Oregon State Fair

Posted by Lee Weinstein: When I was in third grade, I worked at the Oregon State Fair in a booth for my grandfather’s restaurant. When I got the call a few years ago to do public relations for the fair, I was thrilled to get back in touch with my own roots and a great Oregon tradition.

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At the beginning of this public relations project, we asked statewide media what kinds of information they were receiving they wanted from the fair. We quickly came to understand that media outlets were aware of the fair’s big annual headlining events, but they didn’t always know what was happening each day.

The state fair is chock full of great stories, so we were able to develop a great daily tip sheet for the media that outlined what’s new at the fair, and worked with fair staff to make recurring events fresh and exciting. We still believe in creative mailings—a tried-and-true tool for helping reporters stay on top of events. Email and phone calls are great, but a recyclable, easy-to-read one-sheet in the newsroom can be invaluable. Plus, our friends at Citrus Media helped us source some really fun cotton-candy air fresheners (state-fair nostalgia in an easy-to-mail package) to accompany the press kits.

As with most live events, issue management has been an important public relations service for the Oregon State Fair. Tough issues can be opportunities publicizing our client’s viewpoint, while also getting publicity back on track, to tell stories that will engage the public:

  • In 2009: With the swine flu pandemic in full swing, we needed to communicate clearly that the pigs present at the state fair presented no risk to visitors. We got great press coverage on this, helping the public understand that they were not at any greater risk of catching the flu at the fair than they were in any other public place.
  • In 2010: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission determined that home brewing of wine and beer violated an old law that was still on the books. We were able to clearly communicate the fair’s disappointment in this new enforcement, and that it was time for a change. State legislators rose to the occasion and the brewers were able to bring their creations to the fair.

Our favorite part: In working with the state fair’s marketing department, we discovered a beautiful image they’d created of a giant tomato on the side of a truck. We suggested that they bring the idea to life with a truck and a staff member in a big tomato costume, and going on the road around the state. After its first road trip, some great buzz was created, the media really paid attention, and The Big Tomato took on a life of its own. People now look forward to meeting this friendly overgrown fruit at the fair each year.