PR TECHNIQUE: EVENTS - A place with some there there: finding the right venue. Locating a unique locale for an event gets more and more difficult. But, as Claire Atkinson discovers, there are new tools out there to help

Every smart publicist knows the importance of bagging a great venue.

Every smart publicist knows the importance of bagging a great venue.

Every smart publicist knows the importance of bagging a great


An unusual or exciting location can help impress the ’been there, seen

that’ press crowd and give your product or event an added talking


A still-common way to find out about venues is the oldest. Some of New

York’s most influential PR pros insist that locating a new locale is

simply a matter of ’word of mouth.’ Nadine Johnson, who has spearheaded

events for Harper’s Bazaar and Web firm Razor Fish, finds out about new

openings from friends.

Maureen Marwick, vice president of special events at Cairns &

Associates, says she has received great advice from friends, caterers

and film scouts.

Marwick also chats to realtors, which is how she discovered Howard

Hughes’ former penthouse - overlooking the New York Public Library and

with a view of the Empire State Building. The all-white rooms provided a

perfect backdrop for a skin-care event focusing on women and beauty.

Publicists have more tools than ever - both online and off - for

information about places to hold their parties, press launches and


Then there are newspapers and magazines. Marwick recommends Women’s Wear

Daily as a good source for what’s hip with the fashion crowd. Music and

entertainment PR specialist Robert Rave says gossip columns are the

places most people track for the hottest venues. Listings titles such as

Time Out New York can help you scoop out unfamiliar territory, while

other PR companies recommend checking out bridal magazines for

interesting reception areas.

Event-services titles are a good resource for finding everything from

the well-catered conference room to the castle or museum to house your

event. One such magazine is Agenda, published in Boston, Chicago,

Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, southern California and

Washington, DC.

Agenda also puts out a magazine called Venues, which combines all the

cities above and carries a certain amount of free listing space for PR

pros repping venues. Locations magazine - Agenda’s more upscale

competitor - provides a similar service, listing venues in New York and

New Jersey.

In addition to the thick magazine pubs, there are directories to help

focus your search. The Guide to Unique Meetings Facilities is published

annually by Amarc and costs dollars 40. Its Web site,,

lists thousands of places all over North America - from a New Orleans

wax museum to aquariums, retreats, universities and converted churches.

You can’t book anything through, but it does offer a

section called ’Hot Dates, Cool Rates,’ which provides information on

availability, special offers, rates and sales contacts.

Planning out-of-town events has become less of a hassle thanks to these

Web-based initiatives. Some event Web sites - and there are hundreds -

allow you to issue a request for proposal (RFP). has

standardized its RFP forms to enable PR pros to make like-with-like

comparisons between hotels.

PlanSoft’s investors include hotel groups Hyatt, Marriott and


The site offers panoramic photography online as well as diagrams of

meeting rooms. The information is verified four times a year. offers a service called Bookit, which returns quotes to

agencies within 48 hours. It does, however, require overnight guestroom

reservations. Better still, use the site’s auction service and get

venues to bid on your business. Another site is

If these suggestions don’t turn up what you’re looking for, there is a

myriad of trade associations with amazing resources to help you find a

suitable site. The International Association of Conference Centers

( lets users send out an RFP, while the International

Institute of Convention Management ( will provide some

basic pointers about putting meetings together.

The virtual world offers a range of communities to assist in organizing

your event. Check out, the Web site of Meeting

Professionals International, or Meetings Industry Mall at

Both offer support for planners.

There are, of course, many factors to take into consideration when

deciding on a location. Marwick and colleague Nicky Reinard, an

associate director, look for some element that will tie in with their

project. A recent launch for designer Perry Ellis was held on Ellis

Island - get it? Sometimes, though, the two women are simply looking for

a plain conference room in a hotel to redecorate themselves.

Another thing to take into consideration might be securing

confidentially from the staff about the event.

Some PR pros prefer to book high-profile meetings at the last minute to

prevent leaks. For its press conference to announce its purchase of CBS,

Viacom selected the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan based on last-minute

availability, according to Carl Folta, Viacom’s senior VP of corporate


When negotiating rates, it is worth mentioning that venues often become

part of background for reporters’ stories. That type of publicity can

often help drive business for hotels, bars and conference centers.

Finally, if you’re an agency, it’s also worth taking on a venue as a

client. ’If I rep a space, I’ll try to take it there first,’ says Robert

Rave. The venue gets the extra business and you get a cut-price place to

hold your event.



1. Scan the local gossip columns to find places generating buzz.

2. Use entertainment and bridal magazines as a source of


3. Talk to realtors and suppliers about places they’ve seen.

4. Turn the search on its head and get people to bid for your business

via online auctions.

5. Think about adding a venue to your client roster. It will help drive

its business and get you cheaper rates for your other clients’



1. Book a place without seeing it and without knowing someone who’s been


2. Use a venue that’s too creative - it could overshadow the project.

You want the media to write about you, not the location.

3. Forget to check restrictions on use before you send out the


4. Invite more people than your venue can hold. You need a strict door

policy if the event is likely to be a key attraction.

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