By Mathieu Labs, President & Young Eagles Coordinator, EAA Chapter 931, EAA Lifetime 678257
Over the past few years, EAA Chapter 931 has developed a strong relationship with local news outlets. I’m proud to say this has been done with a very small chapter of just 30 members. Yes, you heard that right: EAA Chapter 931 is a small chapter in central Wisconsin with a town population of 2,500.
How has our chapter been able to develop and maintain this strong relationship?
Initially, it wasn’t easy due to the lack of recognition of the airport within the community. As we were trying to build recognition in the community, we would go to businesses and post flyers for upcoming Young Eagles rallies. This helped before social media was strong. Then, the chapter started contacting the local newspaper to put in a press release prior to the event and also after the event. Other avenues we used were adding our events to the Chamber of Commerce annual event calendar and going on air at the local radio station to talk about the Young Eagles program before a rally. By increasing more events (Young Eagles, hamburger/pancake socials, gatherings/speakers), the local media started to take notice. You need to have a relationship with the media to have success!
The media resources we have used have helped us build up our Young Eagles participation. At our first Young Eagles rally in 2008, we had on average 20 youths. Now, we have on average 60 youths per event with only four pilots. This is a huge thanks to our members for blasting our good news of youth development in the local community.
Our approach now with any airport event is to start advertising about 3-6 months ahead with the local paper, live on the radio, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn), Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics events calendar, regional aviation digital magazines, aviation sites (EAA, AOPA), and many others. The more consistent contact you have with the media, the more likely they will want to help advertise and spread the good news of the chapter. In addition, we are always networking in the local community, at AirVenture, and other non-aviation events to bring awareness to our chapter.
This model has proven very successful to expand our recognition within the surrounding communities. I challenge other chapters to reach out to their local media and find other unique avenues to reach more potential aviators.