I firmly believe that the poor marketing and promotion of chess has hindered the growth of organized chess in the United States, and I would like to share with you some questions that were asked by chess enthusiasts. These questions were directed to Paul Truong, Director of Marketing & PR for Texas Tech SPICE.
What are some of the things that local clubs and organizers can do to help promote their clubs or events?
Contact the local media (newspapers, radio, TV networks, school papers, etc.) and let them know what is going on at your chess club or event. Explain to them:
● Why your event is interesting and what makes it unique?
● Talk about noteworthy players that participate in your event, such as a local politician, a community leader, a top rated young player, or a chess celebrity such as a national champion, etc.
● Discuss interesting aspects such as mixed doubles events, sibling teams, family teams, oldest vs. youngest match-ups, male vs. female, students vs. teachers and so on.
If you do not pique their interest, the media will not turn up. In addition, have a press kit or information packet ready. The easier you make their jobs, the more likely they are to cover your story. You can also prepare a story about the event and submit it to your local newspapers.
After the story is out, make sure you thank the journalists that covered the event. Be sure to recognize their role in making your event more special. Also, the more feedback they receive from their viewers or readers, the more likely they will be to cover other events you organize. Keep in touch with the journalist and create a bond.
What is a Press Kit and what should it include?
A press kit is a package of important information with facts and interesting tidbits about your club or event. It should also contain clear, high-quality pictures – the higher the quality, the better! Also be prepared to provide the pictures and data on a CD or via electronic means. This will save the journalist time and they will be more likely to get the facts and information right.
Here are some of the things to include in a press kit:
● An information sheet about your club or event. Include basic facts, such as when and where, and give a little history of the club or event. If your event has already received attention from other sources (the Internet, other newspapers, etc.) mention that together with the Internet address or source. This helps reinforce the message that your activity is newsworthy.
● A contact sheet listing the key officers and how to contact them for further information. Give a brief description of each person listed.
● The Press Release. This should be the top page in the press kit, with the heading: “Press Release” or “For Immediate Publication.” Use preprinted stationary if you have any. Otherwise, place the name, address, and contact number of your organization at the top. Now pretend that you’re the journalist writing the story.
You write the story. Lead with the most important information. Continue to write the rest as a newspaper story.
The purpose of a press release is to summarize the story for the press. Again, it must be done interestingly enough so that they would want to cover it. A press kit is easy to create and very effective.
What can local clubs or promoters do to obtain sponsorships?
Ask yourself: Why should someone sponsor your club or event? And be prepared to answer this question. If you are not, then you will have very little chance of getting any kind of sponsorship.
It is very seldom that a person or company sponsors an event just because the event needs money. If it does not make sense to them, it will not happen. Show the potential sponsors what you expect from them and what they can get in return. Here’s an example:
Thorough research has proven that chess helps children do better in school and in life. For as little as $1,000, your company can make a positive difference for 100 children in our community. This money will be used to organize the XYZ Scholastic Championship, the most prestigious chess competition in our city.
In return, your company banner will be prominently displayed in the tournament hall during the entire tournament. A display ad of your company will also appear in our tournament program book, as well as on the official tournament website, which will be viewed by thousands of people in our community.
In short, why should any person or company sponsor your club or event? It can be a number of reasons, but here are two possibilities:
● They are doing something good for the community or the local children
● They are getting their money’s worth in recognition and publicity
What are some of the do’s and don’ts for approaching the media?
● Do make it simple and easy to understand.
● Do explain why they should cover chess.
● Do prepare all information and facts in advance.
● Do have a media/press kit.
● Do cooperate anyway you can to make their job easier.
● Do be polite.
● Do follow up.
● Do keep in touch.
● Do be positive.
● Don’t make it too complicated.
● Don’t be unprepared to give facts and information.
● Don’t be a pain.
● Don’t be too vague.
● Don’t be rude.
● Don’t forget to follow up.
● Don’t be negative.
Do chess clubs or organizers need to hire a Marketing and PR firm?
If you have the budget, why not? If done properly, it can work like a charm. However, most chess clubs and organizers do not have this kind of budget. The good news is that anyone can promote their clubs or events by just following the steps outlined above. The most important thing is ask yourself the following question:
If I am the media or a casual player, what would it take to get me excited enough to come and join the club or cover the event?
Do not take anything for granted. The worst thing to do is not do any promotion whatsoever.
What should I do if I invite the media and they don’t come?
Even if you try your best, it does not guarantee success. If the media did not cover the event, contact them afterwards and let them know the exciting things that happened during the event. Offer to submit a story about it.
Also, be persistent and follow the same steps for the next event. Modify your strategy and present things from a different angle. After a while, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. But once you establish that relationship, the results can be phenomenal. Good luck!
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– GM Susan Polgar