Media Mastery

By Jim McCloskey

Many years ago, a gentleman by the name of Jack McNairy said something during a meeting of the National Spa & Pool Institute’s Board of Directors that has always stuck with me.

It was in the late 1980s or very early ’90s, when Jack was running his distribution business in Texas and also publishing a newsprint tabloid called Swimming Pool & Spa Dealer News.  The discussion of the moment was about industry promotion and how difficult it was to get favorable coverage in the media.

Jack took the floor well into the discussion and, dropping his half-glasses on the table and working his best Texas twang, said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have to accept the fact that our products have no literary merit whatsoever.”  He went on to explain that there wasn’t anything compelling enough about pools or spas that a newspaper or magazine would give them anything more than slight seasonal attention – and nothing at all that would incline the broadcast networks to do more than use watershapes as pretty backdrops in ads and on television shows.

I don’t remember the effect his comment had on the board, but as a media guy, it bumped me sideways a few paces.

At the time, I was on NSPI’s Promote Committee, and we were deliberating on ways to spend $500,000 that had been raised and allocated to spread the news about the virtues of pools and spas to a national audience.  We knew we had a mountain to climb, and none of us was terribly surprised to learn just how little a splash a half-million bucks would make in the media bucket.

But oh, what a difference a couple decades make.  At this point, there are two regularly scheduled television shows on Animal Planet about watershape design and construction – one featuring no less a personage than Anthony Archer Wills, who is not only one of WaterShapes’ most stellar contributors but is also one of my favorite people – and another about ponds on the National Geographic Society’s NatGeo Wild channel, this one featuring the folks at Aquascape..

Somehow, in some way — and without industry funding — watershaping has managed to develop the elusive literary merit Jack McNairy defined for it more than 20 years ago, and I know he’d be both proud and rather stunned to see the transformation.  I know I am.


Speaking of literary merit, my friend Randy Beard sent me a link to a newscast in which he recently participated that described a particular consequence of runoff and water-reclamation policies in Newport Beach, Calif. – rules that spell “opportunity” for watershapers in big, bold letters.

The requirements with new development now specify that water must be captured on site rather than allowed to run into the city’s storm drains and, via that system, into the ocean.  What Randy is doing (and I assume he’s not alone) is installing large capturing tanks to store incidental runoff from irrigation as well as rainwater collected by gutters and downspouts, all for on-site recycling as irrigation water.

These days, California municipalities are doing whatever it takes to conserve and protect water, including a mandate such as this one that really had little to do with the drought but has huge implications for how watershapers can get involved in helping limit ongoing water consumption.  If ever there was a true win-win situation related to the dry days ahead, this might be it.

To see the news story on the situation in Newport Beach, click here.

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