Thursday 16 June 2011

What does a publicist do? Muse on when is the best time to try to have dialogue with the media


A publicist does very little real work in any given week. Oh, we are busy busy busy but .... We tell people what they know. We make calls and send emails to people who don't want to hear from us. And we worry about the what ifs and the why nots. About the only true work that we do is to give sage advice, based on experience, as to when and where media announcements should be made.
Don't do it on a Friday or a Monday. Never on Weekends. Avoid doing anything during the Film Festival. Never hold a media event at a location you need a GPS to find and never never never hold a press conference after 4pm.
Of course there are always exceptions. Only last summer we held a media tour of a secret art vault in a secret location, and the response was overwhelming.
I have been advising Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Festival, or Carnival or Scotiabank Caribana, about holding the annual July 15th media kick-off to the festival. We usually hold it at City Hall in Toronto and we get hundreds of media covering the event. Women and Men in costume, Entertainers. Speeches. Spectators by the thousands. This year the location has to be moved.
Initially the Festival wanted to work with Harbourfront to stage the event on the waterfront. Not a great idea. Harbourfront wants revenue and attendance but has strict marketing agreements in place (our sponsor CTV can't hang banners because CBC owns the rights ... etc), extreme unionized set-up/security costs, no parking and an unwillingness to let the Festival have its launch during business hours. (Harbourfront insisted on a 7pm start).
I convinced the organizers not to hold the July 15th media launch at Harbourfront. Meetings were held and I learned yesterday that the Launch would be held at the new David Pecault Square on King Street (beside Metro City Hall) across the street from the CBC. Great location. Easy to reach. No logo strings attached.
A Publicist's Dream? No. The launch has been set for 5pm. Aghh. It is rush hour downtown, all media trucks will be tagged and towed, and office workers rarely pause on their rush out the door to catch the red rocket, the Go train or the King St street car.
It is all about timing. Here is a note I sent out to the Launch committee in respect to the timing of a media event. The matter has not be resolved.

Regarding the proposed Pecault launch.

My comments are soley based on how the media works in Toronto. These are the same comments I sent out when it looked like we would have an evening launch at Harbourfront. I wish I could change my message but the reality is that unless we have a really really really big name on stage, the 5pm event will get little media coverage.
To get the most media coverage possible, you hold events when most of the media is working. You also hold it where the media can easily reach. That is why almost all media conferences and launches are held in downtown Toronto between 9am and 2pm Monday to Friday.
Basically the vast majority of journalists, videographers, photographers etc work an 8 hour day, usually 8 to 4. Most daily newspapers expect their reporters to file before 5pm. Most of the name journalists/broadcasters only work Monday to Friday. We also have 4 community papers that come out on Wednesdays or Thursdays. For the Wednesday paper, they have to file very early on a Tuesday.
Media do keep staff on the job after 5pm but they are usually specific beat reporters/new/students/B-team and don't command much space/time on the reports they file. By 5pm, all the soft news for print and broadcast have already been lined up.
If we proceed with the 5pm roll out we will get CP-24, CFTO (probably live), Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Lime and probably the Caribbean Camera. If the event is at noon we will get 40 or more media covering the event. Last year we had 100 register at the media tent.
Without the media covering the event, is it worth the expense to put on a show for a 1,000 spectators?
Last Friday night the cash rich, super connected Lumanito had an opening event at the David Pecault Square - 7 pm. Free. Media was invited to cover. How many people reading this posting were aware that this event was held and do you think it was a successful media event?