I’m sitting in West Palm Beach airport, killing the extra hour I have because I thought my flight was at 7 am, not 8:20 (I guess it’s better than making the opposite mistake). Checking email, I found the EC Weekend Preview in my inbox and it inspired me to clarify my thoughts on EC’s new way of getting news out to its members and the media. I’ve had emails and comments galore pointing out to me where I missed the announcement of the DC symposium, but no one seems to understand why I’m still not a happy camper – even though I do love camping.
Here’s the thing. In principle, I applaud EC’s efforts to get more news out in a more timely fashion than they have done in the past. Today’s weekend preview lists all the major events where Canadians might be found competing in all the FEI disciplines this weekend, along with those events’ websites so people can quickly check on schedule and results. And the reviews, if they list competitions that happened more recently than three weeks ago, are already doing more than the press releases have been doing. It’s almost an insult to press releases to even call them that, since they have often come out so long after the fact that print magazines had their own news on tack store counters before EC managed to grind them out. So, all good, right? Not so fast. Being the lover of lists that I am, I will now list my complaints and suggestions, though I don’t harbour any illusions that any of them will be considered by the overlords of communication at EC. I just want to get this off my chest, because it does annoy me rather a lot.
1. Complaint: why on earth EC didn’t send out a press release to warn people about the previews and reviews is a complete mystery to me. Actually it’s not, since what I said above is an indication of how good EC has been at using press releases to disseminate information in a timely manner. But let’s say they did manage to send out a missive to let us all know that these things would be replacing most (but not all – more on that in a bit) press releases. If they had, I would not have assumed that a ‘week in review’ is like the USEF’s week in review or the FEI’s week in review – basically collections of press releases that those organizations already issued, just in case you missed one. The word ‘review’ does not say ‘news’ to me. When I read about the DC symposium on Eurodressage, it never occurred to me that the announcement had been buried inside something called ‘review’. Suggestion: Send a press release to explain what the previews and reviews are. It’s not too late. Besides, we are already used to getting told things long after the fact.
2. Complaint: several helpful individuals have pointed me to the place where the symposium announcement can be found on DC’s website. You go to the home page, then go to coaching and then go to clinics. Of course. How obvious. Everyone does that much navigating when they look for things they don’t know exist. The DC home page still has its scrolling news banner at the top, but there is nothing up there dated later than February 17th, which is over a month ago now. So not only did EC not tell us about the reviews, the disciplines no longer have ANY NEWS on their own sites. Not even a link to the reviews and previews. Suggestion: put the reviews and previews on every discipline’s scrolling news banner, and do it when you send them out – not a week or two later.
3. Complaint: I’m not the only member of the media who was befuddled and/or aggravated by EC’s random new direction with news sharing. One editor asked about whether there would be photos and press releases about the news contained in the review. Late as they were, at least press releases contained some detail and photos of the athletes who had merited the press release. The answer from EC’s communications department was that Canada is doing ‘better and better’ internationally and it’s getting too hard to ‘keep up’ with press releases. The reply went on to explain that unless a Canadian had won a ‘major competition’ there would no longer be press releases. They were still deciding if they would be making photos available to the media. So, let me see if I have this straight. Canada’s equestrians are gaining an ever-greater foothold on the international stage. Therefore, there will be no press releases about them. That makes so much sense my head is spinning like something from the Exorcist. EC doesn’t seem to know much about the mass media universe. If they are not handed a document that gives them – in one click – the basics of the competition, the results and a photo or two, they are not going to go looking for the news of Canada’s growing international successes. And this is an Olympic year, where Canada is one of only six nations to qualify teams in all four disciplines, including Para. Good thing Own the Podium doesn’t set benchmarks for communications. Suggestion: don’t just abandon the idea of press releases altogether and think that the reviews nicely cover all the bases, because they don’t.
4. Complaint: this is a biggie – EC issued one release in the last week: it’s about the horse racing industry in Canada. It’s really all about Ontario and it’s in response to some political pressure to effectively kill off racing in that province. There was another release specifically about EC supporting racing in Ontario a few weeks ago. It was titled ‘Equine Canada Supports Ontario Horse Racing’. I’m not siding with the killers, but I really have a BIG PROBLEM with EC spending so much of its energy on a horse-related industry that doesn’t represent the membership – except coincidentally, with members who are also involved in some way with racing. I think the Canadian Jockey Club might be an affiliate member of EC, but I can’t find anything on the EC site to support that suspicion. When you hold your mouse over the tab ‘disciplines/departments’, there is no mention of racing as one of EC’s represented disciplines. There isn’t even any mention of racing on the Industry home page. What the hell is EC doing issuing press releases about racing – an industry that is not included in any national equestrian federation that I’m aware of – while issuing no releases at all about the disciplines that are an integral part of EC and its membership? Suggestion: I don’t know who’s back is getting scratched, but please stop.
5. Complaint: if you, like me, try to keep a clean inbox, you may be inclined to delete emails that you know you can find on the site of the organization that sent them to you. One week I received the week in review about eight times. I got annoyed, so I deleted all eight of them, thinking I could just go to the EC site and look if I needed to ‘review the review’. I’ll be damned if I can find those things anywhere. Suggestion: so simple it nearly makes me weep to have to say it – put the reviews on the EC home page, and put them somewhere obvious, so clean freaks like me can find them easily.
Quite the rant today, I know. It doesn’t quite offset my litany of complaints, but there is one bright spark that I stumbled across while digging around the DC site last week: DC Board is now publishing the minutes of its meetings on line. It’s quite the read, and I highly recommend it. Of course it’s buried about five layers down, so let me save you the search. Click here. Enjoy!
Gotta go get on a plane now. I have one husband, one horse, one cat and one wiener waiting for my re-entry into home space!