OPINION: Alas, the end of the PR party may be nigh

Last week, London hosted more than 100 parties, launches and general celebrity bashes, a key aim of which was to create branded editorial coverage. Some achieved the PR coverage desired, but many did not.

Parties have always, of course, been a quintessential element of PR, mixing celebration of a brand with the opportunity of introducing - or, in some instances, reintroducing - it to journalists.

But in an age of sophisticated media management, many people are questioning the true value of such events. Journalists - bombarded with invitations to launches, annivers­ary parties and general celebrity gatherings - say there are too many PR-created events to write about. Clients, meanwhile, ponder the value of ever more expensive bashes.

In particular, they find the prices demanded by run-of-the-mill Big Brother-type ‘celebrities' and their agents just too high for the usually fleeting and often prima-donna-like presence they bestow on an event. And, all too often, clients' expectations of the column inches likely to be accorded to their elaborately organised event are inflated.

Diarists, anxious to help with a plug, complain that the party organisers overhype their guestlists with promises of newsworthy celebrities who, it turns out, fail to materialise.

Of course, newspaper diarists have an insatiable appetite for goss­ip-fuelled parties. Many, including the Mail on Sunday's influential Katie Nicholl and The Daily Telegraph's Celia Walden, now have party blogs, which can also be good forums for product placement. To fill both paper and cyberspace, such writers will attend up to three events per evening.

But even they complain that too many events are overhyped, and that some PROs seem to think securing their attendance is an end in itself. The problem for the PR executive is that the writer who has crammed in an appearance at such a party will contemptuously bin their next invite.

Another common media complaint is that when the promised star guest does turn up, he or she is often corralled into a VIP pen, to which the journalist is denied access. Hence no quote, no story and, ultimately, no precious editorial plug.

Plainly, with the right thinking, parties can still deliver effective coverage. But PROs need to make more judicious use of them and better manage their clients' expectations. The organisers need to deliver for the journalist a genuinely newsworthy event that is given an honest advance billing.

Otherwise, the party really will be over for PR.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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