CAMPAIGNS: Inviting opening helps Syndicate draw A-list crowd

PR Team: Syndicate (New York) Campaign: Subversion Time Frame: September 2002 - present Budget: $0

PR Team: Syndicate (New York) Campaign: Subversion Time Frame: September 2002 - present Budget: $0

When Nathan Ellis and Bridget Harrington formed their boutique PR firm in September, they lacked something every business needs: clients. Offering services such as media relations, events, niche marketing, and creative image and brand management, Syndicate looked to woo clientele from the hospitality, nightlife, entertainment, design, and fashion industries, and work with a target demographic of trendsetters, socialites, and celebrities. Their first instinct was to find a networking opportunity - a way to penetrate the exclusive markets. Strategy While serving as marketing director for the Soho Grand Hotel, Harrington had worked with Ellis to attract a desirable crowd to the hotel's nightlife space without the use of expensive promoters. They decided to apply some of the lessons learned from that experience to create their own event, and get their firm into the most exclusive and elusive circles with a simple and inexpensive concept. "The conundrum is how to get an A-list crowd without looking like we're trying too hard," says Ellis, noting that they wanted to keep the events low-key, and be free to mingle. Tactics What began as a good idea soon blossomed into a course of action. The concept was to take influential media figures, such as magazine editors, and let them DJ a party in an exclusive location. "They're known for their taste," Ellis says. Not to mention the fact that A-listers would want to gain some favor and mingle with the press, and Syndicate would create valuable relationships with top editors in their sector. Locking in DJs turned out to be a relatively simple task, since some had already spun before. Headliners have included Vibe editor-in-chief Emil Wilbekin, W fashion director Joe Zee, Spin editor-in chief Sia Michel, and Nylon editor-in-chief Marvin Jarret. There was no need for editors to worry if they weren't as familiar with operating turntables. "We have someone there to help them DJ while we host. We've got it down to a science," Ellis says. Harrington and Ellis secured the bar at the Soho-based Mercer Hotel, Submercer, an obscure lounge accessible only by guests of the hotel or those on the guest list once called "brutally hip" by No money needed to be exchanged, as the hotel would get a crowd to fill its bar. Though the saying says, "Location, location, location," a trendy bar is not enough to create a successful celebrity event. As Ellis and Harrington knew from the start, the art of elitism is exclusion. Promotion and invitation is by personal e-mail only, and attendance is limited by a guest list. Results "It's been a really nice crowd," says Ellis. "A sophisticated crowd, and the DJs have been surprisingly good." Attendees have included Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, model Devon Aoki, filmmaker Bart Freundlich, actress Claire Danes, and musician Moby. The party itself has generated press for the venue, its attendees, and Syndicate, including mentions in the New York Post, Women's Wear Daily, Fashion Wire Daily, Italian Vogue, Fashion TV, and New York magazine. "Some editors have returned for encores, and gone on to DJ elsewhere," says Harrington, "and copycat parties have started up in New York and LA." Syndicate's networking has also paid off in growth. Since the parties began, the firm has added seven clients, including a magazine, a lounge, and a hotel. "We started the company just doing these parties in August, and we had zero clients," says Harrington. "Now we are working with seven. So what is that? A 700% increase in business for our tiny company." Plus, the only budget used is a few hours of time, once a week. Future Syndicate hopes to continue the parties for a while longer. But, Ellis says, "You have to know when to cut it off."

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