By Steve Outing
In my last business, I got to know Granny Gear Productions, organizer of a series of 24-hour mountain bike races around the US. With my old YourMTB.com website, we worked with race organizer Laird Knight during 2007 and recruited a bunch of “grassroots reporters” — volunteers who were racing — to cover the events and post to YourMTB.com.
For 2008, Knight is trying a self-driven variation of what we did last year. What he’s got planned looks like a great combination of social marketing and grassroots media.
First there’s Granny’s Groupies, which is a network of people in the various locations where the races are held who are being asked to get the word out and grow the events. This is spot on in terms of marketing trends, where companies try to get their fans to join in the marketing process using online means. Granny has thousands of ex-racers who are fans of the event series, and some will be willing to pitch in and help with promotion.
More interesting from my media-centric perspective is Granny’s Press Corps. According to Knight, the idea is to recruit several grassroots reporters for each event, who will agree to cover the race and the atmosphere of the event.
During the YourMTB program last year, we asked racers to do the same thing, but were pretty lax about what they should produce: photos, video, blog items, whatever they wanted. Knight is going to try to improve the content by giving the grassroots reporters pre-race, in-race and post race assignments. I think that’s a great idea, and I think he’ll get better coverage than his events got last year. By attempting to more closely control what the grassroots reporters produce, he’s more likely to get top-notch content.
I love grassroots or “citizen” content, but frankly, it can be too dull to retain online users’ interest. Exerting more control and diligent editing can make it as compelling as “professional” content.
One other interesting thing about this is that what Knight is doing is something I believe will happen more and more: Companies will create their own media content, becoming media companies (on top of their core business). We’ve seen that for some time with, for example, pro sports team producing powerful content websites offering coverage that competes with mainstream news organizations’ sports coverage. Granny Gear is doing the same thing.
It makes sense for events like the Granny Gear races, since they don’t often get much media coverage, beyond the standard “there are a bunch of crazy mountain bikers racing for 24 hours this weekend!” stories. For anyone looking for serious coverage of the races, there’s often nothing except what Knight and his crew put on their website. Corporate-sponsored coverage fills the void.