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
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
Phone: 1-203-288-2002 Fax: 1-203-281-3291