Any event, especially a first-time event, can be only as successful as the publicity needed to bring participants to
In one fishing derby in Lubbock, Texas, participants "heard about the fishing derby" from television (37% of
participants), newspaper (26%), a friend (15%), radio (10%), and posters (8%). Television and newspaper were the
most effective means of publicity, but all methods successfully invited people to participate.
Printed publicity, such as posters and handbills, although less effective in attracting derby participants than
television and newspaper, can do several things. Posters can be displayed at schools, public buildings, and in
stores (especially sporting good stores); this announces the program to school teachers and administrators, local
government employees, and the local business community. Posters and handbills provide an easy reference for
information about the event. Handbills, whether distributed at stores or in schools, get the announcement of the
event to parents and guardians -- the people who are responsible for scheduling a family's activities. Sometimes
handbills can be mailed to families with utility bills or store sale fliers. Posters and handbills also allow you to give
appropriate credit to co-sponsors of your event.
Another good avenue of publicity is a community calendar of events. These may be kept by the park and
recreation department or the Chamber of Commerce. Event calendars may be published by the parks and
recreation department or the Chamber of Commerce as brochures or appear as upcoming events in a newspaper.
Displaying banners is a common means of publicity. The banners state the event name, location, date, and
time. The effectiveness of banners is related to where they are displayed.
Publicity can be "tricky," because it usually involves several agencies and many people. We offer two
suggestions. First, use a public relations person or office if one is available. These people know how to get your
message to your target audience and they often have contacts with the media and know how to prepare and
submit your message so it will be used by the media.
Second, do not pay for publicity. All media survive by selling advertising. If you purchase advertising from
one medium, you can expect to pay for it from another. On your side is the fact that public service
announcements (PSA's) are important to the survival of most public media organizations. Not all PSA's have
equal effectiveness. The form, length, and time that it is aired (television or radio) or where it is located in a
newspaper change the effectiveness. If possible, have a local official or celebrity do a news release or a press
"Free" is a significant word in all publicity. Although a fishing derby can be a good fundraiser, an entry fee
will probably reduce the participation, especially if it is a first-time event and is targeted at youth. An entry fee
can also discriminate among different participant groups. Having a "free" event qualifies your event for
advertising as a PSA.
The many components of conducting a successful fishing derby range from the availability of a site to awarding
prizes. Agencies in the fishery and recreation business should be the first stop in the route to a successful event.
Discuss your plan with the Mississippi 4-H Youth Sportfishing Program leadership, the nearest office of your
state fishery management agency, federal land management agency (Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land
Management, Bureau of Reclamation, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), county Extension
Service office, or the local park and recreation department. These agencies can provide important information
about fishing sites and, depending on the office, may have experience conducting fishing derbies or educational
events. The local park and recreation department may be able to provide many facilities needed to conduct a
fishing derby, such as tables, chairs, stage, public address system, toilets, and construction capabilities. Most
importantly, the park and recreation department is in the people management business and is experienced at
conducting public sport and recreation events.
You may get prizes for participation, drawings, and awards from local businesses and outdoor and fishing
equipment manufacturers and suppliers. Greatest success at receiving contributions will be by personally
contacting, by letter or in person, selected businesses. You are trading publicity and good will for their products.
Give these contributors exposure at your event -- announcements during the awards ceremony and posters
listing contributors. Ask manufacturers willing to contribute materials also to provide banners or posters for their
companies or products and display them. In addition to their contributions, some of these businesses will be
good sources of publicity, marketing information, and staff for your event. After the event, send these
contributors a letter of appreciation that summarizes the event and states the distribution and dollar value of their
contributions. It is wise to ask the contributor to valuate his contribution when you receive it.
Concessions for food, beverage, and fishing supplies can be a desirable addition to the derby. It is better if
products are free or proceeds from the sale of products are donated to funding the fishing derby. Local
restrictions may affect the sale of products at your derby site. The concessions should be located for the
convenience of the participants but should not interfere with registration or the awards ceremony.
It is desirable to have a principal co-sponsor to provide funds for necessary expenditures; however, be cautious
choosing a co-sponsor. Selecting a "for profit" business as a co-sponsor may limit your opportunities for free
publicity. On the other hand, co-sponsorship by a non-profit organization can enhance your publicity
The date and time of a fishing derby will affect the success of your event. The ideal time is when there are no
conflicting events, the fish are biting, and the weather is pleasant. Consult your community calendar to select a
time when there are no large events that would attract a similar audience (such as outdoor, family-oriented
events). Also, it may be desirable to schedule a fishing derby as a part of another event such as a city or county
Good times to catch fish vary throughout the country, but avoid summer in warm or hot climates and cold
weather. A "natural" date for a fishing derby is during National Fishing Week. National Fishing Week begins on
the first Monday in June and extends through the following Sunday. Conducting your derby at this time provides
an opportunity to benefit from the National Fishing Week publicity and materials. Another good date is to
schedule the derby to coincide with the opening day of the fishing season in locations that have closed fishing
seasons for certain fish species.
What if it rains? Schedule the event in a season that generally has pleasant weather. With good planning, it
may be possible to arrange a "rain day." To do so, however, requires selecting two dates that do not conflict with
other events and obtaining a commitment from volunteers to be available for two dates.
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By Dr. Harold L. Schramm, Jr., Leader, Mississippi Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Dr. Stephen A. Flickinger, Professor,
Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University: and Dr. Martin W. Brunson, Extension Leader/Fisheries Specialist,
Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University
Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture.