In February, punk fashion designer Betsey Johnson teamed up with Mercedes-Benz to introduce Johnson's new fall line and Mercedes' new designer line of vehicles, aimed at a younger audience. Talk about unlikely bedfellows at an unorthodox event--and a guaranteed way to build media buzz.
Allie Taekman, Johnson's in-house publicist, is at home with high visibility because of the nature of her employer. "Press coverage is always big due to the fact that Betsey doesn't follow the trends that other designers do each season," she says. This time was different, though, because she had to attract the media from two different industries.
She prepared traditional press kits and sent them to fashion editors at national magazines and newspapers, and then reworked the angle before sending them on to automotive editors and columnists at national car magazines and newspapers. Once the press kits were sent out, Taekman made follow-up calls to targeted media to arrange interviews with the designer.
There are only so many large spaces available in New York City, where the event was held, with enough space for 1,200 people, several large automobiles, and a fashion runway. Which led to perhaps the biggest coup of the collaboration: the decision to use the Mercedes flagship showroom in Manhattan at 41st Street and 11th Avenue.
"No one had ever staged an event there before," says Paul Cunliffe, senior vice president at Merv Griffin Productions, which produced the event. "It got a lot of attention."
On-Site Sizzle The Mercedes-Benz/Betsey Johnson show was only one of dozens held during Fashion Week in New York, when all eyes are not only on the clothes, but on which celebrities attend which shows. But even with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, singer Deborah Harry, and actor Damon Wayans sitting in the front row, the stars of the day were the clothes, the cars, and the models, who carried little Betsey Johnson dolls down the runway (these were also placed on each guest's seat).
The media response was significant. The Los Angeles Times covered the show as a lead story on page one of its Home Edition, and it was also covered by twelve other national newspapers. Despite the unorthodox alliance, Taekman says that future collaborations between companies that are polar opposites will be the norm. "The collaboration with Mercedes has been a smooth ride from start to finish."
Flying Dogs and Fortune Cookies Like Taekman, Colette Fairchild, CMP,director at H.H. Backer Associates, Inc., develops events around a subject that the media loves--in this case, pets. The Chicago-based company publishes several magazines for the pet trade industry, and Backer produces two major trade shows each year, a spring trade show in Atlantic City and a Christmas trade show in Chicago in the fall.
Fairchild says her particular challenge isn't getting noticed, but getting the press to give as much air time and as many column inches to the shows as possible. To do that, aside from wishing for a slow news day, she always includes live animal displays and special events, which make for cute photo and video opportunities. One year, she had the "Air Major" flying dog show performed.
Unlike manyprofessionals who rely on in-house lists or rented names, Fairchild goes to the Chicago Convention & Visitors Bureau for a list of local media; she maintains a separate list for the national pet media. She faxes out a press release two weeks before the event, followed by a hard copy with a show brochure and a few color photos of the previous year's show.
When the media arrive at the show, she gives them a personal tour, points out the press room, and helps arrange interviews with exhibitors and show managers. Then she lets them go off by themselves, since she feels they like the mix of getting the tour and then exploring on their own.
"Most media don't have a lot of time to spend at one place, so I make sure they get everything they need--and quickly," says Fairchild. The other key, she says, is to focus on what's different and fun. "The press are always interested in the latest fads, like dog fortune cookies, bottled water that comes in a champagne bottle, or ferret hammocks."
Above It All in Phoenix Convincing your best customers to come to such a prestigious event as the Phoenix Open is never a problem. Getting the media to cover the event from your hosted site when they have free rein of the entire golf course can be another story.
Not so for high-tech giant Motorola, sponsor of the, held in January in Scottsdale, Ariz. Stephanie Nowack, director of external communications, says the company's skybox, an elaborate 12,000-square-foot multiple-tiered tent structure just off the 18th green, provided television staffers with a place to work, get some great shots, and catch a bite to eat.
"We also did all we could to accommodate the media's special requirements, including meeting their electrical needs, clearing a path for them to place cable, and providing interesting visuals for their shots," says Nowack. The result: the media chose to set up shop in the skybox.
Of course, the media were there to cover the Open, not Motorola's products, but they appreciated the sponsor's efforts so much that some TV stations produced complete shows from the skybox with the Motorola logo prominently displayed in the background. All of the major networks except one broadcasted from the skybox or used it for shorter interview segments with competitors or Motorola staffers and customers.
"In addition," says Nowack they let us show our products on the air and actually allowed us to demonstrate them in several instances. It was great exposure for our company and products."
Nowack did her homework. Before the event, she had prepared press releases and other materials about the design and construction of the skybox tent, which was elevated and afforded the media a vantage point from which to cover the tournament. She even mentioned that Motorola would provide first-class food service at the week-long outdoors event. "The key to getting a response from the media is to have something interesting and newsworthy for them to cover," she says. "In addition, it's absolutely essential that you are credible and that you offer them something that they might not be able to get elsewhere."
tip A Tip from Betsey Johnson & Mercedes-Benz Pairing up companies that normally sit at opposite sides of the spectrum attracts instant media attention. However, it's essential that the quality of both companies' products be on par with each other.
tip A Tip From H. H. Backer Associates Focus on what's different and fun, give reporters all the information they need, then set them loose.
tip A Tip from Motorola Partner with the media, providing a service that helps them do their job better.