A media open house is an excellent opportunity to showcase a camp, the staff, and facility. An open house can take place during a special event such as:
- Camp Olympics – You can set up the camp in a series of Olympic-type sporting events and challenge the campers to compete against the counselors.
- Around the Farm – You could invite the media to see the amazing animals at camp. Show the media how the horses are groomed or how the children learn about snakes and spiders.
- The Three R's – Rappelling, Horseback Riding, and Raft Swimming – Invite the media to cover the "Three R's of Summer" as they watch children learn to rappel, ride a horse, and play in the water.
The following tips will assist you in organizing a successful event:
- Prepare a message. Remember to make sure to have two to three talking points in mind about what you want the media to know about the camp experience. For example, you can talk about how camp teaches children independence and a respect for their environment.
- Select a logical location. Make sure the location is safe and secure for reporters. Make sure the media understand if an event will be held outdoors and ask what equipment they will need from you (i.e. power supply, place to park a satellite truck, etc.)
- Notify the media. Send a media advisory, or media alert, to key reporters inviting them to the event. Always include contact information and a cell number where the reporter can call the day of the event. Call the reporter a day or two before the event to see if he/she will be able to attend. If it is not possible, extend an invitation for a reporter to cover the camp at a later date.
- For planning purposes, you may consider hosting your event on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning. Some media markets are looking for good stories to cover during their long weekend morning shows while other markets are short staffed on weekends. In some cases, you might want to check with a broadcast station first before planning your event.
- Provide the media with a press release about the event and/or a press kit on your camp. Make sure to include a brief bio on the camp director.
- Identify two to three people to speak with the media during the event. Ideally this would include a camp counselor, camper, and the camp director. Children under the age of 18 will need their parents to sign a waiver in advance of any media interviews.
- Book a photographer. Some weekly newspapers may be unable to send a photographer but are interested in covering the story. Your ability to provide photos to reporters will enhance your visibility.
- Designate a media greeter. You should have a designated person meet the media as they arrive and assist them during the event.
- Follow-up. Contact news outlets that expressed an interest in attending the event but did not show. They should receive the press release and photos with a letter asking them to consider covering the camp story.
- Evaluate news coverage. Stories should be evaluated in terms of your objectives. Were your talking points in the story? Were you able to recruit new campers as a result of the coverage?
Remember to thank reporters for covering your story. A personal letter can go a long way in a reporter remembering you next time you have a story to tell!