³ The Computer Bulletin Board ³
³ Guide to Public Relations ³
(c) 1993 Robert Parson
The Computer Bulletin Board Guide to Public Relations is
copyright and remains the property of Robert Parson. You are
encouraged to use this guide to help publicize your BBS in
particular and to help improve the image of BBSs generally.
You are further encouraged to distribute this guide and
accompanying materials at your discretion. However, all BBS-
PR files named in this guide must be included in your
distribution. This guide may not be sold for profit without
prior approval of Robert Parson, although the cost of disk
duplication and postage may be charged. NO WARRANTY IS MADE
OR IMPLIED. NEITHER ROBERT PARSON OR APHELION PROMOTIONS ARE
LIABLE FOR DAMAGES CAUSED BY THE USE OF THIS GUIDE.
Fort Smith, AR 72901
501 646 9332 (voice)
Paradox of Arkansas
(501) 484 0944 Node 1
(501) 484 1043 Node 2
BBS-PR 1.5 FILES
The following files are part of BBS-PR15.ZIP:
README.1ST A brief introduction to what BBS-PR is
FILE_ID.DIZ Description of BBS-PR15.ZIP
BBS-PR.TXT The Computer Bulletin Board Guide to
Public Relations. The guide you
are reading now.
BBS-SAMP.TXT Sample News Releases
PR-NEWS.TXT News Release from Aphelion
PR-RATES.TXT Private Consulting rates for
individual BBSs by Aphelion
PRODUCT1.TXT A questionnaire designed to examine
PRODUCT2.TXT Detailed discussion of PRODUCT1.BBS
SURVEY.TXT A survey the author would appreciate
filled out and returned.
This guide came about because of my frustration caused
by the poor image BBSs have in the popular media; TV, Radio,
Newspaper and Magazine. First, that image was tarnished by
stories of pirated software, then by stories of viruses and
most recently the rash of stories involving pedophiles using
BBSs to further their illegal activity (child pornography).
This guide is not intended to be the final word on
public relations for BBSs. Someone is always coming up with
a new idea or putting a new spin on an old one. This is just
a basic guide with some general rules of thumb you can use to
enhance the image of your BBS. Keep in mind that there will
likely be some things in here that you disagree with. In
that case, I'd like you to write to me, state your case, and
maybe you can persuade me to see things differently.
In addition, I am not an attorney, cannot provide legal
advice, and this is not intended to be a legal guide. I
strongly suggest you hire an attorney familiar with
Communications Law and First Amendment issues BEFORE you have
Who "They" Are.........................................1
Finding the Media......................................2
You are the BBS...................................5
Tools of the Trade.....................................7
Business Cards and Stationary.....................7
Brochures and Fliers..............................8
Do it Yourself or Hire Someone....................9
Public Service Announcements...........................12
Handling the Media.....................................14
Out of the Box.........................................15
³Who "They" Are³
A Summer 1993 survey by Dell Computer indicated that 55
percent of the public does not take advantage of
technological advances. That in itself is the single biggest
Public Relations problem a Sysop faces. BBS users,
obviously, fall somewhere in the remaining 45 percent.
Those who fear technology are the ones that are the most
difficult to explain electronic communications to. They may
see computers as taking over their lives. There are chips in
their cars, in their microwaves, in their stereos, and in
their VCRS. Computers send them their utility bills, credit
card bills, track their income tax payments, and note when
their daughter is born.
Those in that 55 percent are not necessarily
technophobic. Most of them are just technologically
disinterested. These are the people that we should be most
concerned with from a Public Relations standpoint. What they
know about computers, modems and BBSs comes from the
mainstream media. A reporter assigned to a story about BBSs
may or may not fully understand what they are reporting on.
The remaining 45 percent includes you and me, the expert
user, the average user and the novice user. This group
doesn't need quite as much public relations massaging since
it already knows the benefits of using a modem to connect
with other people.
People that were overwhelmed when they first called a
BBS and decided it was too tough to try again also fall into
that 45 percent. They have computers, they may be
technically adept, they can probably even program a VCR. But
the mysteries of 8-N-1 elude them. In addition, there are
those who were at one time active in the BBS community, but
are no longer involved. Maybe they had a falling out with a
Sysop or another user. These are both disaffected users
There is also the group of people that have modems
because it came with their computer but they have not used
it. Some because they don't know they have one, some
because they aren't interested in using it.
How can you distill all these diverse groups into one
simple Public Relations campaign? Simply put, you can't.
BBS-PR pg 1
News can be defined broadly as something that is out of
the ordinary (such as a murder) or something that is a matter
of public record (such as a City Council meeting).
Generally, though, news is a change in the status quo.
Many people get upset over what is perceived as a
liberal or conservative slant in the news. Because both
sides get upset about slanted news, that indicates to me that
most media coverage is unbiased or at least politically
moderate. So-called objective reporting is a relatively
recent invention. Before the American Civil War, most
newspapers were just a cut above political tracts. But
journalism history and theory is not our topic.
Most stories involving BBSs involve a crime that has
been committed, usually pirated software, viruses, or
pornography. Even though one BBS may be raided for
improprieties, it reflects poorly on the entire BBS community
by guilt through association. This is similar to many
American's mistrust of all Arabs due to the misdeeds of a
few, as an example. It isn't fair, it isn't right, but it's
The Way Things Are.
³Finding the Media³
The easiest way to find out who you need to talk to or
write to is by looking in the phone book. All the TV and
Radio stations and Newspapers will be listed under those
categories. You might want to also look for Magazines and
A phone call can uncover a lot of information. You will
need the media outlet's voice number, fax number, address and
the person to talk to or send mailings to.
Your best luck in the Public Relations arena is going to
be in the local media. Remember that not all your public
relations efforts are going to be successful. For instance,
most News Releases are thrown in the trash. But if you keep
at it your efforts will pay off.
Because of the rise of electronic information
BBS-PR pg 2
distribution, many people have predicted the demise of
newspapers. That's unlikely, at least for the next fifty to
one hundred years. Yes, readership has declined.
Newspapers, though, are chameleons and are able to adapt.
Thirty years ago most newspapers looked like the New York
Times. Most newspapers now have much more open and
They are also the most powerful of all the media. No
other media shapes and forms public opinion to the degree
newspapers do. This is usually because they have larger news
staffs and much longer traditions than broadcast media.
Print also has a permanence that broadcast does not have.
As a Sysop, your Public Relations efforts should start
with the Editor or City Editor, whichever the case may be.
These Editors will assign stories to a reporter.
You may be tempted to change your mailing list to a
certain reporter. Although this may seem like a good idea,
reporters tend to change jobs on a fairly regular basis (this
is especially the case in broadcast media). You might opt to
add a reporter to your list, but make sure you continue to
send material to the Editor.
I do not recommend offering to write a column. You will
run out of things to write about much sooner than you think.
Not only that, newspapers have access to syndicated columns
that may not deal specifically with BBSs, but will touch on
The opinion page provides several opportunities to get
your name and the name of your BBS out. The Letters to the
Editor section can be quite effective in telling your
message. You might even be asked occasionally to write a
guest opinion. Use those opportunities whenever possible,
but be wary of writing too many Letters to the Editor. If
they get printed often, you will lose your impact and become
just another shrill voice on the opinion page.
News about computers and computer technology tends to
become lodged in the Business section of a newspaper. If
your paper has one, you need to put the Business Editor on
your mailing list.
Be careful with multiple mailings to newspapers. If you
have a News Conference, you could have several people from
one newspaper there. There are few things that annoy editors
more than finding out that the paper had "overstaffed" a news
conference. It might be wise to note on the announcement the
BBS-PR pg 3
departments or individuals that are getting copies.
Television thrives on good video. Too often, a story
with good video will override a good story with no video.
That is part of the reason why even though nearly everyone
watches tv news, hardly anyone trusts it. Despite that,
television can get your message across to more people in a
shorter period of time.
Assignment Editors are the people that tell the
reporters what stories they will tell that day. Most of your
productive work with tv stations will be with the Assignment
Editor. Assignment Editors work with the Producer, and both
are supervised by the News Director.
Should you be lucky and they are interested in doing a
story about the current state of art in BBS technology,
remember that you need to make yourself visually compelling.
Show lots of activity on the screen, blinking on the modem,
the tangle of wires for the phone lines.
Present yourself as a business professional, even if you
are operating a one-line, non-commercial system. That
doesn't necessarily mean you need to wear a suit and tie,
although that would be a good idea.
BBSs have become the whipping boy of tv news during the
past year. Sex and Pornography are probably the topics they
will be most interested in, especially child pornography. If
you are called out of the blue someday by a tv reporter
wishing to do an interview, those are the likely topics. Be
prepared to dodge bullets.
Radio Journalism is a dying art. There was once a time
when no radio station would even think of not having a news
department. Now many stations have only a morning newsperson
that rewrites the morning paper, and they might not have even
that. It's very tragic.
But there are still a very good number of radio stations
with active news departments. For the most part, you will
deal directly with the News Director. Some larger stations
may also have an Assignments Editor.
BBS-PR pg 4
Radio stations will be looking for stories that can be
told very quickly and have good "sound." Normally, a radio
reporter will simply be seeking an interview. But there may
be an occasion in which a reporter is doing a special report
or a series. BBSs don't really have much sound to record,
but there is some. Modem tones, connection alarms, and ANSI
music are a few.
Because the pace of radio news departments is even
faster than tv, believe it or not, it won't be uncommon for a
radio reporter to call on the phone to get a comment on a
breaking story or even a follow-up on a story idea you may
have presented them with in some correspondence.
If you are contacted on a "slow" news day, you and your
BBS could be included in a number of radio newscasts. Even
in music intensive formats, radio news tends to be listener
active-- that is listeners pay close attention to the news.
News/Talk stations are particularly good targets. They
are nearly always looking for good people to interview on the
You are the BBS
First of all, you have to think of your BBS as a
product. Whether you have a 32 line commercial BBS, a single
line hobby board or somewhere in between, you are selling a
service. Just as with any other product, you have to decide
where and how your public relations efforts should best be
spent. Would you sell Lambroghinis in rural Oklahoma? You
can try, but you probably wouldn't sell very many. And what
happens when your Lambroghini has a major recall? How would
you handle the Public Relations crisis?
Now may be a good time to look at your BBS and take an
inventory. If you haven't already done so, print the file
PRODUCT1.TXT included with this package. It will help you
take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of your BBS.
The File PRODUCT2.TXT examines the inventory and looks
at some of the immediate public relations problems that could
occur as a direct result of the features of your BBS. Since
BBS-PR pg 5
this file goes into depth about particular items on your BBS
that may cause some Public Relations problems, we won't
discuss it in detail here, but we will touch on some of the
The first and foremost question you should ask yourself
is "Why should someone call my BBS?" To answer that
question, let's create two BBSs to use as examples:
Beta BBS has message bases, files and a couple games.
Delta BBS has message bases, files and a couple games.
Nothing really different here. The Sysop of Beta BBS is an
active participant in his BBS in that he writes messages on a
regular basis. The Delta BBS Sysop turns up on occasion and
makes an announcement. Hmmm. Looks like Beta has a slight
edge; the Sysop doesn't seem so unreachable. There is
nothing wrong with Delta BBS, but it seems so ordinary.
There are hundreds of other BBSs using the same software in
the same manner and it appears the Sysop is an out of state
If there is only one weapon I can give you in your
Public Relations campaign that weapon would be yourself. You
must allow your personality to become a part of the BBS.
In this manner BBSs are identical to TV News. They may
offer the same plate, but the plate is presented a little
differently. You might like the person who does the weather
more than the other station's weatherblond. That is why you
watch Eyewitness News instead of The Newscenter or whatever
the case may be.
Sometimes a subtle change in the graphics scheme can
make a big difference in how a user perceives your BBS. If
you use a lot of bright,garish colors a caller may get the
impression that the BBS is loud and brash. Look closely at
how TV stations use color. They generally use two or three
colors to set the overall graphics image and everything else
is either based on those colors or is worked into them
You should also examine how your menus are laid out.
Your first concern should be whether they make sense. A
caller shouldn't have to scratch his head trying to figure
out what he should do next, unless he really has no idea.
BBS-PR pg 6
Secondly, is the picture busy? A busy menu page takes
longer to draw and is harder to read. If after the screen is
drawn and you find yourself distracted, chances are your
layout has too many elements.
Graphics artists for print publications talk about what
is called "white space." That is the amount of nothingness
that surrounds text and pictures. The more there is the more
pleasing to the eye the page is. There is nothing wrong with
using a background to support your menus, but it should be
Whenever you change or add something you need to think
to yourself "Is this something that my users need or want?"
You also need to think of the image you want your BBS to
present. If you have a Science Fiction themed BBS, that new
CD-ROM of Civil War statistics may not fit in very well.
I want to make the point, though, that you might prefer
to run a BBS that offers something of interest to everyone.
But if you do have a thread that runs throughout the entire
system you need to think twice before making a change or an
addition. If it doesn't feel right to you then it probably
won't be kosher with your users.
³TOOLS OF THE TRADE³
You have your computer(s), phone lines(s), software,
message bases, and file areas. But do you have your
stationary and business cards? Unless you are running a
commercial system, you probably don't (and many commercial
systems don't either).
Business Cards and Stationary
From time to time you'll want to write a letter as the
Sysop of your BBS. This letter may be to a user, your city
officials, your Congressman or even to local media outlets.
Your letter will carry more weight if it is on stationary.
Make sure it has the name of your BBS, mailing address, voice
line and data line. Your name and title are options since
you will be signing it anyway.
BBS-PR pg 7
If you work as a salesperson, an engineer, or any other
service oriented business, you wouldn't think twice about
getting business cards. They are an essential part of your
business armament. You hand them to every new person you
meet during the course of your day. You should do the same
for your BBS.
Business cards are an effective way of getting the word
out about your BBS. You don't need anything fancy. Just the
name of your BBS, your name, your title, a mailing address,
your voice line and your data line.
As for your title, I would recommend System Operator.
The average person on the street, including some who claim to
be computer literate, may not understand what "Sysop" means.
If you have even the slightest reason to write someone
on BBS stationary, then you should do it. Always carry some
BBS business cards with you and pass them out at every
opportunity. Stationary and business cards are inexpensive
and extremely effective.
One word of caution, though. If your BBS is not
affiliated with your professional career, you need to make
sure you keep the two separated. This can be a problem when
handing out business cards in particular. You might be
tempted to give a client cards from both work and your BBS.
Should you do this, the client must be made aware that they
are two completely separate entities. Not only that, but
your boss might not be too keen on the idea.
Brochures and Fliers
Brochures are also good promotional items for BBSs.
Although they are not as necessary as business cards and
stationary, they can be very good tools. Brochures can be
left at computer stores, taken to conventions, or used to
send in response to advertising.
Good brochures don't necessarily have to be
professionally produced, printed on glossy stock paper and
using four colors. You can produce an effective brochure
using a desktop publishing program at home.
A brochure should hit on the main points you want to
make, have some graphics, and entice the reader into calling.
A brochure is intended to introduce your product to potential
callers. Don't feel you should fill up the entire brochure
with a lot of copy. For one thing, if there's a lot to read,
BBS-PR pg 8
most of it won't get read unless it is extremely compelling.
The majority of the time, though, simple will suffice.
When developing your brochure, you should design it by
cutting the page in thirds and deciding what needs to be on
which page. Obviously, you want the name of the BBS, the
phone number and maybe a graphic on the front. You get to
the nitty gritty of what is on your board inside. The middle
section of the outside should be left blank so you can put an
address on it.
A flier generally is one page, and follows roughly the
same guidelines as those for a brochure. In general, though,
you layout for the entire page instead of in thirds.
I mentioned "white space" earlier, and I want to
emphasize that again, especially in regard to your printed
materials. The more white space you have, the more pleasing
to the eye your layout is. Of course, that doesn't mean have
a blank page with only one sentence on it. You do need to
keep your pages from looking cluttered and busy.
Do it yourself
Personal computers have liberated us to do work
ourselves that we would previously have hired someone to do.
That includes personal publishing. There are a number of
desktop publishing programs available at your friendly
neighborhood computer store. There are even some available
³ Do it yourself! ³
³advantages disadvantages ³
³inexpensive time consuming ³
³print when needed dot matrix printers ³
³ usually inadequate ³
³complete control graphics or fonts ³
³ may not be available³
³ Hire someone ³
³professional layout assistance some loss of control³
³consistent print quality large print runs ³
³fast service expensive ³
BBS-PR pg 9
As you can tell from this table, choosing whether to
produce your own stationary and business cards or having it
produced by a printshop is really as much a matter of
convenience as it is anything else.
When we talk about expensive, that is compared to doing
it yourself. For roughly $75 you can have some basic
stationary and business cards printed professionally. I
think it's worth the investment.
When you think about what to put on your stationary and
business cards remember that "conservative never offends
anyone." Keep the layout clean and simple, especially on the
cards. If you have a graphic that is used to help identify
your BBS you should use it.
Colored paper and spot color can be very effective. But
you need to be very careful. Your information can be hard to
read on dark paper. Spot color is exactly that-- a small
touch of color to highlight something on the page. But it
can be put in the wrong place.
A couple things to note about having your work done
professionally: colored paper and spot color usually cost
extra. The printshop will also likely charge you to have a
graphic scanned and placed on your stationary or business
News Releases can be among the most effective tools you
use in your public relations efforts. This may seem hard to
believe, but much of what we read, hear or see in the news is
prompted by a news release. The News Media really does want
to know what is going on in the community and News Releases
provide valuable tip-offs for stories.
Among other things, News Releases can be used to make
yourself "The Expert" in the field. There is much attention
being paid in Washington D.C. to the National Data Highway.
By making yourself the expert in computer communications,
local media might contact you for local reaction to a story
about the National Data Highway or other topics, including
On any given day, a news department can receive dozens
of News Releases. If you send a News Release to a Newspaper,
or Radio or TV station, don't assume it will be used. Lack
BBS-PR pg 10
of a local angle, lack of timeliness, and obvious business
promotion are among the reasons most are thrown away. The
biggest portion of those that are thrown out, though, are
News Releases that are poorly written.
³ Topic Ideas for News Releases ³
³New BBS Major New Feature³
³Millionth Caller Meetings/Seminars³
³Public Service performed by BBS Awards ³
³Recent Membership in National Organization Crisis Management³
³Change in Ownership/Management ³
³Unusual or Controversial Message Threads or Files ³
³Local Angle to National Story ³
Anyone who has watched tv dramas about reporters knows
that the basics of a news story are Who, What, When, Where,
Why. Those are also essential to a News Release.
You should also strive for clarity and brevity. Even if
you consider yourself a poor writer, if you include all of
these factors, your News Release will probably be at the very
A News Release should have a Headline, a release date
(even if all it says is FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE), and contact
information in addition to the news itself. Put the news
release on your BBS stationary and include a business card.
Even if your News Release is thrown away, the business card
might be put into someone's rolodex.
Focus on your information. What exactly is it you want
to convey? The best news releases usually have one specific
point to make and everything else supports that one point.
Think logically. Your first paragraph, or the lead to use
journalistic jargon, should make your point clear. The
second paragraph should have more information that supports
the first, the third should support the second and first, so
on and so on.
Write simply. Don't use "big" words unless you
absolutely have to. They won't impress anyone. You should
also write short simple sentences. Long complex sentences
are harder to read. Newspapers are written at an eighth
grade reading level. Broadcasters have only one chance to
make the listener/viewer understand the story. If you have
the media confused you will be ignored.
BBS-PR pg 11
Avoid the use of computer, modem or telecommunications
jargon. Jargon that is used should be explained in simple
terms. For instance: "GIFs are pictures that can be viewed
on a computer screen." That may be oversimplified, but it
One page is usually sufficient for a News Release. Two
pages are acceptable, but more than that is pushing the
patience of the person you sent it to. However, if you have
material to support your News Release, such as a graph or a
table, include that also. If they want more information they
will call you.
Even if your News Release does not become recycling
fodder, it may not be used immediately. It may be put into a
file for future use.
The file PR-SAMP.TXT includes sample news releases along
with explanations of how and why they were written.
³Public Service Announcements³
Radio and TV stations devote some programming time to
Public Service Announcements, or P.S.A.s. Newspapers may not
call them that, but they run them as well. These are a bit
trickier to write than a News Release mainly because there
are fairly strict rules concerning what is or is not a PSA.
The litmus tests for a PSA are:
1. Is the group mentioned a profit organization?
2. Is the topic of the PSA controversial?
3. Is the group mentioned controversial?
4. Will the reader/listener/viewer feel they are hearing an
ad as opposed to a PSA?
If the answer to any of those is "yes" that doesn't
necessarily mean it is not a PSA. Chances are, though, it
PSAs have much in common with News Releases in that they
will include Who, What, When, and Where, but might not have a
Why. If there is a cost involved, that needs to be included
BBS-PR pg 12
PSAs will normally be sent to the PSA Director at Radio
and TV stations. PSAs sent to Newspapers can usually be sent
to the Editor, who will know which department to send it to.
Many PSAs can be sent on a postcard. The file PR-
SAMP.TXT has a sample PSA.
My first thought on holding a News Conference is not to
hold one. Unless you have something of extreme importance or
of a compelling nature, a News Conference probably won't be
There are only two reasons I can think of for a BBS to
hold a News Conference. One is when a BBS is launched, but
even that is of marginal news value. The other is Crisis
Whichever the case may be, you need to be fully
prepared. Have copies of your statement and support
materials available to distribute to members of the media
If I am hesitant to recommend a News Conference, I am
adamantly against a Sysop holding a question and answer
session only. If you have a News Conference, you had better
have something specific to say or you are going to alienate
Although it is acceptable to read directly from your
printed statement during your News Conference, you need to
practice it several times beforehand so you are completely
familiar with it. You might even want to practice the entire
News Conference. This can be accomplished by having some
friends or business associates listen to your statement and
grill you afterword. Chances are many of the same questions
a reporter will ask will be asked by this "practice group."
Why do you need to answer questions following your
statement? There may be something in your statement that was
unclear, or maybe needed to be expanded. Sometimes you might
even be asked to repeat certain sections. But when things
appear to be slowing down, don't be afraid to call an end to
the News Conference. Make yourself available for individual
interviews following the News Conference. TV or radio
stations might want a more intimate sounding discussion of
BBS-PR pg 13
what the News Conference was about instead of the formal
statement. A reporter might have a question he/she didn't
want to ask in a group setting.
Your News Conference will be competing with all the
other news events going on throughout the day. Don't waste
time and don't expect everyone invited to attend. I've found
early afternoon or mid morning to be the best times to hold
News Conferences can be a very productive method of
getting your message across. But they are also quite
misused. Hold a News Conference only if you feel the need is
³Handling the Media³
Timeliness is a very important factor when sending
material to the media.
Most News Releases that are not dated can be mailed at
any time. If they are going to be for release on a specific
date, they should be mailed one to two weeks before the date.
Public Service Announcements and Event Schedules should be
sent two to four weeks before the event.
This gives the media plenty of time to schedule
reporters and other resources.
I do not recommend calling an Editor or reporter asking
when your News Release or PSA will be published or aired.
They might consider this badgering. However, you might call
and ask if they received it and had any questions. That
doesn't guarantee that it will be used, but it might increase
its chances, and you might even find out when it would be
The Media is not the enemy. When you are talking with a
reporter or a group of reporters there is no need to be
nervous. Be friendly but professional. Treat them as you
would your co-workers.
Generally, be calm but assertive. You have the
information they want. Because computer communications is
still a burgeoning field, reporters may ask what you think
are dumb or inconsequential questions. Just answer them
patiently. Offer information you think is pertinent to the
issue. The more facts they have the more accurate the story
BBS-PR pg 14
If you read, see or hear a news story that you feel was
unfair in its coverage of the BBS Community, don't be afraid
to call or write the Editor or News Director and complain
about it. Don't be angry, but point out what you feel was
unfair. The worst thing you can do is get into an argument
with a member of the media. Any headway you've made
previously can be destroyed. You are more likely to be
listened to by being candid but keeping your head on your
shoulders. They might make a retraction to the offending
story or offer you the opportunity to set the record
straight. If nothing else, you got it off your chest.
Video cameras are so ubiquitous these days that you
shouldn't give them a second thought. You should be aware of
their presence though. A dark sport jacket with a light
colored shirt works best on camera. Flashy or very colorful
clothes can be very distracting. The viewer might pay more
attention to what you are wearing than what you are saying.
Never, ever, at any time knowingly tell a falsehood.
You'll be caught and you'll be hung out to dry. If you say
something that later turns out to be incorrect, then you can
honestly admit your mistake. In addition, if there is
something you don't know, admit that also. It's always
better to admit a lack of knowledge than it is to dance
around a question with a pseudo-answer. You can always look
up the correct answer and call the reporter later.
Drawing on that same theme, if you have gotten into a
situation in which you feel you have gotten in over your
head, defer the issue to someone you feel comfortable has the
proper skills and knowledge. In most cases, a reporter will
accept your suggested replacement. The only time it might
not work is when the reporter is asking about something that
directly impacts you or your BBS.
This may seem obvious, but you should return calls
promptly. Reporters are always under some sort of deadline
pressure. The sooner you can return their calls, the more
they will appreciate you.
³Out of the Box³
Many Sysops set up a BBS in a cloistered room, hunch
over a brightly lit screen late at night tweaking here and
tweaking there. "Heh!" they think, "this new door game will
BBS-PR pg 15
bring me a few more callers!"
You can be assured that new game is A) already on
another BBS in town, B) the potential new callers won't know
for sometime that you have it or C) potential new callers
won't care that you have it.
The game can wait 'til tomorrow. Do something that is
more likely to bring in potential callers to your BBS in
particular and into the BBS community generally. Get out of
Chances are your BBS or the local BBS or Sysops'
Association sponsors a picnic or some such at least once a
year. Although this is a good idea, it usually is a
gathering a modem users. You need to become more involved
with the community as a whole.
There are many, many opportunities to create a good
public relations image within the community. Even though the
mainstream media should be a part of your public relations
efforts, you do not have to rely on them to tell your
Your local Chamber of Commerce probably has some sort of
monthly or annual list of events going on in the community.
There should be several that you can attend or co-sponsor on
behalf of the BBS. You can also make yourself available to
talk to Service Clubs and Youth Groups.
Have you thought of conducting a seminar? Let's face
it, BBSs are not among the easiest computer applications to
use. You could teach users and potential users about
telecommunications and BBSing. With more and more BBSs
connecting to the Internet, a seminar on how to use the
Internet could be quite valuable. As an aside, you might
even be able to bring in a few bucks by conducting seminars.
Schools are another place to make your mark. Donate
your time to teach a class or be a guest in a class. You
might even consider donating your old equipment to an
elementary school when you upgrade to newer equipment. That
might even bring you some good press coverage.
If you have a laptop or an older computer you wouldn't
mind toting around, take it with you with a scaled down
version of your BBS to show people what it looks like. Very
few things work better than a good visual aid.
BBS-PR pg 16
If you produce a newsletter for your BBS that is mailed
to users on a regular basis, add the local media outlets to
your mailing list. Just as with News Releases, most
newsletters will be thrown out. But sometimes someone will
grab an idea from one and produce a story from it. By golly,
you'll probably be the first person they call.
Everyday thousands of cars go past yours or you pass
them. Bumper stickers are moving billboards. Make them
available anytime you are out meeting the public. Because
you must make a quick impression, just have the name of your
BBS and the data phone number printed on them.
Coffee mugs and t-shirts are good promotional items that
can also bring in some money. Sale items such as those are
really best for larger commercial systems, though.
I am quite conscience of the fact that I did not discuss
paid advertising in this manual. Among the reasons:
1. This was intended to be only a brief discussion of
2. Paid advertising can be quite expensive, and most
BBS do not have the money to do it.
If there is demand for information about advertising for
BBSs, it will be included in future editions.
Thanks to Fred Ayers of Paradox of Arkansas BBS, Steve
Prado of Jackalope Junction BBS, and Mary McGuire of KMAG-KWHN
Radio, all of Fort Smith, AR. Their comments, suggestions
and complaints are greatly appreciated.
The current edition of BBS-PR (BBS-PRxx.ZIP) will always
be available on Paradox of Arkansas, (Sysop Fred Ayers).
I will answer E-Mail, snail mail and even discuss some
problems on the phone.
I am also available for private consultation. See the
file PR-RATES.TXT to see what services are available and at
what cost. Even though News Analysis is one service
available, I encourage you to send copies of News Releases,
newspaper articles, and audio and video (vhs) tapes of
broadcast stories with no obligation to engage my services as
BBS-PR pg 17
About the Author
Robert Parson is a Broadcast Journalist with over 15
years experience to his credit. He also writes the
'Electronic Identity' column for "International Online
Magazine," a magazine door available from Arkansas River
Valley BBS, Russellville, AR (501 968 1931). Robert is an
active participant in his local BBS Community.
This Guide is dedicated to the First Amendment. Freedom
of Speech is our single most important Constitutional
Fort Smith, AR 72901
501 646 9332 (voice)
501 484 0944 (Support BBS, Paradox of Arkansas)
501 484 1043 (Node 2)
BBS-PR pg 18