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MANIPULATING THE MEDIA WITH SAF-O-SHRIMPS
by Doug Harris

During the twelve years that it was my pleasure to work with Pat Fant at KLOL/Houston, we developed a workable formula for obtaining more than our fair share of publicity for the station's activities, not only in the broadcast trades but also in the local media. What follows is an explanation of my SAF-O-SHRIMPS theory of manipulating the media to your advantage, with a few suggestions for implementing an effective PR effort.

Before I start, I think that it is important to emphasize the importance of a regular campaign of publicity and press relations as a tool in the overall marketing of your radio station. One well-executed publicity stunt or charitable effort that scores a minute of prime time news or a strategically placed photo in the newspaper can go a long way to establishing an image for your station that would require hundreds of television commercials to otherwise accomplish. You can claim to be community minded, or even to have a zany morning show, but when the talking heads on the six o'clock news say it is so, the public believes them.

During the height of KLOL's rise to prominence in the Houston market, it was not unusual for us to issue a press release per week, to a mailing list of over 200 media entities. Whenever appropriate, we included black and white photos, making a few of them "exclusives" to the most important trade journals. Even with this proliferation of press release activity, we were always careful to submit only those items which we thought were "newsworthy," which brings us to SAF-O-SHRIMPS.

After a couple of years of getting nowhere with the general media, we began a systematic review of those events which were getting publicity and found that they generally adhered to a list of recurring themes: Spectacle, Achievement, Fantasy, Outrage, Sex, Humor, Rescue, Injustice, Money, Patriotism, and Scandal. The acronym formed from arranging this list in this order is SAF-O-SHRIMPS, and we used it to test every press release we issued. We went from touting our "rock block" weekends to promoting the "Fat Man's Dance Off' at a local nightclub, and suddenly we were "front page news" in the major industry trades. More importantly, we began garnering some local television and newspaper attention as well.

After awhile, the SAF-O-SHRIMPS formula became the basis for designing any station event that we thought made the proper statement about our programming or personalities, and which we hoped would earn some "ink." This formula was particularly helpful when trying to add some new twists to activities which had been on the station calendar for years.

The turning point in coverage of KLOL's Rock-n-Roll Auction, for example, was the addition of celebrity auctioneers. And when the media found out that Joe Walsh would be playing some of the guitars that would be auctioned, camera crews began showing up at our events. When we learned that the auction was too late in the evening to make the early news, we "staged" a ribbon cutting with Julian Lennon that actually happened three hours before the event took place, but which turned out to be the lead story on two of the local news stations.

As you can see, Spectacle was without a doubt the easiest of these themes to use, but Achievement (record breaking donations at the KLOL Rock-n-Roll Up Your Sleeve Blood Drive), Fantasy (renting the Astrodome for a charity softball game and letting listeners play), Outrage (a demonstration staged on the steps of City Hall by our morning team over lack of funding for the police department), and even Sex (KLOL's Miss Rockwear Swimsuit contest, held in the Summit where the Rockets play) all had their place in our "battle" to gain publicity for our station. The rest of the list should be easy to interpret, but I want to clarify Patriotism, which should be considered anything that speaks about your city, your state, your professional sports teams, etc., and not just the good ol' USA. And finally, a word about Scandal. This is the one that can backfire and should be avoided. We were able "to dodge the bullet" on several potentially scandalous activities (including the Stevens and Pruett Holiday Ball), but I wouldn't recommend the use of Scandal as a theme to attract the press. They'll come calling on their own for that one.

@1998 by Doug Harris

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