Forget all the hand wringing about the declining box office, slowing music sales, and how the Internet is luring viewers from TV.
The American entertainment industry still has a major grip on the public, and one indicator of that is the fascination with major awards shows.
Whether it's the Grammys, Oscars, or MTV Awards, these shows tend to draw major TV ratings and the interest of entertainment reporters for one big reason: "It's the celebrities," notes Michael Russell, founder of The Michael Russell Group, which handles PR for the Golden Globes. "If you look at US, People, and other celebrity weeklies, their circulations are rocketing, and for that exact same reason, shows like the Golden Globes grow in popularity every year."
Wendy Pearl, senior director of communications for the Country Music Association, which hosts the annual CMA Awards, adds: "The media like to cover them because there's the glam factor and the fashion angle. It's also one-stop shopping because you have all the stars there at one time, and it's easy to pick up a lot of interviews."
Speculation about who will win the various major awards has become a year-round media activity these days, and music publicist Susan Blond suggests that trend can serve a double purpose: raising awareness for the shows themselves, as well as the artists being mentioned as potential nominees.
Most awards voters resent direct high-pressure pitches during the balloting process, but Blond says more general media outreach can often be just as effective, adding, "You want to be in the face of those voters when they're casting votes."
As for the shows themselves, Russell suggests awards shows are one venue where treatment of journalists can definitely impact coverage. "One reason for our popularity with reporters is that we treat them as part guests and make sure there are rooms for interviews and photographs, a deadline room, and a one-on-one room that can handle up to 10 TV crews."
Even without major TV, music, and film stars on hand, Rogers & Cowan VP Wendy Zaas says you can still manufacture a celebrity component. Zaas has handled PR for the Spike TV Video Game Awards and the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Interactive Achievement Awards and says, "You can attract media attention by treating people, such as the developer of the game God of War, as a celebrity. It's about positioning them as major names in an entertainment field that makes more money than theatrical movies."
PITCHING... awards shows
The care and feeding of the press can play a big role in determining how much coverage you get, so make sure you're giving reporters plenty of access to celebrities and provide the technology that helps them generate and send their stories
Extend the media window by working with the press on stories speculating on who may get nominated and what it could do for a star's career
TV networks carrying awards shows have a stake in their success, as well, so work with their marketing/PR departments on joint promotions that build interest and suspense