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Meet the Brass

Boating Week 2000

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The Panel

Tom Dammrich of the NMMA, Phil Dyskow of Yamaha, Phil Keeter of the MRAA, George Sullivan of Genmar, George Buckley of Brunswick. Dean Travis Clarke of Boat Writers International served as moderator.

The forum description said it was to focus on "What do leading marine marketing executives want from boating trade and consumer editors?" The meeting actually moved over to a perhaps more useful focus of providing some interaction between manufacturing executives, industry organization representatives and the press focusing on the needs of the manufacturers and industry organizations.

George Buckley of Brunswick: He thinks the three greatest magazines in the world are National Geographic, Harvard Business Review and the Economist. We should expect this level of editorial comment in boating publications.

George Sullivan of Genmar: Editorial integrity is important. Some publications never say anything bad about the product (trying to protect advertising dollars). Motor Trend never says anything bad about the cars they test. Readers can see right through that.

What are the strengths and weakness of the product against its design criteria?

When they look at advertising opportunities Genmar looks at how many readers are they?, How many are given out at boat shows?, Pass along readership?

Is the publication serving people buying boats for a platform (fish, ski, etc)?

Genmar has to consider where (what media) they are going to spend their ad dollars (print, online, streaming video, etc).

Phil Keeter of the MRAA: How the MRAA perceives writers and dealing with dealers? The power of the pen is mighty. If some skepticism or criticism of dealers or the industry is printed, we do them a huge dis-service. He wants us to build up their part of the industry.

Some retail writers write about dealers doing something wrong. The Unite the Industry for Growth and Certification programs have received a lot of articles that were critical. He wants the press to be less critical.

Trade magazines often call the MRAA and are referred to dealers they can interview to get their view on certain situations. Retail magazines rarely call the MRAA.

We only live by the industry growing. If we don't get more people in boating then you damn sure won't have more readers.

Phil Dyskow of Yamaha: The relationship between writers and manufactures is just like a marriage. We must communicate and be willing to compromise.

Manufacturers and products must be accessible. Manufacturers could, and need to, provide multiple opportunities with boat tests (fishing, destinations, electronics, etc) so writers could generate several stories or the story of their choice during a boat test.

Integrity in the print media vs. online. Printed material has a high degree of integrity vs. that on the net. You don't know who wrote it, you just can't substantiate it. The customer gets the truth in print and wishes he could get it on the net.

Thom Dammrich of the NMMA: Everybody in this room depends on the health and vitality of the boating industry for their personal success. He would rather us work with them. Writers have been focusing on some issues that are not the important ones. You need to focus more on areas of agreement than areas of disagreement. But this is a conflict of the trade press. Agreement is not interesting.

Certification and grow boating efforts will take some time. Their short time low does not do justice to them.

The consumer press needs to help efforts to improve the industry. Promote the certification process and help promote the importance of NMMA certified boats and trailers.

The NMMA pushes unity, but the trade press pushes controversy. He wants them to focus more on important issues.

What about editorial integrity vs advertising being pulled for negative reviews?

George Sullivan of Genmar: Negative comments are ok, we just don't like untrue ones.

George Buckley of Brunswick: The don't raise the integrity issue, use balance. They learn from flaws and treat articles just like customer feedback. It is what the customer is going to feel anyway.

George Sullivan of Genmar: There is a fine line between a bad review and the truth. Your mission is not to tell the consumer which boat to buy. The consumer makes that decision.

Audience: Education is a strong tool. Writers need educational opportunities. If manufacturers could have meetings exclusively for the press, it might help.

Audience: I make negative comments, but try not to surprise anybody. I let then know first. Sometimes a point actually gets turned around when I better understand it.

Audience: We have to be educated enough about a product to make a good judgment.

Dean Travis Clarke of Boat Writers International: Often bad points you bring up in a walk around are rapidly changed on the production line.

You can send an article in for a fact check before you publish it and let them look at it.

The last time anybody pulled an ad schedule from his publication was when he wrote a glowing review of a competitor.

Audience: He wrote a critical review of a product, the manufacturer pulled ads, later those improvements turned up in the product.

George Sullivan of Genmar: One magazine chose not to print a critical article. Later several people were killed in it due to design deficiencies.

Rushed to market processes can put the product in a bad light. Sometimes critical articles come from writers not really "into" that product or activity. They just don't like that activity.

Products should be judged against the specifications they set out to fulfill.

Should not consumer magazines raise warranty and dealer problems to make manufacturers aware of them?

George Buckley of Brunswick: Shorter cycle times and shorter product proving time. Manufacturers may have to follow up with more highly engineered products.

Phil Keeter of the MRAA: Dealers should be written about in a positive way.

He recently received a four page flyer from a group saying they will tell you what a dealer won't tell you. They will protect you. He does not like this. It should have been more positive.

The goal is to unite all the disparate factions of boating. How can the media help that?

Tom Dammrich of the NMMA: They need to help educate the consumer about the industry's efforts to improve the consumer experience, such as the certification process.

They could take editorial space for issues of importance to boaters. Such as: Motorized transport in national parks, noise, manatees, issues effecting access, the National Lakes movement. They need to motivate the public to become involved with the organizations and legislature.

George Buckley of Brunswick: They don't always publish boating is wonderful. His wife complains about the lack of time he spends with his family. Recently they were in a boat at Mercury and his wife said, "This is how families should spend time together." The industry is part of binding families together. We need editors of this nature. They need to stress the wondrous nature of the pastime we are engaged in.

There are issues the boating industry can promote or lobby for the manufacturer cannot. If a manufacturer goes to the California Clean Air Resource Board they are seen as jaundice. Individuals are seen as more independent and objective.

RBBI Comments:

Very interesting session. The organizations (NMMA and MRAA) want nice life is rosy articles about boating and their programs. The press (TV, newspaper, trade magazine, consumer publications, internet) has a history of being too aggressive on many issues, but I think the requests were too far the other way. There really wasn't a lot of opportunity for press representatives to react to the comments.

I don't think anybody really left the room with a different view than when they came in concerning press coverage of industry problems and dealer issues, except perhaps they were a little more vehement about them. Although I may not agree with some views expressed by the organizations, I commend the organizations for putting this session together.

It was insightful to hear the comments from the manufacturers. Special thanks to Mr. Dyskow, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Buckley for serving on the panel.

Mr. Dyskow's comment about having multiple opportunities at boat tests (give them more time, fishing, destination opportunities, electronic opportunities) may result in some real changes. It was very well received by the writers and the manufacturers really perked up when it was discussed. We may see some changes in this area soon.

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