AS I SEE IT 10/27: Gabe Sapolsky, Rollin Hard, indies
AS I SEE IT
Since no one seems to totally know what happened with Ring of Honor and the firing of Gabe Sapolsky, I'm going to hold off most of my opinion save to say that the promotion that a lot of have loved for the last several years is for all practical purposes, dead.
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
For all creative purposes, Gabe Sapolsky has been Ring of Honor...and anything using the letters ROH following this won't be Ring of Honor. It'll be like what Vince McMahon shows on Tuesday nights as ECW...in name only.
So for all of you reading this, enjoy your Ring of Honor DVDs. Because what's about to follow isn't going to be pretty, and won't be anything like we're all used to...and you may not see what we've been privileged to see over the last several years ever again.
Now, to what was already written for this week:
First, a repeat from last week's column:
As many fans of independent wrestling know, IWA Mid-South Wrestling's Rollin Hard has been going through a very difficult battle with cancer and has accumulated a lot of medical expenses.
The folks over at CZWfans.com have decided to assist Rollin Hard with his medical expenses, and have set up a PayPal account. Payments will be accepted via Paypal at CZWFansRollsHard@hotmail.com.
This is an great way to support a good cause, in keeping with some of my recent columns about people doing good within the wrestling business. Now it's time for fans to help other fans help one of the workers in it.
Fans who would like to send good wishes can do so, via Rollin Hard's MySpace page at: this link.
Now, given the state of the economy, it seems to me that wrestling promoters everywhere are suffering (even Ring of Honor, widely speculated as the reason for Gabe Sapolsky's firing). When your business is suffering, businesspeople need to do things to improve it. For wrestling, one of those things is promoting your product.
First of all, don't just assume you can promote on the Internet. The grunt work of getting up posters, handing out flyers, as well as getting sponsors to defer the cost of your show, and help sell tickets for you... are all necessary no matter what kind of fan base you have. Old fashioned promotion is not passe.
Mind you, I'm not saying not to have an online presence. But if you do, do one that has basic information done right.
Websites don't require technical genius to put up and keep current. Basic ones also aren't expensive. Most internet service providers will let you post a personal/hobby page, which could serve as your promotion's page. You can even do a MySpace page. If you want to spend a bit more money, you can also buy a domain name like mine at PWBTS.com, and pay a basic monthly fee to have it hosted.
What should that website consist of? If nothing else, it should use intelligible English. Use spell check. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE use spell check, and ask someone to check it for grammar and spelling mistakes before you send it out. While website owners know you want to push your show...lay off releases sent in all caps and with a dozen exclamation points. Every match is a great one (or you'd like potential fans to think so...we get the point).
After you do all that, just write it simply with items such as these: Tell fans when your upcoming shows are...far enough in advance to let them make plans, so they don't attend a nearby competitor's show instead. Tell fans where the shows are, and how to get to the shows. The locations of your shows should be listed on your website, with directions from nearby areas, using local landmarks and major highways. You can also use Yahoo Maps, Google Maps, Expedia or Mapquest to illustrate where you're running a show.
Provide mass transit directions (and bus routes) if you live in an area where mass transit connections exist to your venue. You can find these directions easily enough on your local transit agency's website, then post them in your shills.
Other things to do are: Tell fans who is on the show and tell fans your current storyline behind key matches, so fans feel there's a reason to come to see them.
Do it AHEAD OF TIME...not just days before the show. Tell the fans what your tickets cost, and where they can get them. If you have standard ticket costs, list them. If you have remote ticket locations (local merchants that sell tickets for you), list them and where the merchants are located. If you have an e-mail address, hotline, or ticket phone line (local numbers or tollfree 800/877/888 numbers are preferable), list those as well.
Now, does your promotion send out press releases before a show, or results afterwards to websites like PWBTS...or the Wrestling Observer...or to online wrestling newsgroups? If not, why not?
Press releases don't have to look like something out of Northwestern University's School of Journalism. But let me suggest a few dos and don'ts. It's not necessary to capitalize everything...or use exclamation points and asterisks throughout the release you send to a website. We know you want people to come to the show, so write an intelligent sounding release that makes both your company and the show you're promoting look good....in something approaching English, please. Second, as I've said above...PLEASE use spellcheck.
Again, tell fans when the show is, where the show is, how to get to the show, who is on the show, how much tickets cost, and where they can get them. Again, any basic business course would tell you that a business must make it as easy as possible for a customer to give you their money.
But you'd be surprised at the e-mails I receive that don't provide each of those items. You'd also be surprised at the way some of those e-mails are written. To be blunt, I get some press releases that look like a pre-schooler wrote them.
Again, press releases don't need to look like something out of Northwestern University's School of Journalism...but it would be nice if they had correct spelling and at least reasonably good grammar. That's why Bill Gates put spell check and grammar check in the various versions of Windows.
I've gotten promotional shills for shows that I had to literally spend 15 minutes re-writing in order to post them at PWBTS. I've refused to run shills for certain independents, because I'd asked the promotions time after time to check them before sending them to me, because they were written so poorly that the companies should have been embarrassed to send them out in public.
Remember that your press release/shill is how a new fan sees you. If your press release is professionally written (or at least semi-literate), that new fan is more likely to read it, and their money is more likely to come your way.
Send it to widely distributed mailing lists of upcoming shows supplied to websites.
Post them on any one of the million wrestling related message boards that are out there, to regional wrestling websites, such as Socaluncensored.com and Michigan Indy Wrestling that cover a variety of independent promotions in their area.
Send releases to the mainstream press, such as your local daily or weekly newspaper. See if that newspaper has a weekly wrestling column. Newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, Miami Herald, New York Daily News, the Dallas News, and Charleston Post and Courier (just to name a few) have such columns. They'll often run shills for your show. Mainstream coverage is a Godsend for your promotion. Again, remember the rules I listed above....use spell check and provide basic information.
If your local newspaper is a smaller weekly or daily, send it to whoever runs a section for community events, particularly if the event is to benefit a local charity, church, or community group. That's always a good hook. Send them to your local TV station or cable system. Put together a e-mailing list of regular contacts and send it out to them to plug each and every show you run.
Consider paid advertising on certain websites and in local newspapers. Use the major websites or those that cover either your region in particular or independent wrestling in general to advertise your product.
Get your fans to put together an e-Street Team....fans that know how to write fairly well, or provide them with the information to send yourself. Have them talk you up on message boards, websites, and newsgroups.
Make being a fan of your company not just a fun evening, but a responsibility. ECW was the first known example of a company that understood this. Fans all but MADE mainstream wrestling publications pay attention to ECW. Those fans were ECW's best asset, because they felt obligated to let people know about the product. These days, Ring of Honor has benefited from the very same kind of dedication from its fans, who seem to feel obligated to do it.
I'm not a graduate of the Wharton School of Business. I'm just one more mark sitting in the seats, who just wants to see independent wrestling succeed....at a time when wrestling fans need alternatives....badly.
Until next time...
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