• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

IMPORTANT NIGHT in INDY

I'll be in Indianapolis this weekend to chair the 38th AARWBA All-America Team ceremony. This is special to me for a number of reasons; mainly, I just think it's important for the motorsports industry to have a strong, effective media organization. Plus, we'll present the Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations, a man and an honor close to my heart.

I want to welcome A1GP World Cup of Motorsport as the new dinner presenting sponsor. On behalf of AARWBA, I negotiated a three-year agreement with A1GP. If you are wondering why a series that doesn't have a U.S. race would do this, well, that's the point. A1GP wants to raise awareness of what it's doing among American racing journalists. Chief Commercial Officer Scott Hollingsworth will lead the A1GP delegation. Emerson Fittipaldi, A1GP ambassador and Team Brazil seat holder, will be our featured speaker.

Drivers elected to the Team, as voted on by AARWBA members, and confirmed to attend include: Dario Franchitti, Scott Pruett, Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Alex Lloyd, Frank Kimmel, Mika Salo and Jamie Melo. The top vote-getter gets the Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy. Carl Haas is coming to accept AARWBA's Pioneer In Racing Award.

ESPN, MAZDASPEED, Budweiser and Edelman Motorsports are co-hosting the reception. The evening will start with something new, the Shav Glick Newsmakers Forum, a series of brief news announcements. Franchitti will receive his Indy 500 winner's ring then and his image on the Borg-Warner Trophy will be unveiled.

If you need last-minute ticket information, go to the http://aarwba.org/ site.
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The response to my last posting of '07 was unprecedented in the short history of this blog. Will it ultimately help improve the state of racing PR? Time will tell. It did lead to communications with THREE sanctioning organizations. Several journalists wrote to tell me of their own stories and the senior executive of a prestigious motorsports publication let me know that well-known outlet is not immune to neglect by people who carry "PR" titles.

I hope the dialog will continue . . . I can assure you it will in this space. I urge others to speak out as well to the team owners and sponsors who give paychecks to people who don't visit media centers, return phone calls or answer E-mails from reporters. It's time to act, not just complain, or accept the situation as-is. Fixing the problem is in the best interest of the motorsports industry.
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Here are two things I was reminded of (again) during the holidays, due in part to my last blog:

* Any organization interested in a proper and professional relationship with real reporters makes a big mistake combining media/PR work with a marketing function. Penske Racing South and Grand-Am were the latest to do this, in December, announcing senior-level appointments where "communications" falls under the responsibility of a marketer. Anyone who doesn't understand why this is wrong doesn't understand the relationship dynamic of working with journalists. Contact me and I'll explain it to you.

* Most journos I speak with hate it when they are sent releases as a PDF or Word document that must be downloaded. (I'm told many who do this want to show-off a logo or a graphic.) As stated in my last posting, news releases are for the MEDIA, not corporate executives or team owners. Keep it simple and easy to use. In the case of E-mailed releases, that means plain text. If an image is key to telling the story, attach a link.
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Sign of the Times: The Orlando Sentinel announced last week in a staff memo, ". . . we've decided to eliminate our national NASCAR coverage and focus more on local sports coverage. Following a joint decision by the Sentinel, Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel, we won't be covering as many NASCAR races and will spend more of our budget on local news. With this decision, award-winning reporter Ed Hinton has decided to leave the company. He is the best NASCAR writer in the nation, winning more awards than anyone, and will be missed dearly."

Sounds like "spin" to me. The Tribune Co., under new ownership, is cutting costs. Now, will all those NASCAR team/sponsor PR people who don't bother to visit the media center take this as justification for their attitude that newspapers no longer matter? Or as a wake-up call to get pro-active and work to build relationships and generate stories?
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A VERY difficult 2007 closed with the news that my friend Mike Hollander was diagnosed with a form of colon cancer. For those who don't know, Mike is a true pioneer of online motorsports journalism. In 1979, Hollander worked with the then-fledgling CompuServe Information Service to provide racing news on a real-time basis worldwide. I remember times when I joined with Mike Harris to argue with track PR directors who didn't want to issue Hollander media credentials -- because they didn't understand this new information source.

That service evolved in 1983 into the AutoRacing SIG and later into The Motor Sports Forum. In 1995, Mike brought the service to the web, where it continues today as http://www.motorsportsforum.com/ .

Mike is AARWBA's national VP and received the Dusty Brandel President's Award at last year's All-America Team ceremony. He edits the dinner program book and produces all the audio-visual elements. You can reach him at racing@motorsportsforum.com .


If you didn't read Bob Margolis' reflection on his year battling cancer, here's the Yahoo Sports link:
http://sports.yahoo.com/nascar/news;_ylt=AqeO92elavD.Ca2ZxEyqlzTov7YF?slug=bm-bobsstory122507&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]