Ensuring security is a key event consideration

From approving guest lists to meeting with caterers, PR pros must often handle the intricacies of a client's event, be it a 1,000-seat dinner or an intimate nightclub opening. One detail that can't be overlooked is security, both for clients' property and their guests.

From approving guest lists to meeting with caterers, PR pros must often handle the intricacies of a client's event, be it a 1,000-seat dinner or an intimate nightclub opening. One detail that can't be overlooked is security, both for clients' property and their guests.

For the past 14 years, LA-based Michael Russell Group (MRG) has handled PR for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual Golden Globe Awards, an internationally televised gala firm principal Michael Russell calls "one of top glamour events of the year worldwide ... For one night, the Beverly Hilton becomes a city of 7,000 people."

This year, in addition to more than 250 law enforcement agents, MRG partnered with Jerry Mark's EventCredentials to ensure that everyone in attendance - stars, publicists, and media - would be safely accounted for.

According to Russell, all Globes attendees apply online. When approved, they are presented with photo IDs, each embedded with a scannable computer chip. On the night of the awards, MRG's five-person staff works with representatives from the Hilton and domestic broadcast partner NBC to keep track of the comings and goings of each ceremony guest.

"The nine-acre property is on total lockdown," Russell says. "We've got it down to a science."

Along with awards shows come gifting suites, where the thousands of dollars of products on display - and the high-profile guests who drop by to check them out - present their own security issues.

"Most celebrities [will] have their own security detail," says Backstage Creations (BC) president Karen Wood. She says her Santa Monica, CA-based firm "works hand-in-hand" with guests' protection teams, allowing them to check the typically low-key suites for ambience and safety in advance of their clients' entrances.

"The key is building relationships," Wood says. To develop trust, celebrities and other VIP guests "need to know who you are and how you operate."

And as far as the safety of her clients' goods, Wood notes, BC "has strict security guidelines in place. Every piece is inventoried and checked in. You never want to relax too much around expensive products."

Dawn Miller, president of LA-based Levine Communications Office, adds that even when planning a smaller club or restaurant party, taking advance security precautions is essential.

"Always know who's coming, the VIPs scheduled to attend - and the baggage they might bring," she warns. "Paparazzi, entourage, political agenda: These are important things to think about."

To ensure guests' safety and comfort, Miller advises setting up a private VIP entrance, and making sure even minor details are tended to in advance, with day-of venue walk-throughs and explicit permit-checking. "The more time you have to plan, the better," she says.

Miller also suggests not accepting last-minute RSVPs. "I like to close the guest list a few days in advance to allow time to check media credentials," adds Miller.

Finally, she notes, "Always work with [security] experts, and take great care when cutting costs." When one starts to skimp, problems arise, she says. "If you hire a cowboy, you get a cowboy job."

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