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
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
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, theguide.com,
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 theguide.com, 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). PlanSoft.com 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.
Eventsource.com 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 Allmeetings.com.
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
(www.iacconline.com) lets users send out an RFP, while the International
Institute of Convention Management (www.cicm.com) 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 www.mpiweb.org, the Web site of Meeting
Professionals International, or Meetings Industry Mall at www.mim.com.
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.
DOs AND DON’Ts
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.