RAC Publicity Kit

Radio Amateurs of Canada

Public Information Officers’ Kit


What you are reading is a clear, concise draft publicity kit in support of amateur radio in Canada and our national organization Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC). It is designed to be used by RAC affiliated clubs and ARES groups to promote their ham-radio activities. This kit will help publicize future events (like Field Day) and garner favourable media for services and activities that RAC clubs and groups provide to their communities (such as walk-a-thons and parades). It can also be used to inform the news media of amateur radio services being performed during times of disaster or community need. Plus I’ve included ideas for a sample media kit in order to allow members to start developing their own media contacts.

As a former journalist with experience on daily and weekly newspapers, local and national magazines plus extensive public relations experience with the Ontario Provincial Police and The Canadian Red Cross Society among many others, I can provide real-life guidance to members on how to work effectively with the Canadian news media.

I welcome any suggestions and trust this initiative meets with your approval.


Peter West – VE3HG


Vice-President, Public Relations

Radio Amateurs of Canada

Radio Amateurs of Canada

Public Information Officers’ Kit

What’s Newsworthy About Amateur Radio?

Any time any ham or local amateur radio club serves their community, it’s newsworthy.

Participation in emergency preparedness activities such as Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) training or Field Day is also newsworthy. Local school children speaking to astronauts via ham radio is a prime media opportunity. Our job is to alert the media to the existence of these events.

It should go without saying that any participation in a local, regional or international emergency is newsworthy. Unfortunately, the news often doesn’t get printed or broadcast because no one thinks to alert the media in time.

According to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) this scenario took place during Hurricane Katrina where hams from around North America volunteered thousands of hours of disaster relief communications services and yet their efforts were barely mentioned in the media. Apparently reporters were looking for secondary news stories but were rarely approached by anyone from the ham radio community to alert them.

There’s an old saying in journalism that goes: All news is local. In other words, if it’s not of interest to the local community, then it’s not news. There’s another saying that goes if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears the noise of the crash was there a sound? By definition (where there must be a receiver and transmitter) the answer is no. The same holds true for publicity. If nobody tells the media what’s happening often the news story goes untold. The media reports on the news and not history.

So what makes something newsworthy:

  • There’s local interest
  • Contains useful or interesting information
  • Somehow something in society is changed if ever so slightly (Something new happened.)
  • Someone calls the media in a timely manner

What is the media looking for:

  • The “news” must interest their readers, viewers or listeners
  • The content is easy to understand and communicate
  • For radio there must be audio; for TV visuals are a must and for print photos
  • The event or activity needs to be easily accessible by reporters

How to get publicity for our activities:

  • We can alert the media to upcoming events with a media release
  • We can provide expert spokespeople, background information and photos
  • We can invite the media to report on emergency activities as they occur
  • Remember, the media needs good news stories to fill space and time
  • They need us (for great content) as much as we need them (for great publicity)

Who are the media?

  • Reporters tend to be relatively young
  • University educated
  • Hard working
  • Very independent and ambitious
  • Highly mobile and well connected in their communities
  • Usually a generalist who knows little or nothing about ham radio
  • Very curious about new technology and its use
  • Driven by deadlines and often overbooked to cover scheduled news events
  • And, most importantly to us, they can never return to the office empty handed

What do they do?

  • They ask questions in order to make sense out of the information that’s given to them
  • They seek out personal stories that illustrate the event
  • Will probe for details both positive and negative
  • Are susceptible to  rumor and distortion
  • Many arrive in large numbers at disaster locations
  • Often provide a calming effect by informing the public of ongoing events

What do they want?

  • The answer to (5Ws) of Who, What, Where, When, Why (sometimes How)
  • All want to talk to a credible expert spokesperson and quote them in their stories
  • All want a individual angle or slant to their story
  • May ask for information that you aren’t able to (or should not) provide
  • Will want access to people and events

What should you do?

  • Alert local media to any ham radio event or community service
  • Don’t wait or expect someone else (or another agency) will  call the media
  • Send (email or fax) a standard media release and provide artwork if possible
  • Follow up with a telephone call to the editor (print media) or news director  (electronic media)
  • Be available to be interviewed
  • Be prepared to explain in simple language what you are seeing, hearing and feeling
  • Avoid all jargon and ham radio specific terms
  • Call signs are of no interest to the public and should be avoided or minimized
  • Always speak only about ham-radio related activities
  • Emphasize the positive effects on the community
  • Don’t speculate, characterize or criticize
  • Correct any mistakes or misconceptions immediately
  • Be available via cell phone and email

What’s a media release?

  • It’s a typed, double-spaced, one or two page announcement of fact
  • It has a short, clear headline
  • In the first line the release answers the 5Ws (who, what, where, why, when)
  • The second paragraph is often a quote from an expert spokesperson
  • The third paragraph adds additional information
  • The release is concluded with contact information (day-time phone number)


  • Don’t count on the media showing up
  • Take your own digital photos of any event or activity
  • Get in close and make certain the image is sharp
  • Shoot in large JPEG format
  • Provide a caption line with names left to right and indicated as such
  • Call the editor immediately for directions on how to deliver (email or CD)

Crisis Media Relations

  • Immediately alert the media of your ham-radio related activities
  • Do not wait for the situation to clear up before calling the media
  • Be prepared to speak with many reporters
  • Make the communications site available for filming and taping
  • Help reporters understand the significance of the amateur radio contribution
  • You are always safe in speaking about the involvement of ham radio
  • You must not speak on behalf of any other agency
  • Nor should we assume the role of media source for anything but ham radio activities
  • You may safely speak about what you have witnessed or experienced directly
  • There may be issues of confidentiality when it comes to the information you are communicating
  • Direct reporters to other experts and spokespeople for other agencies
  • Keep a list of reporters and telephone numbers for future use

How to develop excellent media relations

  • Plan to contact the media at least four times a year
  • Create media events (Field Day; ARES practice; Ham of the Year; community service)
  • Provide artwork and access to events
  • Ask your mayor to proclaim a “Ham Radio” appreciation day
  • Provide courses for getting licensed and promote in free media community calendars
  • Promote any school or youth initiatives that involve ham radio
  • Speak to Boy Scouts and Girl Guide groups and notify media
  • Create a media kit (see below) for your club or group
  • Book a short get-to-know-you meeting with the local community newspaper editor
  • Always return media calls immediately
  • Take time to explain the significance of ham-radio activities
  • Be armed with facts and numbers that help illustrate the story
  • Personal stories that illustrate the event are best

What’s in your media kit

A media kit contains a covering media release and background materials about your club or group that might be helpful to a reporter in preparing their news story. The kit need not be expensive or overly complex. It’s best not to send it unasked but personally hand it to any editors or reporters you meet in person.

  • Your current media release
  • A one-page history of your club or group (can be point form)
  • Short bios of key participants and club executives
  • Photos of key participants and executives
  • Technical information written in plain language (i.e. how a repeater works)
  • Additional photos and other artwork useful in explaining the story
  • Short history of Radio Amateurs of Canada  and ARES where appropriate
  • Background fact sheets (number of hams in Canada, US, worldwide, etc.)

Radio Amateurs of Canada Public Information Officer’s Kit


Aids to writing for the media:

  • Use your computer spell and grammar checking software
  • Get The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (journalism standard)
  • Get someone else to proofread your submissions before sending
  • Check with the editor or news director on preferred method of delivery
  • If sending by email, send in the universally accessible rich text format
  • Attachments are usually not opened but PDFs are safe (so far) for sending by email

Tips on writing for the media:

  • Always write in plain, simple language
  • Write a snappy short headline
  • First paragraph answers the 5Ws (who, what, where, why,  when)
  • Second paragraph often a quote or expansion
  • Third paragraph offers more information
  • Do not use technical terms without a clear explanation
  • Avoid jargon and never use acronyms
  • Minimize use of call signs and other ham-specific terminology
  • End with contact names and day-time telephone numbers

Tips on communicating with the media:

  • Plan your media release with the publication’s deadline in mind
  • For daily newspapers send your release about 5 to 10 days in advance of the event
  • For weekly newspapers 15 to 20 days in advance
  • For monthly magazines at least 90 days in advance
  • During emergencies, send immediately after approval of content
  • Follow-up with a call to the editor or news director
  • All reporters will say do not call as they are too busy . As an editor, can’t tell you how many times a call resulted in a story because someone took the time to inform me of the significance of the event

Tips on using social media:

  • Reporters are showing up on Linked-In and Twitter among others
  • An online web site or blog is an excellent place to promote your activities
  • Your media kit can also go online (keep size down for easy downloads by reporters)
  • You Tube is a great place to put video (make sure your accompanying audio is as good)
  • Consider setting up your own public information blogsite. See N0DRC’s link below

Online style and media guides and other useful links:

Elements of Style (online): http://www.bartleby.com/141/

Publicity primer: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hallahan/hpubty.htm

Press relations guide: http://www.netpress.org/careandfeeding.html

Newsworthy notes: http://www.frugalmarketing.com/dtb/press.shtml

What journalists want: http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2001/04/23/editorial3.html

Writing tips for the web: http://www.macloo.com/webwriting/

Proofreading tips: http://www.clickz.com/838051

News release writing tips: http://www.sideroad.com/Public_Relations/news-release-writing-tips.html

Media release tips: http://www.envision.ca/templates/news.asp?ID=2485

Writing for social media: http://www.copyblogger.com/social-media-trap/

Writing for radio: http://www.newscript.com/

ARRL media info site:  http://www.arrl.org/pio/

ARRL media guide: http://www.arrl.org/pio/arrlpr.html

N0DRC’s PIO blogsite: http://pion0drc.net/ins.aspx

Sample news release

On club letterhead if available

(today’s date)

Snappy, short headline

(Your town/city) First paragraph answers who, what, where, why and when. (Copy is typed, double  spaced with one inch margins).

“This is your second paragraph,” said Peter West, vice president of public relations for Radio Amateurs

of Canada. “This quote expands on why this event or notice is of interest to the reader.”

This is your third paragraph which offers additional information.


(This -30- symbol tells the editor that this is the end of the copy.)

CONTACT: Your name

Your day-time telephone number