Wednesday 18 September 2013

Deciding on a location - It is a Presser dark art!


The Honourable Hilary Mary Weston at the podium - downtown Loblaws

 By Stephen Weir
(from a Huffington Post Blog by the author)

I have done it in a plane. Once on a train. There was that time amongst Cuba's sugar cane. Always too often in the rain, and even yes, in Spain (well a Spanish restaurant). I have never organised or attended one held in a meat market .... until today. I am rhyming 'bout the kick-off Press Conference - the bread-and-butter event of any PR campaign.
In the dark arts of organising successful press conferences, often one of the trickiest, most over-thought and criticised decisions is where you are going to actually stage the presser.  In a hotel ballroom? In a theatre? In a park? At City Hall?
Locating where you hold a briefing for the media is considered a make-or-break decision for an expensive launch. A great location doesn't guarantee good coverage, however, a poor location will hinder the media turn-out.
You want to be easily accessible to the major media outlets. There has to be parking.  If it is a BIG news story it is a must to have room out front for a couple TV sat trucks (whether they show up or not is a different issue).  You have to be sure that the media's cars and trucks won't get towed.
The endless list continues. There has to be free Wifi for social media. There should be public transit close by, and, most importantly, the location has to be media neutral -- you never ever want to hold a presser in the parking lot of CTV headquarters and expect the CBC to show up!
What about holding it in a grocery store in a space between a counter dishing out stinky gorganzola and head cheese and the dash-and-go prepared egg salad sandwich bar?  Would you have a former Lieutenant Governor and a UK "Lady" announce a literary prize while shoppers try to navigate their carts past newspaper scribes, TV crews and radio reporters.  My answer would be  NO. Never. Too Risky.
But, I would be wrong.  This morning I attended the Hilary Weston Prize  Non-Fiction Shortlist announcement that was held at the downtown Toronto Loblaws store (the old Maple Leaf Gardens) in the aisle between the deli counter and the pre-made lunch item coolers.  
The Writer's Trust annual non-fiction award now bears the name and the patronage of the former Lieutenant Governor.  Hilary and her husband Galen Weston, along with Baroness Black of Crossharbour (Barbara Amiel), were the three "big name draws" at the morning presser.  I wager none of them would ever be spotted bellying up to the Meat Counter and ordering a pound of ground but today they were happy to share the aisles with downtown shoppers.
Loblaws, owned by the Weston family, has also come on board big time helping to sponsor the large annual Canadian non-fiction book prize. They wanted to show the media how they would soon be putting the five books on this morning's shortlist into grocery stores across the nation.  Juxtaposing the wealth of one of Canada's richest families with every-day people queueing up to buy grub, effectively brought home the message that for most Canadian authors, writing a non-fiction book is a hand-to-mouth experience.  Winning this particular prize will give one starving author the ability to move from the wieners 'n' beans shelf to crackers and foie gras in Aisle Five.
Back to the actual press conference, the set-up team put in a sound system and stage that easily overcame the noise and sight line problems one might expect in a meat market! This is the second year that the event has been held at Loblaws and the number of media covering the shortlist announcement has mushroomed  - oops, wrong food reference since this morning's press conference location decision was a long way away from the veggies, fruits and nuts!