lives of people with disabilities.
Myself, Chris and Terry
Beginning with a one-week Actual Lives Austin performance workshop –yes, a promised “one week” workshop – we launched what turned out to be a 12 year adventure, eventually involving Bob Tolaro, Allison Orr, Olivia O’Hare, Tanya Winters, Susie Angel, Juan Muñoz, Gene Rodgers, Dave Dauber, Carol Gilson, Frankie Ramont, Laura Griebel, Terri Stellar, Thor Armbruster and many others too numerous to mention.  And who could overlook Terry Galloway, the godmother of Actual Lives, uncensored (kind of), real-life, and just plain real. We went on to perform more than 48 original performances in Austin, Dallas, Georgetown, and Washington, DC, the latter at the invitation of the VSA International 2004 International Festival. As we explored the possibilities of Actual Lives, Chris helped bring this unique theater experience to young adults with disabilities.

Chris was also an integral part of starting our summer camp program for youths with disabilities. Our first summer camp workshop for participants ages 13 and up was an empowering and transformative experience for everyone, including the campers, volunteers, teaching artists, and VSA Texas staff.  Daniel, shown in the picture below, as well as many others, have participated in VSA Texas summer workshops ever since. 

Chris and Daniel!
And then, in 2013, Chris joined the ranks of the Opening Minds, Opening Doors: Promoting Self-Advocates as Speakers team.  She worked with OMOD Coordinator Eric Clow to develop the initial training curriculum based on the Actual Lives model, and then recorded teaching videos that will inform our instructors and participants throughout the life of the project.

Thank you Chris.  As we continue our work with people with disabilities from all “walks” of life, we will raise high the flag of inclusion, disability rights, real talk of human sexuality, personal dreams, hopes and possibilities. Your work continues. Happy retirement.  We look forward to visiting you at your humble casita in Ishmael, Mexico.

All our love,