The exemplary One Piece Podcast interviews Anime USA guest Wendee Lee.
In my last post, I evaluated what I look for in a model press attendee. Thanks for all the understanding and appreciative comments. I have to re-emphasize that most of my press outlets, like the One Piece Podcast crew pictured above, were journalists I’m happy to have as colleagues.
Now that I’ve cleared my head a bit, it’s time to evaluate my own performance.
I’ve always thought this part of PR was super sleazy. In journalism school, I would laugh with my classmates and professors at the notes the public relations class before us would leave on the whiteboard. It all seemed like a sidestepping swindle designed to fool journalists into writing stories about non-news events.
Now that I’ve played for the other team, however, I’ve realized press releases are only spam in the wrong hands. Over the year, I’ve learned to carefully curate a list of media outlets until I’ve learned which groups would be interested in which news. While I sent the same releases everywhere, Anime News Network picked up our Make-A-Wish Partnership announcement, while the Washington City Paper wrote about our event details.
As a journalist, the last thing I want to do is PR spam the media sites I like and read. My goal for 2012 is to make a more detailed press spreadsheet so I can send out releases more thoughtfully. For the rest of 2011, however, I’ll be working on another spreadsheet — all our press coverage. There are a lot more spreadsheets in PR than in journalism, I think.
In 2010, we only had nine press outlets attend Anime USA. In 2011, we had 43. I credit this spike to improved communication with press.
I put up the Press Policy in the spring and the webmistress gave it a more prominent position on our site. I sent formal invitations to press groups that had done a good job in 2010 and whom I wanted to return. Everyone else, I Googled before responding to make sure they matched the quality Anime USA expects of their press outlets.
In the end, I generally made acceptance and rejection decision on the group’s politeness (or lack of) in their correspondence with me. I didn’t want press acceptance to be based solely on audience. After all, Anime USA accepted me as press when I was a student with no credentials, and no (anime-related) writing samples. It was this opportunity that gave me the confidence to become a fandom reporter. It also got me on staff. So I have a weakness for student and startup applicants.
In order to set a professional tone right off the bat, I designed a branded press kit with information, rules, and our press conference schedule. I had to update it twice while our guests played musical chairs all the way up until November 14. While I’m not generally a fan of killing trees (web journalist, blogger and all that), I think making print copies of these cleared up a lot of potential confusion. I handed these out with press badges.
Even though I spent most of Friday and Saturday in the Convention Operations room greeting members of the media with press kits and badges, I definitely did not personally meet all 91 press attendees. So it gave me peace of mind to know that they knew how to contact me regardless.
This was my grand experiment. Last year, I watched Saint Tom Stidman schedule one-on-one interviews for every press group that wanted an interview. The scheduling, the logistics, everything, was a hassle. So I decided to take a cue from Anime Boston. They hold press conferences there, and if they didn’t, an unknown like me would have never had a chance to sit next to Nobuo Uematsu. I thought conferences would be more democratic.
There was a little pushback from press at first. Professionals were okay with it; actual reporters are used to conference style interviews. A few bloggers from small sites were upset. I assured them that there’d be a professional journalist — either me or Patch.com’s Tyler Waldman — moderating every conference and making sure everyone got a turn to talk.
Nothing went the way I planned. Only two to four groups attended each press conference, even though sometimes as many as 15 requested interviews with the same guest. I adapted to the situation and deferred to my press groups on what they’d prefer to do. Overwhelmingly, they preferred one-on-one interviews, even if they’d each only get 15 minutes with the guest. The other outlets would wait their turn, sitting and listening. This led to a huge decrease in repeat questions.
I’ve listened to what the press wants, and next year, we’ll divide conferences into 30 minute one-on-one blocks, all in the same room. That is of course, unless we snag somebody on Nobuo Uematsu‘s level.
Anime USA official blog
I promoted one of my 2010 bloggers, the talented Mike Fenn, to Lead Blogger. He moved the blog from WordPress to Tumblr, which made the blog instantly more social. It also allowed bloggers to update from their smart phones, netting us tons more posts than last year. We received a total 640 unique visitors (out of 5,000 attendees), so there’s definitely still work to be done.
I hope my recap has given you some insight into how I run press at Anime USA, as well as an understanding of just how hard we volunteers work to staff the convention. I’m still far from becoming a model press liaison, but I am feeling pretty good about how I handled myself this year.
I also sent this post to my colleagues Chad and Nick, press liaisons at Katsucon and MAGfest respectively, so I’m looking forward to their comments especially.
Thank you to everyone I’ve worked with this year at Anime USA, whether you’re a member of the press, a staff member or an attendee. You’re not only the reason I do this, you’re the reason I love it.