PR TECHNIQUE: EVENTS PLANNING - Out to launch: Choosing the rightvenue. The best launch event won't work if you can't attract the media

A key to doing so, finds Aleksandra Todorova, is often three simple words: location, location, location.

A key to doing so, finds Aleksandra Todorova, is often three simple words: location, location, location.

"If you build it, they will come, worked great for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but PR pros know that when it comes to throwing a launch event, "building it - or launching it - is not as simple. Finding the perfect launch venue, for example, is more important to attract media presence and public attention than most people would think.

PR firms are often fighting for the attention of busy journalists in understaffed newsrooms, so a time-tested technique to attract media to your event is to stage it at a place with high visibility and accessibility.

"The press is into which celebrities will be there and how accessible they will be for photos and interviews - they don't like (celebrities) caught in a crowd of people, says Chip Stevenson, VP at 823 Productions, which recently did a launch party for liquor drink Tanqueray No. Ten, and has done PR for Mattel, and Harry Potter Entertainment.

It's wise to give journalists their own space on site - a press room with a good web connection so they can promptly report to editors, suggests Karen Schiff, managing director of NYPR. "Don't make it hard for journalists.

Give them careful, detailed directions as to the spot and timing of the event, she says. "And don't waste their time."

When it comes to saving time, location is vital - you can't bring the event close to all journalists invited, but the closer to most of them, the better. The central location of Times Square Studios, originally meant to host TV news and entertainment shows exclusively, makes it a preferred launch site in New York City.

Paulette Wolf Events & Entertainment, a company with 30-plus years of event planning experience, chose Times Square Studios to launch Gary Kasparov's website (www.kasparov. com), and had the whole of Times Square watch the chess champion play with 30 of the world's smartest children.

In another event at the Studios, Times Square got so crowded with bystanders that the police had to revert traffic, recalls Tim Hayes, manager of special events at Times Square Studios. "When (the event) is partially open to the public, and we've got hundreds of people on the streets, it really has an impact on the city, he says. "It becomes a city event - and that's when the media gets excited, and you can see it come through in the copy."

Journalists also get excited when the launch is staged somewhere hot and new. But how do you find hot new places? Read, read, read, says Stevenson - he keeps updated on hot spots with Time Out New York, New York Magazine, and even the New York Post's gossip columns. Another resource is BizBash.com, which lists more than 1,000 venues, and has a New Venue guide of places scheduled to open within a year. Other sites to check regularly are Citysearch. com, the ultimate search engine for fun new spots and events, and Sheckys.com, with its cool "bar of the day, "new bars, and "bar buzz features.

And don't underestimate the power of gossiping with PR colleagues to find out where they did their last event? "PR pros, we're all in this together, and we can help each other, says Maggie Gallant, president of Spotlight Publicity. Gallant considers creativity an indispensable part of finding the perfect launch venue. "Don't just assume it should be a nightclub or hotel, she says. "If it's easy to think of, it's not a good idea. Never do what's obvious."

Sometimes PR pros need to go beyond the obvious to impress a client who wants the venue to perfectly match the product. In October 2000, Golin/ Harris International launched Nintendo's Pokemon Gold at Fort Knox, KY, the nation's largest gold reserve. In the last few weeks, Grimoldi Milano introduced the Borgonovo watch at the Tourneau Time Machine in New York City. And for Virgin Atlantic Airways' recent inaugural London-Chicago flight launch, Paulette Wolf worked with Edelman to transform an empty warehouse - model Virgin Atlantic planes flew between two food stations that had been recreated into the airline's London and Chicago icons.

All these launches were backed by serious budgets. But not all PR pros have that kind of cash available, rendering price negotiating opportunities as important for choosing a venue as its other characteristics. Event planners say, though, that things aren't all that bad. Empty bars and conference halls after 9-11 have drawn their owners into the negotiating mood.

"Everything is negotiable - be it the catering, the space, even the floor it will be on, says Gallant. She also suggests using the venue exposure to your advantage - you can use attending celebrities, politicians, and journalists to negotiate a lower fee, based on the potential coverage the venue might get.

But make sure you don't skimp on the food or the staff, warns Paulette Wolf president Jodi Wolf. "I would rather have no decor than not serve good food, she says. "The two things people remember most are the food and entertainment."

But if restaurants or bars are not appropriate for the launch, there's always what many consider "the easy way out - trade shows where the press and all the right industry people are already invited. However, selecting the best trade show for your product launch can be tricky.

Amy Riemer, whose company Riemer Communications recently did a successful launch of ExpoDisc at BookExpo America, suggests that event managers should constantly communicate with the PR firm behind the trade show, and make sure they know about the upcoming launch. It's also a good idea to tell the trade publications doing previews of the show about the product so they can include it in pre-event issues.

Riemer recommends smaller, industry-specific trade shows. "If you can be the big fish in the small pond, it makes a lot more sense, she says.

At a huge expo, you'll compete with industry giants who've spent millions on their launch campaigns. To find upcoming trade shows, check out TScentral.com, with its database of more than 15,000 trade shows and 30,000 seminars.

You can also contact companies such as Carat Freeman (www.caratfreeman.com), which consult clients about which trade shows are best for their purposes.

TECHNIQUE TIPS
1. Do know your audience before you look for a venue
2. Do know the people at the venue you will work with and give them
detailed event plans 3 Do network with your PR colleagues, and read,
read, read about possible venues
1. Don't book the first venue you see. And look carefully at each one -
every detail matters
2. Don't cut on food or entertainment to save money
3. Don't go for the obvious - be three times as creative as the
journalists you'll invite

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