Monday 26 January 2009

When to hold a Media Preview. Breaking all the rules this Thursday


As a publicist I am often asked the big question - When? - by clients. When should I have a press conference? When should I send out a news release? When is the best time not to be noticed?

Most clients want the most publicity possible for their projects, others want to release information at a time when that information isn't going to be noticed (i.e. poor earning reports). I have a few standard answers ... if your story is real news, it doesn't matter when you release the information to the media. However, if your news is "soft" - a book launch, an art opening, an entertainment act, a celeb that has already been interviewed, a press conference and so on - follow these rules:

Never spring a media event on the media .... give them 48 hours notice
Never on a Monday morning
Never on a Friday afternoon
Never on weekends
Never in the evenings (unless it is an entertainment or society story)
Never after midnight
Never on a holiday
Never during the Toronto Film Festival
Never when there are other similiar events being released at other venues
Never during rush hour if you aren't downtown
Never when there are Oscar / Golden Globe / Walk of Fame events happening
Never when the budget is being announced
... and the newest rule I just learned the hard way ... Never when Obama is being sworn in.

Now if you don't want people to notice your information release, look at the above list and change never to always!

Of course over the years I have been involved in projects that had to, for one reason or another, break the rules. I assisted the Ministry of Tourism with an Isabel Bassett press conference that was held one New Years Day. I suggested that no one would turn out. I was wrong, even though media outlets were operating with skelton crews, ours was the only news event in town and we packed the press conference room.

On behalf of a family who lost a young son (he was murdered in school) I organized two press conferences for them. The first press conference I gave the media 3 hours notice, the next one 60 minutes. I was shocked that ALL of Toronto's news media made both events.

I help the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario with their publicity needs. Over the past 14 years we have made a point of holding individual media previews for each new exhibition. Last year we had two exhibitions opening within days of each other. I suggested that it would be better to hold two media events rather than one. For budget/manpower reasons we held one large preview rather than two ... I was wrong, it was a big success. So this Thursday we are doing it again ... this time three major shows being presented to the media at once. All media are invited to help us break the rules by attending this important Canadian Cultural Event!


Meet Canadian War Artists at the McMichael premiere of a significant exhibition organized by the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in partnership with the Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence.

When: Thursday, January 29, 2009, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Where: McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg (just north of the Major Mackenzie Drive, Islington Avenue intersection)
Why: The McMichael Canadian Art Collection kicks off 2009 with three new, must-see exhibitions: A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan; Yousuf Karsh: Industrial Images; and “Karshed”: Yousuf Karsh Selected Portraits. A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan is an exhibition of extraordinary war art, premiering at the McMichael before it tours throughout Canada. Also, opening on January 31, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of iconic Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, McMichael visitors will have the opportunity to view two exhibitions that showcase a selection of Karsh’s industrial works and an exclusive collection of thirty of his rare, limited-edition portraits.
Who: Meet curators and artists involved in the creation of these exhibitions; meet McMichael Executive Director and CEO, Tom Smart.
Artists representing A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan will be Bill MacDonald, Scott Waters, Erin Riley, Sharon McKay, and Ken Steacy.

What: Three exhibitions: Yousuf Karsh: Industrial Images, January 31 – June 28, 2009
“Karshed”: Yousuf Karsh Selected Portraits, January 31 – June 28, 2009
A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan,
January 17 – June 14, 2009

About the Gallery
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is an agency of the Government of Ontario and acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Culture. It is the foremost venue in the country showcasing the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. In addition to touring exhibitions, its permanent collection consists of more than 5,500 artworks, including paintings by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, First Nations, and Inuit artists.

The gallery is located on Islington Avenue, north of Major Mackenzie Drive in Kleinburg, and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors/students and $30 for families. There is a $5 fee for parking. For more information about the gallery visit


To RSVP, for further information, or to receive high resolution photographs, contact:

Stephen Weir, Publicist
Gallery: 905.893.1121 ext. 2529
Toronto Office: 416.489.5868
Cell: 416.801.3101

Sunday 25 January 2009

Post Script to McMichael Media Preview of Three Art Exhibitions

So, after reading about how the McMichael Canadian Art Collection went against traditional PR practises and staged not one but three art exhibition media previews at the very same time on the very same day, you must be wondering how it played out? Very well -- although the very unstructed nature of the event(s) called for flexibility that even I found difficult to provide.
This is what happened. The National Post did not respond to the Media Alert. Instead, a reporter from the Ottawa Citizen called the gallery and conducted a phone interview about the Brush with War exhibition. His story appeared 10 days before the media event and was picked up by a number of Canwest papers. A few days before the Media Preview, the National Post called the gallery and requested pictures from the War exhibition. Three days before the Preview, the National Post ran a two-page expanded version of the Citizen story.
The Toronto Star called to say they wanted to see the two Karsh shows. "But", they told me, "We can't wait to Thursday. We have to come out Tuesday or we won't be able to come at all." Their reporter did visit the gallery and did get to see the Karsh exhibitions ... sorta. Not all of the pictures had been framed yet and nothing was hung ... we leaned the Karsh masterpieces against the freshly painted walls at floor level to give the reporter an idea of what the show will look like by the time the Media Preview rolls around.
The Vaughan Weekly came out a half-hour early on press preview day, and left just as the event began. The Vaughan Citizen, Rogers TV, a Chinese Daily Newspaper, Beach Digital and the Globe and Mail came out on Thursday at 11 and got to meet six war artists who saw action while covering Canada's involvement in peace keeping assignments and in war time. They also got to interview the three curators of the exhibitions and take pictures of the people installing the art. And, for the first time in years we had coffee and tea thanks to he Canadian Forces.
After the Media Preview ended a TV crew from Bravo came and did a story on all three shows (we asked the curators and artists to stay for the taping). At the very end of the day North Magazine came by to take photographs of the McMichael's CEO and the gallery's new head curator.
Great turnout for the McMichael even if they went, as usual, against Weir's rules for when to hold a press event.