Friday, November 14, 2008

My first press conference.

So, this morning was the big press conference for my involuntary (kidding... sort of) volunteer PR gig at Santaland.

Now, this is not my first crack at media relations. My first crack at media relations was a failed media day attempt at my job that actually pays. So, naturally, when I was approached to wrangle local media to meet with Santa and find out more about the exciting new additions to the event in 2008, I was a bit hesitant. I mean, really - convince the people that won't come tour a brand spanking new, hi-tech genomic research facility that has the potential to employ hundreds of local residents that they need to chat it up with Santa and write about it?!

But, as I am tied to the museum who puts on Santafest both emotionally and relationally - and because I realize that I am not quite a seasoned PR pro yet, and that any experience could benefit my PR repertoire, I said yes.

And so ensued the emailing and emailing and emailing... and calling and calling. And the dropping off of battery-operated christmas light-lit wreaths with "Santa's Magic 3-D Glasses" so that reporters could get a taste of what the big event would be like, pre-conference.

And the brushing off. And the vague answers of "we might send someone by... when was that again" and "I don't usually cover that sort of thing". And I prepared for another no-show event like the one I have already repressed.

Happily, people did come! This was the most attended press conference they have had to date, apparently.

So it was a win-win for everyone involved. I made some additional media contacts, healed some old media-related wounds and gained a lot of experience in press conference organizing. And Santa-rama got radio, t.v. and print news attendance - and (yay!) a confirmed story in tomorrow's paper.

My takeaways from the event:

  • For "fun-filled community events for the whole family" like this one, overload on the cute. Message the events as an opportunity to meet (insert VIP here - Santa, the Easter Bunny, Ben Franklin?!) and ask questions.
  • Local media in a small- to medium-sized town will cover a kid hugging a life sized gingerbread cookie character with local community leaders looking on, smiling, before they will cover actual news.
  • People love their local radio personalities. If you can get your sponsoring radio station to send their jocks out, people will come.
  • Always. Have. Food. I'm not sure if this actually attracted people, but I did slide in my (multiple) invitations that there would be food. I'm betting it did. That would help sell it for me...
  • Press kits might actually still have some benefit. I hand delivered those Christmas-ey wreaths and information and people really seemed to like them.
  • I have a very low tolerance for cute.
  • I am so happy the weekend is here.
So, that was that! Mission accomplished! My volunteer gig has readied me to get back on that media event bicycle in my own place of employment. I just need to make sure I can get my new friend Santa to come to work next time we have the next one. A person in a penguin suit wouldn't hurt, either...

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