Jeff Crider's Behind the Sudden Uptick in Positive PR?
There's a positive change afoot with regard to public relations in the RV park and campground sector on a national level, most would agree, and much of that involves a Southern Californian named Jeff Crider who seems to have a flair for capturing the eye of otherwise skeptical, distracted and impatient members of the press.
Indeed, Crider, an independent consultant now doing business as Crider Public Relations Inc. in several fields, has worked with a growing stable of industry clients over the past few years, including the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), Bob MacKinnon of Murietta, Calif.-based MacKinnon Campground Consulting, and, until recently, the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), among others.
And the results in terms of campground media placements are rather impressive by anyone's standards.
"I've counted close to 175 stories so far this year in print, radio, and television media," he said, "from spot news stories on local television stations and CNN Radio to feature stories in just about every major newspaper in the country, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Detroit News, The Baltimore Sun, and the San Antonio Express-News. I was also asked by an editor in Pennsylvania to write a periodic column on private campgrounds in her particular area of the Keystone State."
ARVC President and CEO Linda Profazier says members of the press, a tough group to say the least, have actually called her to tell her what a good job he is doing. "He's great to work with," she said, "and he's very well organized."
"He's fantastic to work with," says Brian Schaeffer, TACO executive director. "When our state association decided it was time to have a dedicated public relations firm, Jeff was a reasonable choice."
Debbie Sipe, executive director of the CalARVC, said Crider is extremely diligent in his efforts to gain publicity for the campgrounds in her state.
Crider, who is also passionate about camping with his kids, Isabella and Max, sees several variables playing into his hands right now.
"In terms of explaining the PR progress I've had with ARVC and other campground associations," he told Woodall's Campground Management, "it really comes down to my media background and knowing a lot about the campground industry itself. I've covered the private campground sector for close to a decade for Woodall's Campground Management and other Affinity Group publications, and it's relatively easy for me to figure out what kinds of stories will be of interest to mainstream media.
"The other thing working in my favor is the previous lack of a proactive or sustained media relations effort by most of the campground industry associations," he added. "This is why reporters so often reported on public parks while rarely mentioning private parks or the private park sector. Many of these reporters simply haven't been familiar with the private park sector. That's why our releases are in hot demand. They're in demand because there's been an information void from the private park sector. So I'm basically able to build a media relations program from the ground up with these reporters."
Curiously, Crider, who credits RV Business and Woodall's Campground Management Publisher Sherm Goldenberg for helping to build up his program during the early years, says handling PR for the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association for seven years provided a good foundation for working with ARVC because he was able to see how the mainstream media covers the campground sector.
"I know when they will be receptive to certain types of story ideas and when they won't. So I use this knowledge to guide the timing of certain types of news releases so that they will be most effective. I've also sliced and diced campground stories in many ways to make them appealing to reporters on different beats. So I'm not just producing releases of interest to business reporters, but releases that should be of interest to lifestyle, feature and travel reporters. It's been fun to watch all of this unfold."
The USA Today story published in July "was another nice addition to our media outreach efforts, even though ARVC itself was not mentioned in the story," said Crider, who has handled national media relations for AMVETS, the veterans service organization, for three years, working as a subcontractor to a Washington D.C., public relations firm.
"I spent more than half an hour with the reporter before she even began researching the piece," he recalled, "so I had a chance to brief her on key trends in the industry and to suggest sources for her story. I did the same thing with The New York Times, Business Week and other top tier publications. These reporters know I'm handling releases for campground associations. So they'll often contact me before they delve into a story. That gives me a chance to guide them and, sometimes, to suggest other angles or nuances that other reporters have missed."