Publicity for the ARS
Marion S. May
A Publicity and Public Relations Committee was born to the American Rhododendron Society in October of 1981, at the board meeting held in Newport, Oregon, concurrently with the first Western Regional Rhododendron Conference. The idea of such a committee was certainly not a new one, and it had been favorably received at the National Convention earlier in the year. But the idea of a western regional conference was definitely a new one. So, too, was the idea of opening this conference to non-members who wished to register to attend. It was certainly a first for the idea of publicity coverage and was a sort of "test-run" for the, at that time, non-existent publicity committee.
More than 150 letters were sent out to magazines, newspapers, radio and television stations. Copy prepared for print or broadcast was enclosed. Requests were made that announcements of the meeting be made as a public service locally. The entire cost was for paper, envelopes and postage. The rest was all the work of the committee of volunteers who anxiously awaited the outcome, who hoped that the registration fees would cover the cost of such a venture and of this publicity.
The results were overwhelming. A full three weeks before the closing deadline for registrations the limit allowed by the hotel had been reached. Over 100 applicants had to be turned away because of lack of room. The publicity, although this was strictly a conference of the western region, had been sent out to a selected number of national publications, and brought inquiries and responses from as far away as Florida. At least seventy of those registered were non-members and some of these have since joined A.R.S. It proved to be a completely successful conference and is promised to be only the first of many western regionals to follow.
For this reason it became an easy task to request authorization by the board of a national committee for publicity and public relations. It was unanimously approved and this committee officially came into being. The Chairman is Lt. Col. Wallace Marley, Ret., who is eminently qualified for this post because of his past experience in public relations with the U.S. Defense Department at the Pentagon. He is also the president of Southeastern Chapter, A.R.S. He will be assisted by Fred Galle, immediate past-President of A.R.S. of Pine Mountain, Georgia, who needs no introduction to the membership. Also on the committee are Mrs. Pat Walton of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, and Marion and Vernon May of Florence, Oregon.
The purpose of this specialized committee is to gain national visibility for A.R.S., its chapters and its activities, and to stimulate a general public interest and awareness throughout the United States in the culture of rhododendrons and azaleas through the use of print and broadcast media. The effectiveness of the latter was demonstrated in the results of the publicity at this first western regional meeting.
Wallace Marley had already been at work and submitted a proposal to the Postmaster General for two series of postal stamps, one of the native azaleas of America, and the other of American hybrid rhododendrons. The American Camellia Society began pressing the Postal Service for a camellia on the design of a postage stamp as early as 1976, and these were finally issued in 1981. Write your congressman and ask that he support the American Rhododendron Society proposal for the issuance of azalea and rhododendron stamps. We hope to see them by 1983. It is felt that this project will certainly give maximum exposure to the public of the wonderful world of rhododendrons and stimulate interest in the genus.
It is also hoped that every chapter will appoint a publicity chairperson for their area. Many of the chapters now have fine newsletters that go out to their members. There is much talent among us that has not been tapped and goes unrecognized except by a small circle of people. Many newspapers are very happy to receive prewritten copy of announcements of events of local interest and the local radio and television stations present announcements as a public service. A small investment of time and money for paper and stamps can bring chapters large returns in new interest in rhododendrons and azaleas, and even greater returns in new members. Your new committee members will be happy to work with any chapter that wants to join in the exploration of a new field of ideas for the American Rhododendron Society.