"If you can deliver your messages without doing a [large] event, by all means, do it another way," says Maria Kalligeros, CRT/tanaka EVP and consumer practice director. "There's a lot of wear and tear with events in terms of time, expense, and planning."
Desk-side visits can often be the best kind of "event," she notes, helping busy reporters save time by bringing firms and clients directly to journalists' desks.
Events have their uses, of course: CRT/tanaka promoted the wines of Rioja through a trip it organized to the Spanish province for food and travel writers, providing material for features they could or would not otherwise have written.
Scott Krugman, VP of PR for the National Retail Federation (NRF), agrees that a gimmick event that doesn't provide added value isn't worth doing.
"There's a guy in my office who's fond of saying, 'If it ain't catered, it ain't covered,'" he says. "I don't necessarily believe that anymore. Especially in DC, you can get free food any day of the week."
Krugman says the NRF's recent "Cyber Monday" event at DC's ESPN Zone (pictured), to which the general public was invited for free food and Internet access for online shopping, gave broadcast reporters ready-made footage for something otherwise hard to illustrate. It also provided reporters a chance to interview NRF officials.
Jake Ward, a director at Qorvis Communications, says brown-bag lunches, particularly when the target audience is high-tech or other trade reporters, provide efficient access to company executives while allowing media to ask a range of questions suitable to the particular focus of their outlets.
"Conflict sells, process stories are hard, and quotes make a story great," he adds. "Food [is] much less important than quotes."
- One-on-one meetings are generally preferable to time-consuming big events
- Reporters can buy their own food and drink; what they want are quotes and unique story angles
- Events can provide video footage or illustrate a context journalists might not otherwise appreciate