Media Relations

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Our Medieval World in the Media's Eye

The Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How
of the Effort to Bring the SCA
Greater Recognition and Positive Image in the Mainstream Public.

[by Tamara Nicolai. From Tournaments Illuminated issue #159]


We all know the basics of the origin of the SCA, and each of us has a story of how we joined.  Then we began a long individual campaign to either explain what we do in a way that sounded relatively sane, or to minimize the more colorful aspects of our hobby.  Explaining our vacations to co-workers became a particular act of creativity- a famous one for Pennsic goes: "I'm involved in a land dispute in Pennsylvania and may have to go to court."

But what if we had the name recognition of the Boy Scouts or NASCAR? Or the crisp image of Disney?  Imagine how it would be to easily rent a site or obtain a meeting hall, not have to explain from scratch what it is we do, and thus allow the public a measure of comfort when dealing with us.  And when something negative happened involving one of our members, think how a positive image would make an unfortunate occurrence seem like an exception, not an expectation.

Seemingly paradoxically, for a group of our size, color, and social evolution, we have existed in something of a media "Bermuda Triangle" of blind luck – while we have a vaguely negative media image, not dissimilar to that of the career festival workers, there is nothing more serious than that.  However, with the explosion of electronic communications, that lucky invisibility has come to an end.  Our job is to get and stay ahead of that.

The Society Media Liaison (and its various kingdom and war deputies) is the office that works with reporters of any vehicle of communication used by the modern press: Radio, Television, Newspaper, and online publications of the modern world.  The office exists to proactively influence those millions who will never be a part of the SCA, with a coordinated and consistent effort of media contact.  The goal is to gain positive image and name recognition. (A secondary function of the head of this office is to offer its print resources as a model to the SCA's other offices – most notably those that handle recruitment – so they may, if they wish, model their texts in a consistent manner.)

This is a redesigned office: There have been media liaisons in the SCA before as deputy to the Chatelaine, and their duties were to reactively coordinate with modern media when they chose to cover the SCA.  There were also independent war media officers, all of whom have done fine jobs steering the media towards positive stories.

The revamping of this office into a deputy of the Society Seneschal, with attendant creation of policies and a focus on proactive efforts outside our membership, has been a major change of direction, which gives the appearance that it has been created out of whole cloth. This was a direct response to recent (2003-2004) situations which had brought the SCA into sudden national and international attention, not all of which had been positive.

It quickly became apparent that the SCA had grown to a point where it was going to require a "total image" approach, including a unified set of media guidelines, an official media kit, and an established set of goals, which needed to be communicated to the SCA at large – no small feat for an organization of unpaid volunteers with 35,000 members and estimates of one to two times that number of non-member participants.

We had no coherent image or even direction.  We had no identifiable media plan even at the highest level for dealing with negative press, natural disasters, or good old-fashioned human recklessness as it applies to our members.  We had no unification in media direction.  In short, however, we needed all that and more… And it all needed to be easily accessible, applicable and useful at all levels.

The effort has been huge, and the support tremendous. From just one officer in the spring of 2004, we have grown to have media deputies in nearly every kingdom and major event. From having no materials or policies, we now have a media page where modern press can go to find regional and national contact information and basic facts, as well as a media reference page for our officers and members to obtain answers, information.

The Kingdom Media Deputies' primary duty is to identify events in their region that best exemplify the SCA image (as conveyed in the media kit) and pair these events with press attendance. Additionally, KMedia reps will be expected to reactively work with media who cover events, to coordinate opportunities for interviews and visuals that further the SCA's image goals.

The war deputies have a more specific version of this, which includes event specific timetables and direct coordination with the event staff as well as the Society Media Liaison.

99+% of the officers of the SCA will perceive no real change to their operations.  More materials have become available for them to use, and they will have a new resource to turn to when they require assistance.  The creation of this double-handful of new officers will remove part of the burden from the shoulders of the seneschals and chatelaines.

Our goal in the end is for the response to "I'm in the SCA," to not be "The who?"

Who:
The corporate office of the SCA, Inc., in response to growing national media attention on the SCA, Inc. and its various branches, created the Media Relations Deputy of the Society Seneschal (modernly the Assistant VP of Media Relations, under the VP of Operations of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.) in April, 2004.
Why:
This office exists to create and coordinate a cohesive media image among all regions, with the goal being to garner a press-worthy international image and name recognition for the SCA, Inc. The Media office works proactively to garner positive publicity to facilitate interaction between our members and resources in the modern world.
What:
Proactive media contact taken on as a concentrated effort, with image, not recruitment, as its primary goal.

Primary duties are to create and maintain basic media kits for use by regional deputies and assist where needed in their campaigns, coordinate media deputies for events over 2,000 attendees, field inquiries from national and international (major) media and documentarians, and prepare and deliver any and all necessary statements to be used by the SCA, Inc, in the event of a major negative publicity event.
Where:
The Media office has deputies in place in most kingdoms by the writing of this article, with high priority placed on obtaining deputies in those kingdoms whose environs include two unassigned top-10 USA major media markets - New York City and Boston.
When:
With the cooperation of event autocrats and staff, the kingdom media liaisons identify events with media appeal, and coordinate media attendance at those events.
How:
The Media Policy may be found in the Seneschal's Handbook (Oct 2005) - Appendix D, or at www.sca.org/docs/pdf/mediapolicy.pdf.

In addition to a copy of this policy, media interaction guidelines, frequently asked questions, scenario procedures, and a listing of all kingdom media representatives may be found at www.sca.org/officers/media.

From the front page of the SCA's website is a page for reporters to reference, with basic facts, media contact listings, and links to recent articles. That site is located at www.sca.org/media/.

In Conclusion

Bringing the SCA into the modern media eye on a proactive basis is something that will in the long run benefit us greatly, particularly as we grow in size and require larger event sites, meeting places, and resources. But make no mistake- this is a new direction to be taking- There will be bumps along the way. There are many talented individuals in our society with media expertise and there is always more than one approach. Please take some time to look over the resources available on the media page, and send any comments to media@sca.org.

Last updated August 23, 2006

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