By Leigh Andrews
If you read my articles regularly, you’ll know that I am fascinated by the media/public relations relationship and the fact that while things often go swimmingly, things can sour just as quickly. Hosting a media day or press launch for a client is a great way for the public relations industry to introduce a new client to the media and ensure coverage, but it’s not always a bed of roses.
Gavin Coetzee, digital monitoring researcher at Newsclip, says, “My main gripe is that public relations officers organising events often fail to account for the fact that teleportation has yet to be perfected – just because the organisers live five minutes away doesn’t mean the attendees do.” He goes on to explain, “While an 8am event gets everything out the way first thing, people often have to stop by the office to organise the morning’s issues before they can leave for an event.” On top of this, he says by simply pushing the event start time forward to 9am, your attendees are less likely to have spent the last hour fuming in traffic and arriving at your event in an unreceptive mood.
That said, some prefer an early start as they can get back to the office sooner, file their feedback and get back into the swing of things. This brings us to one of my biggest bugbears – the often-high profile events at the other end of the spectrum that tend to be held in the afternoon or evening, and those that don’t run to schedule and start late. While such events do offer a great networking opportunity, journalists often incorporate this into their coverage of the event by chatting to the people seated beside them, the event organisers and anyone they have their eye on post-event. When an event only starts an hour after it has been slated to do so, people aren’t likely to mingle freely – they get anxious about when the event will actually start, possibly making them late for anything they have scheduled later in the day.
There seems to be a difference in different parts of the country though. My colleague Darren Gilbert who is based in Cape Town says most of his experience has been with events running late and fortunately no one had cancelled at the last minute. Gilbert explains, “In the past, I’ve found that events in Cape Town never began at the time that was on the actual invite. There was such a reputation that I often didn’t panic if I was running late because I knew an 08:00 actually meant 08:30 – always a bad sign. It irritated me. It showed a lack of professionalism and courtesy to those who made the effort to be on time. There I was, waiting for an event to begin, and yet people were still running around. I must say that recently, it has become better but there are still the occasional slip ups.”
But Gilbert says that perhaps the blame shouldn’t all be placed on organisers, as event attendees also play a role. “Organisers may want to begin but there are times when not enough people have arrived and they have to wait on them.”
Simon Hartley, chief whip of 2oceansvibe Media, says “Much like a press release, PR event invites have to be targeted. For example, if you insist on inviting me to a mystery event which turns out to be a brandy tasting, find out if I drink brandy first. If you're removing my ability to make an informed decision, the least you can do is inform yourself about me. At one such event, I lasted about ten minutes before bailing to eat English Toffee frozen yoghurt. Now that would have been a cool mystery event.”
So it’s not all bad, but the overall experience seems to be a mixed reaction. Who do you think is more to blame – the organisers or the attendees? Let us know.
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