In my years as a newspaper reporter and editor, the conventional wisdom was that the best way to attract the attention of the press was with free food and booze. There were various codes of ethics that rightly prohibited taking things of great value, but nobody fussed over a beer and a ham sandwich.
There are also no-no’s for the trade press, most notably promising sweetheart editorial coverage in exchange for ad dollars. That said, food is still good bait to get editors to attend press conferences and such—although personally I’m a little tired of cold bagels and cream cheese at breakfast press events.
Over the years, industry vendors have sponsored many evening press events at trade shows that go beyond press conference sandwiches. I have always appreciated them and have seen few, if any, grievous examples of these soirees influencing press coverage. What I have not ever seen is anybody returning the favor—at least until this year at Print 09.
As a cost saving measure, we had rented a house for the staff of all three Cygnus Graphics Media magazines: Quick Printing, Printing News, and Wide-Format Imaging. That circumstance led our publisher to propose a radical idea—let’s say thanks to the folks who keep us in business; our advertisers. Let’s throw a party.
That is why our editors, publishers, and salespeople were sitting around slicing croissants and rolling turkey and ham for sandwiches and why I was facing the task of cooking 150 bratwursts on an anemic outdoor grill. We had invited advertisers and industry leaders to drop by for a casual evening of food and drink. No pressure, no sales pitches, no suits and ties, no agenda. We had received a frighteningly large number of RSVPs—more than 150. This had induced a state of controlled panic in the staff.
As it turned out, about 85 folks actually turned up. All went well, everybody mingled and had a good time, and as our columnist John Giles often remarks when asked about how an event went, “No shots were fired and nobody died.” In other words, it was a success.
We’re getting lots of nice comments and compliments from the attendees and probably will try to do this again next year. After all, these folks are our customers and I think we figured out a good way to say thank you. As far as I know, this was an industry first, but the idea is an old one—thank people for doing business with you.