A Non-Profit Element Increases News Coverage of Commercial Events

By Brendy Barr

News media outlets are short on staff, short on time and short on budget…yet they are swamped with an assortment of daily events and press releases that are all vying for an assignment editor’s attention.  Priorities are set and choices are made as to which events will make the cut for news coverage.

Typically, a news release promoting a highly commercial event is the first to get routed to the circular file — unless it posses that certain something to take the promotional edge off.

Recently, our Detroit-based agency has had a nice run of success garnering news coverage for several of our clients’ commercial events, thanks to a non-profit element we carefully wove into each plan.  Specifically, at each public event we conducted some sort of nonmonetary fundraiser for a specially selected charity. Each charity was chosen for its great “fit” into the theme of the event.

For example, we were recently retained by BLOCKBUSTER to plan and execute store events for the DVD release of several movies.  At the party for “Star Trek”, we enlisted a local Star Trek fan club (dressed in their Starfleet uniforms) to help us collect “earth clothing” for the Salvation Army. This resulted in some great advance publicity including an item with color art on the front page of the Detroit Free Press’ entertainment section.

Just two weeks before Christmas, BBC and Blockbuster created a little “holiday magic” for needy children at the release party for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and held a toy drive to benefit Toys for Tots. A total of 24 media placements were obtained – most of them in advance which helped draw more than 300 people to the event.

And while just about every movie retailer in town was heavily promoting the DVD release of Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”, BBC made headlines for BLOCKBUSTER by conducting a “glove drive” for Society of St. Vincent de Paul — silver gloves were optional, a pair was mandatory!  PR value for the resulting news coverage totaled more than $553,000.

Our agency also employed a charitable tie-in to generate awareness for the Broadway musical “Sweeny Todd” at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre.  A blood drive for the Red Cross was held and attended by the show’s cast members.  A full-page story by popular Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin ran in advance of the event on the front page of the entertainment section; it promoted the blood drive as well as the show’s local engagement causing a surge in both ticket sales and blood donations that week.

While our primary objective for using this tactic is to help generate news coverage for promotional events, we’re performing an even greater service by providing local assistance to people in need and, as a result, garnering some amazing goodwill for our clients.

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