This past weekend, I traveled down to Philadelphia for Drexel’s Regional Activity, Bizarre PR. I was greeted by so many friendly faces as soon as I walked in the doors of the Radisson Plaza – Warwick Hotel. I have been constantly impressed by Drexel’s professionalism and enthusiasm for their endeavors (from the time I met them in San Diego until now).
Their Regional Activity was all about bizarre happenings that occur in the world of public relations. The day started off withJeanne Leonard from Liberty Property Trust. She spoke about the Curse of William Penn, and it was so interesting to hear about how this whole story developed. Three college students from the University of Pennsylvania called her one day about a theory that ever since her company built buildings that were taller than the statue of William Penn, the city of Philadelphia became cursed with sports’ losses. She never even imagined that this story would get to the point it got. However, one day the CEO of Liberty Property Trust (who was ranked the #24 most powerful person in Philadelphia) and the EVP of Comcast (who was ranked the #1 most powerful person in Philadelphia) called her and thought of an idea to put a statue of William Penn on top of the new Comcast building to “break the curse.” She had no PR plan but just kept going. Two years after this decision, the Curse of William Penn was broken when the Phillies won the World Series. This story just demonstrated another bizarre event in the world of public relations.
Next, I went to three breakout session speakers: Gwen Kaminski from the Laurel Hill Cemetery, Jerri Williams, chief press officer at SEPTA, and a panel made up of Cari Fieler Bender, founder of Relief Communications, LLC, and Joseph Glantz, consulting editor to the Wild River Review. Gwen Kaminski talked about positioning the cemetery as “The Underground Museum” as a way to interest tourists. She showed us some creative campaigns including a fork in an electric socket (fake, of course) with a warning label that said “ATTENTION! THERE IS A BETTER WAY TO GET INTO LAUREN CEMETERY. VISIT http://www.thelaurelhillcemetery.org/.” They hold events at the cemetery throughout the year, especially during Halloween. It was interesting to hear about the ways to attract people to a cemetery.
Next, Jerri Williams spoke about her experience with the FBI and SEPTA and advice about what to do during a crisis. She spoke about protecting your boss, sticking to your message, and not treating reporters as your enemy. When SEPTA went on strike at 3 in the morning a year or so ago, she used the media as a resource to make sure the message got out to as many commuters as possible. However, she did say that you have to be careful when talking to the media so your words are not twisted. “No comment” is not an option anymore in a world with 24/7 news updates. She gave us the “Best Rules for Management of News Crises”
1) Never underestimate the crisis.
2) The media will show up before you do.
3) The media will cover a story with or without you.
4) Not responding does not mean it will go away.
5) The media needs a “good guy” and a “bad guy” for the story. Make clear who the “bad guy” is.
She ended with telling us to stick to our message. You do not always have to answer a reporter’s question as long as you bridge back to your message.
During the PR panel, we learned about more creative campaigns and attractions in Philadelphia.
At the end of the day, Keith Green, vice president of marketing and communications for Synergy Events, and Stanley Phelps, executive vice president at Synergy Events, spoke about their experience doing some of the most creative events I have ever heard of. It was also a nice surprise that Synergy Events is located in my hometown of Ocean Township, New Jersey. One of their events included making a 53 foot replica of the Statue of Liberty that looked like an M&M and putting it in the Hudson River for Mar’s “Inner M&M” campaign. Mars was doing an online promotion to have people create M&Ms that looked like them. Another campaign was for KFC. They built a 87,500 square foot Colonel in Area 51 to promote the new logo. They spoke about campaigns like these and so many more. It was fascinated to hear about ideas like these that were transformed into such successful campaigns. They gave us a Top 10 List of Event Marketing Tips
1) KISS! Keep it Simple Stupid
2) Be true to your brand.
3) Leverage Technology
4) Get your permits.
5) Make it viral.
6) Set up and strike (get a spokesperson)
7) Give yourself time
8) Route efficiently (during mobile tours)
9) Go green, but be aware of the Green (it can be expensive)
10) Render It Out (so your client can visualize the event)
The day ended with a two hour social at the Camden Aquarium. I was so impressed that Drexel’s PRSSA was able to secure that space and gather transportation to and from the aquarium for everyone. They were really so organized and responsible, and I was honored to have attended the event. Thank you for a great time, and congratulations on a job well done!