Up Front: Getting the Word Out


Every magazine has a mission. Ours is to explore, defend, and celebrate the central value of a free society, individual liberty. And because we are, after all, a journal of opinion, we also seek to affect the intellectual and political climate of the nation—to bring our "prejudice of freedom" into the mainstream debate on the day's issues.

This last job falls mainly to Kelly Ross, REASON's director of public affairs. "It's quite enjoyable being in public relations at REASON," says Ross, "because it presents a truly unique product, unlike anything else put out by other organizations or publications. REASON authors turn issues over to look at the other side of things, to give readers a perspective different from what they get elsewhere."

A lot of behind-the-scenes effort goes into bringing that unique perspective to the attention of the world at large. Much of it is directed at getting the word out to the media. Shortly before the release of each issue of the magazine, Ross meets with Publisher Robert Poole, Jr. and Editor-in-Chief Marty Zupan to devise a strategy to promote that issue to the press. The main publicity tools are news releases, op-ed versions of articles from the issue, and mailings and phone calls to TV and radio talk shows to promote REASON authors as guests.

Trying to get the media's attention, however, is more an art than a science, and the results are never certain. "It's always unpredictable," says Ross. "We may think we have the news story of the month and no one will pick it up, while an item that we think is relatively minor will draw all sorts of attention."

Overall, Ross's efforts to publicize the magazine and its writers have been impressive. In 1984, for instance, before the magazine had a public affairs director, REASON authors were invited onto radio talk shows just 12 times; in 1985, Ross's first year with the magazine, REASON contributors served 114 times as talk-show guests. And in 1986, the pace of such appearances exceeds that of last year. In the print media, REASON op-eds were picked up 70 times in 1985, appearing in newspapers ranging in size from Brookings, Oregon's Curry Coastal Pilot (circulation: 9,000) to the Wall Street Journal, the nation's largest national daily (circulation: 2.1 million), and thus reached a total audience of more than 11 million readers.

For a small magazine like REASON to get that kind of coverage is especially difficult. "The competition for media attention is so great," explains Ross. "Everyone wants it, from the eccentric inventor trying to publicize his latest creation to Fortune 500 PR people cranking out press releases, plus all the other think tanks who are trying to get their views aired too."

So why have REASON's publicity efforts been so successful of late? It's not so much that the magazine's concerns have changed, Ross answers, but that peoples' ideas and attitudes have significantly changed. "In the past," Ross says, "the ideas presented in REASON were considered 'fringe'—privatization, deregulation, legalization of victimless crimes, noninterventionism in foreign disputes. Now, however, those same ideas are being taken seriously by a growing segment of the American population, especially among the baby-boom generation."

If Ross is right—and we think he is—then the magazine that takes individual liberty seriously is coming into its own. Pass it on.