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Start spreading the news: 8th annual media relations summer camp recap

Start Spreading the News cover-page-001 Update:

Staff and volunteers from 21 non-profits and groups took part in the 8th annual media relations summer camp at the Hamilton Spectator June 16 and 18. The camp’s offered free of charge by the Hamilton Spectator and Mohawk College as a thank you to community builders who are making Hamilton an even better place to call home. Day one started with an overview of how to turn worthy into newsworthy, with an emphasis on answering “why should I care?” and building pitches around ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the community. Campers then took part in a series of half-hour interactive talks with reporter Teri Pecoskie, columnist Susan Clairmont and photojournalist Cathie Coward. During lunch, Linda Rourke, producer and host of Hamilton Life, talked with campers about how to pitch stories to Cable 14. In the afternoon, campers learned how to build a story pitch (do your homework and email your pitches). Nine local PR pros and Mohawk College professors then volunteered as camp counselors, helping campers to polish and practice their story pitches in small groups. Special thanks to:

  • Jane George
  • Agnes Bongers
  • Andrea Johnson
  • Mary Siegner
  • Trish Nelson
  • Robert Plant
  • Kurt Muller
  • Wade Hemsworth, and
  • Reba Shahid

Day one ended with a crash course in social media by Chris Farais with kitestring creative branding. On Wednesday, campers emailed their story pitches, which were collected into a handout. Fifteen story pitches were submitted. Day two started with an overview of community partnership opportunities at the Hamilton Spectator and an introduction to The Agency at Mohawk College by PR program coordinator Tim Tuck. Managing editor Howard Elliott then reviewed how to submit letters and op-eds and request editorial board meetings. Howard also encouraged campers to highlight multi-media opportunities in their story pitches. The morning ended with a presentation on how to work with reporters (don’t be a PITA). Over the lunch hour, a panel of editors and reporters reviewed the 15 story pitches, identified their favourite pitches and offered feedback to the entire group on all the pitches. Special thanks to:

  • Emma Reilly
  • Molly Hayes
  • Joanna Frketich
  • Susan Clairmont
  • Steve Buist
  • Carla Ammerata, and
  • Cheryl Stepan

For the remainder of the afternoon, Mohawk journalism professor David Smillie, with an assist from journalism students Kristina Costabile and Josh Stewart, ran a hands-on workshop to help campers stand and deliver in front of a camera. Campers were then offered an optional tour of the newsroom and printing presses. In an evaluation completed by campers, 100 per cent agreed the camp was a good use of their time, they learned something new and they’d recommend the camp to colleagues. Each camper received a complimentary copy of Start Spreading the News: A Media Relations Handbook for Nonprofits and Community Groups and a contact list for Hamilton media. The first media camp story pitch was published in the Hamilton Spectator on June 21. More than 150 nonprofits and community groups have attended media relations summer camps since 2007 to learn how to pitch better stories and earn more media coverage. The camp won a 2015 Great Ideas Award from Newspapers Canada. For more information on the media relations summer camp, contact Jane Allison, manager of community partnerships at the Hamilton Spectator (jallison@thespec.com) or Jay Robb, director of communications at Mohawk College (jay.robb@mohawkcollege.ca).

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