My biggest gaffe: losing sight of the product at a product launch

Sue Hardwick, co-founder of Global Women In PR, learned the hard way that to host a successful product launch you need the actual product.

The sun was shining, the marina was full; press and VIP customers were arriving and all that remained was to check on the location of the new BMW-powered ‘unsinkable’ motor yacht that I was due to launch.

It was press day at the Brighton Boat Show – but all was not well. The berth designated for this ‘unique’ vessel was empty. Invites had been issued, caterers were arriving with cold Champagne and canapes, and I had no boat to launch.

Finding a landline was the first challenge; it was a new marina and facilities were limited – a pay phone was the only option. Having spent handfuls of loose change, it became very clear that the problem was real – the boat was definitely not going to get there in time. No chance to send apologetic texts to cancel; this was in the era before mobile phones and instant messaging. A fax wasn’t going to cut it.

There was nothing else I could do except run the party. In true Ab Fab style the guests and empty bottles almost sank the pontoons. There were of course the inevitable ghost ship jokes, but one journalist took pity on me and promised to do the launch live on air if the boat got there before 7pm.

It did (just) and we got some good local coverage, but we didn’t get the TV cameras or national press that I’d so carefully organised. BMW was very understanding and I kept it as a key client. Nevertheless it was a lesson learned – don’t assume you have a product to launch until you can actually see it.

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