Wednesday 20 May 2009

North America’s getting the Caribanabuzz


The Buzz has already started! Websites. Blogs. Twitter talk. Newspapers. Radio and Television. The Scotiabank train has just left the station and is picking up steam.
It is May and the flowers are only now beginning to come out, yet, people are talking about this summer’s festival already, using words like, bigger, better and international. Why is it all this excitement beginning so early this year?
The big reason is that the media has turned its collective eye on the festival, predicting to its readers, listeners and viewers that Scotiabank Caribana will be the recession buster for Toronto’s tourism industry. They learned this late last month when the Festival held its kick-off press launch at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Over 45 reporters, photographers, videographers and bloggers from 22 different media outlets covered the one-hour morning press conference. The “presser” was information heavy – news about new corporate sponsors, new media partners and increase in support from title sponsor Scotiabank was released by Scotiabank Caribana.
The big story, delivered by Christine Williams, vice-president of Scotiabank, is that the bank has extended its two-year sponsorship of Caribana by an additional three-years. This is the second year that the bank is sponsoring the festival – so the bank’s name will be twinned with Caribana until at least 2012.
David Whittaker the CEO of Tourism Toronto and Joe Halstead, the head of Scotiabank Caribana talked candidly to the media about the economic climate in North America at the press conference. They told the media heavy audience that they expect large numbers of GTA residents will be staying in Toronto this summer and hundreds of thousands of them are talking about taking in the festival for the very first time. And, in the US border states, people will be looking to the festival as “The” vacation of the summer -- with a lower Canadian dollar, reduced gas prices, and special Caribana hotel and restaurant packages luring them north.
The MCs for the event were: Melissa Grelo, Co-host, CP24 BREAKFAST (left) and Andria Case, Anchor and Reporter, CTV News ( The pair was at the podium directing the press conference because CTV and CP24 are the new television media partners for the festival. CTV was the media partner two years ago. All news CP24 – recently acquired by CTV - has never been a media partner of the festival.
CP24 broadcast the press conference live on television and the Internet. As well, new radio partner; CFRB conducted a live on-air interview from the Museum during its noon news programme. CFRB has been a media partner of the festival for many years; however, it was not a sponsor in 2008.
The festival announced at the presser that the Toronto Sun is once again the newspaper sponsor of the festival and that Sway is the official magazine of Scotiabank Caribana and Toronto Lime is the on-line media partner.
Three media representatives in the audience found out first hand about Scotiabank Caribana’s newest corporate sponsor … the Blackberry phone. There was a lucky draw held following the press conference and three reporters went home with new Blackberry cell phones. The festival’s PR department has already fielded requests from phoneless reporters wondering when the next press conference and Blackberry draw is going to be held!
CUTLINE:CTV and CP-24 are the new media partners for Caribana'09. The two TV newsrooms sent help for April kick-off of ScotiaBank Caribana 09. Master of Ceremonies are: Melissa Grelo, Co-host, CP24 BREAKFAST (left) and Andria Case, Anchor and Reporter, CTV News


Interested in covering Caribana events for your blog, website, newspaper, radio, television or newspaper? Make sure you feel out a media application located on the Scotiabank

Friday 8 May 2009

Just When You Think There Is Nothing New Under The Sun, Along Comes the Air Miles Hustler.


Writing press releases can be a soul destroying experience. Take a look at the newswire sometime. On any given work day the wire pumps out over 3,000 press releases to a dwindling discouraged press fraternity. Yesterday's deluge ranged from "2/3's of Householders Armed Against Intruders, Says Direct Line" (7% would go as far as to use an axe) to "Walmart Canada invests $115 million, employs 1,400 to build state-of-the-art, sustainable distribution hub in Alberta".
Catching the attention of the world press with witty, newsworthy, succinctly worded prose is a daunting daylong task. An hour into the process you (well at least me) realize that there isn't anything-new left to say in a release. Four hours later you are convinced that there is nothing-new left to write about anything. At the end of the day? You are convinced there is nothing new on the planet that will ever be of the remotest interest to any of the 3-billion people currently living.
And then you meet someone like Seth Miller.
Taking a break from press releases and accepting an assignment to write a story about scuba diving off the coast of Pompano Beach, I found myself spending a Friday in April riding a dive boat with a shipload of strangers out on the rolling Atlantic Ocean.
In between dives, we are all stripped down to t-shirts and bathing suits. Lips blue from the cold, hair caked with salt, all barriers are down, everyone is equal and knowing we will never meet again, we all talk about what we know best ... ourselves.
Seth Miller is a New Jersey, freelance computer expert and an avid collector of air miles. For almost two years Miller has been buying the cheapest airline tickets he can find that give him the most air mile points possible. The farther he can travel with the most number of stops, the happier he is. And if he gets bumped? Nirvana.
Last month he flew to Hamburg, Germany and spent 36 hours straight wandering the city (saves on hotels). Tomorrow he jets out to Ontario, California. He plans to stay four hours and then fly back to New Jersey ... with plane changes in Phoenix, Chicago and Washington DC.
Why does he do this? He is collecting air miles to take his wife first class to Singapore. Unique? He says not. In his travels he meets other people just like himself and they swap information about the best deals out there. Of course when he shares a room on the road with a fellow air miles hustlers, the guy putting down the plastic gets the hotel reward points. His bags are always packed. He is a man with a plan … and close to a million air miles. Check out his website at:
Beats writing press releases.

CUTLINE: Seth Miller in harbour on board a dive boat.