Wednesday 11 March 2009

Event PR Has To Fight the "Same Old Same Old" Syndrome. Meanwhile Inflation Hits the Nigerian Scam

Same Old, Same Old For Your Event This Year? No Way! (As The Publicist Has To Say Each Spring) While Scam Artists Worry About the Same Old Same Old

When I am wearing my publicist hat and holding out my PR begging bowl to the media (please please please cover my event) I dread hearing these four words. Same Old. Same Old.
Reoccurring cultural events like ScotiaBank Caribana, Toronto's Pride Parade, Harbourfront's various weekend festivals and to a lesser extent Luminato, are Canadian summertime institutions. They have a winning formula that continues to catch the attention of both tourists and people living in Toronto. Combined the four events have an audience base approaching four million people. they are successful in part because they don't change much from year-to-year ... hence the fear of Same Old, Same Old.
With festivals that attract a million+ visitors there is never enough time or money to launch an effective advance marketing campaign. Ads should be placed in major cities across North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia months before the event takes place ( hit 'em when they are still making summer holiday travel decisions). But, budgets being what they are, organizers are lucky to get advertisements placed in local media outlets a few days before the big event.
In the absence of advertising, a public relations team can bring advance attention to an event provided. of course. there is "Something New" -- a hook to get the interest of the media. Calling a news desk to pitch a story that you pitch a variant of every March for the past ten years won't bring on the ink.
Finding a "positive" angle these days is a Herculean Task. Biggest question I am getting when I call is "How Bad Is It Going to Be This Year?", or "Who Has Been Let Go". As well, finding a media person to talk to is harder in 2009 than ever before. Reporters are being fired, radio stations are laying off, television stations are closing down and on-line news services are so over-burdened with work they demand a pitch with a maximum of 8 words and they count UHM as one word (don't even thinking of clearing your throat or coughing).
The temptation is to simply lie low, and keep your mouth shut till your event is a couple of away. Good strategy if you don't bill monthly and you have a client that doesn't expect results.
Luckily, for publicists there is always a silver lining, even if you have to make it up. For instance, this month I have been predicting that Caribana will attract more Americans to Toronto then have been seen in the past three summers?
Bold PR BS? No. After talking with a tourism expert we realized that a weekend in Toronto costs far less in 2009 than in 2008 and 2007. Hotels and restaurants have lowered their prices, gas is cheap once again and the all-mighty Canadian dollar isn't mighty anymore. What cost an American $10 last year will cost only about $7.50 this year.
Meanwhile, for the embattled American tourist, some of the traditional summer events held at other destinations have either been cancelled or scaled back. Prices at American destinations have sagged but not by 28% Compared to a trip to Disney, or New York City, or Trinidad, a drive to Toronto suddenly becomes attractive!
Will it work? Don't know, but, at least it isn't same old same old.
OF NOTE: Even creators of the Nigerian Scam fear the Same Old Same Old. I have noticed of late that the people sending out those badly spelled money pitches (you know ... we want to send you scads of money that no one knows is kept in a Nigerian bank) have started inflating the pot of gold they want to give you. In 2008 I was receiving offers from people wanting to send me anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million dollars.
Well the bar has been raised. Last week I was offered $8 million from a person dying from cancer. Another, a clerk at a Lagos bank, dangled $9 million in my inbox. A poor dying nun in Italy topped that this week by offering me a $1Billion. It didn't work but at least it isn't the same old, same old.
Cutline: Picture of Caribana dancer taken by Palm cell phone (by mistake)