Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Update on the New Arts & Leisure Division

Thanks to Lewis Lazare, Chicago Sun-Times marketing columnist, for blogging about my recent move to LCWA to start the Arts & Leisure division. Click here to read his coverage.

I am happy to report that the division is definitely up and running! We are currently promoting the grand opening of the new Theater Wit, Chicago’s newest live theater venue. Now in the final phase of construction in the former Bailiwick Arts Centre, at 1229 W. Belmont Avenue, the new Theater Wit will be a sleek, new three-theater performance space, and a fresh destination for arts and culture in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Theater Wit’s inaugural production in this new space will be Spin, a smart, modern-day comedy about marketing and celebrity by Chicago playwright Penny Penniston. It’s right up our alley, so mark your calendar fellow marketers -- previews start April 16, and opening night is April 21.

I’m also excited to represent Thodos Dance Chicago's New Dances series in June. This follows a successful partnership with the group for its Fall Concerts, which boasted the premiere of Ann Reinking’s Fosse Trilogy. That show sold out both the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Another show on the horizon is the Chicago premiere of Lonnie Carter’s The Lost Boys of Sudan, March 19-April 25 at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times recently called Lonnie “part James Joyce, part John Coltrane, part Diddy.” She sure nailed that. We’re all looking forward to seeing what director Jim Corti and a fantastic cast and crew do with Lonnie’s uplifting new play about three teens’ extraordinary passage from Sudan’s Dinka tribe to, of all places, Fargo, North Dakota.

There is plenty to choose from on Chicago’s arts and leisure front this spring. For more information about the exciting performances on tap for these LCWA clients, check out their sites.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Happened in Vegas… (a.k.a. The Triumphs and Tribulations of Throwing A Successful Client Event)

We just returned from SURFACES 2010 where we executed a major event for Pergo and its retail partners. The good news is the event was a huge success! It also was a reminder that when it comes to special events, inevitably something will not go as planned. With that in mind, I thought this would be an apropos time to share some special event survival tips I’ve learned through the years:

Tip #1: Good is in the Details

When it comes to events, success or failure is a direct result of the details. Before going into any event situation, it is crucial to make sure that every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed... that every “what if” has been answered and that your “A Game” has a Plan B – just in case. The better prepared you are for the worst, the more likely you are to deliver the best!

Tip#2: Expect the Unexpected

While proper planning is crucial to a successful event, equally important is the ability to think on your feet when something goes wrong – and something will always go wrong. In the case of the Pergo event, we encountered just a few small hiccups, like too-short hotel extension cords and reserved tickets that could only be picked up by the credit card holder (who was back in Chicago). The secret to success is maintaining composure and reacting quickly, quietly and calmly when thrown an unexpected curve ball.

Tip #3: Where There’s A VIP, There’s A Way

When it comes to VIPs, “no” is rarely an option. So, when asked by our client to find tickets to a sold out concert in Las Vegas for one of their VIPs, we were literally faced with the impossible. Undeterred, we hit the concierge desk, got on the phone, and successfully tracked down the sought after tickets. Good client service means not taking “no” for an answer, finding new avenues and going the extra mile to deliver the best possible results.

Tip #4: Don’t Skimp Where it Counts

At any type of special event, there is typically one key thing the guests are coming to see or experience. It could be the food, the venue, a guest speaker or performer. Whatever it may be, do not underestimate the importance of this focal point of your event and, by all means, don’t hold back when it comes to delivering quality. Case in point was our choice of Daniel Negreanu to headline the “Go All In with Pergo” event. While he was at the pricier end of our options, this four-time World Series of Poker Champion brought just the right mix of celebrity and charisma and proved the perfect personality to bring the room and our theme to life while treating Pergo’s guests to an evening they won’t soon forget.

Tip #5: All’s Well That Ends Well

At the end of the day – or the end of the event – success or failure will be written on the faces of your client and their guests. If the end result is positive, odds are no one will remember the little glitches that may have happened along the way. So, don’t get hung up on minor mishaps. Instead, learn from mistakes, celebrate successes, and pat yourself on the back for surviving yet another eventful experience!

Friday, February 5, 2010

And the Award Goes To...

The awards season is upon us, and it’s not just for those in Hollywood. The PR profession has a plethora of plaques and trophies to pursue, with many competitions calling for entries during the first quarter of the year.

I’ve been fortunate to win a few in my career (with apologies to Sally Field, “you like me, you must really like me”) and frequently judge the annual Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) Golden Trumpets awards. So, in the spirit of sharing this experience, here are several ideas that can help an awards entry sparkle – and score points:

  • Work “backward” when preparing the narrative. Most entries require copy that describes goals, research, tactics and results in that exact order. Logically, you figure, let’s start detailing goals and proceed from there. Instead, look first at the program’s outstanding results, and prepare your outline from the bottom up. Tactics and strategies then will effectively illustrate how the results were achieved, and goals will be in total synch with results.
  • Present the goal or challenge dramatically. Award winners often are programs that overcome great obstacles. Position that with attention-grabbing copy. When PCC awarded us best program of the year for “Revive Wacker Drive,” we first posed the question: “How can you possibly make a disruptive road construction project appealing?”

  • Highlight third-party testimonials. Don’t just toot your own horn. Sprinkle in program endorsements from media, customers and other target audiences the program influenced. For example, an entry we’re developing now will quote an editor asking our client, “How can we work with you to promote the future of manufacturing?”

  • Write creatively. Copy need not be stilted or stuffy just because it’s an award entry. Tell your story with flair and passion. Judges will enjoy reading the entry – and pay even more attention to your work.

Good luck! I look forward to seeing you at the podium!