Editorial by: Markos
Over the past few weeks, since Atlanta’s Rock 100.5 Radio “under cover” happening at FWA, I have been thinking about Public Relations. Since Furry conventions began, as a community, we have been very protective, shunning media coverage, or carefully cultivating the image we allow the media to see. In some cases, this works very well, and in some cases, it comes around and bites us on our collective tails.
The question is, why are we so secretive? What goes on at an average Furry convention is no worse that anything that goes on at any other type of sci-fi or fantasy convention. I have a 28 year history in the convention business. I’ve seen almost everything. When you get enough of any group together, add a light hearted and fun atmosphere, maybe some alcohol, and some hormones on overdrive, things will happen. Klingons, Storm Troopers, Pirates, Anime characters – I’ve seen it all.
What we need is better Public Relations. To take a page from another convention’s handbook (Dragon Con), Furry Conventions should consider doing a media tour a day or two before the start of a convention. The idea is simple. As a convention organizer, you send out a press release two to three weeks in advance, letting television stations, radio stations and news papers know you will be in town. Be sure to include all relevant contact information as show hosts or producers may contact you to ask you to come on their show. If they do, book a time and be sure to show up.
There will be radio and television stations that don’t call you for interviews. Take the extra step to contact them directly. Call the morning show’s producer and ask for a five to ten minute interview. Many television and radio stations will be happy to have you on.
Now that you’ve got time slots booked, it’s your time to shine! Pick three or four members of your convention that you feel best represent the furry community and take them with you! Maybe an artist and a couple of fursuiters, maybe someone who does puppetry. Find the people who make your convention stand out. Before you go, think of the most off the wall, hard ball questions someone might ask you and practice your answers, that way, when they ask you the hard questions, you won’t hesitate to answer.
Don’t know quite what to say? Uncle Kage has been one of the best spokespersons for the Furry fandom. Watch his interview segments in Curt Pehrson’s “Furries: An Inside Look” Kage covers just about everything and does so with confidence and authority. Like him or not, he answers those hard questions.
[NOTE: Curt Pehrson's documentary had been taken down due to DCMA. Vimeo reposted the video Monday, April 11, 2011.]
Rotten Egg Creations did an interview where Uncle Kage gives a variant of his defense of the Fandom:
When you come in to do your interview, do your best to be very warm and personable. Let the hosts and audience know about your event’s history, what your theme is, and highlight some key events. Highlight things like your fursuit parade, any contests you may have done in the past, and dances.
This is also the best possible time to talk up your charity! I would venture to guess, few if any media outlets have ever covered the charity aspect of a Furry convention.
If your event is family friendly, stress that fact. If you have convention hours where no one under eighteen is allowed, make sure that is known too. Be as transparent and up front as you can.
For television stations, take the extra step to get any kind of promotional footage of your event and of your charity to the producers well before the interview so they can air the footage during your interview. Most stations can handle footage on DVD, or better yet, in standard MPEG2 video format. If there is a question on the format they need, follow up with the producer for any technical specs.
It is up to you if you want to invite the media in to the convention. Going to them first will often be all the story they really want to run.
The next big thing is to let your attendees know that the media will be running interviews before the convention. Alert them to the fact that some media has been invited into the convention as well. If your attendees know ahead of time, they may be more alert and may refer media types who try to sneak in to either convention security or to your media liaison.
If you do end up with someone from the media getting in uninvited, don’t panic. If you have a chance to meet them face to face, find out what media outlet they represent and talk to them about their intent. If they are looking to run a shock piece, there is not too much you can do to stop them unless they purchased a badge and have violated your published media policies.
You may be able to minimize the situation by inviting the person in and introducing them to some of the other aspects of the convention that they may have not known about, again, like the charity.
The idea is to desensitize the media about Furries. To compare this to another group, every year, you used to see “shock coverage” of Gay Pride events. Now the events are so well known, it’s rare that the local media (in my experience) even makes more than a passing note about it.
You have to realize that as individuals, we are intelligent. As a society, we are stupid and gullible. ”People” believe whatever is put in front of them on TV and on the radio. It is up to us to go out, grab the media’s attention and show them who we really are – not the fetishists depicted on CSI and in Vanity Fair, or even a hack radio show. We, as a growing community and subculture need to stop hiding and make a stand. We are geeks like everyone else. Instead of dreaming, writing and costuming Star Trek or Star Wars characters, we do things a bit differently – we show our inner animals, and we’re okay.
So, convention organizers, think this over. Talk it out with your boards of directors and test the waters. Taking this kind of action could change your conventions, and the furry subculture forever. Don’t get me wrong – it won’t stop us from being mocked. All geek subcultures are mocked in some form – any Trekkie can attest to that. It may just give us the little boost we need to let people say – hey, Furries are cool.
Preemptive Strike: PR For Furry Cons by Markos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.furrynewsnetwork.com.