Should media events be fun?

Once upon a time in motoring PR land, press events involved having a jolly good time with one’s chums.  Tales told by journalists and public relations practitioners of car launches in the 1950s-1980s are less about vehicles and more about the hotels, hospitality and hosting.  The classic gin and tonic approach to public relations.

Today though there are grumbles from journalists that media events are boring.   They claim launches are all about marketing-speak, technical presentations, hanging around at airports, early bedtimes and unsociable public relations people.

Is this true?  Or have some older journalists got rose tinted glasses (or is that rosé)?  Has public relations become more professional at the expense of having fun with the media?  Is it ethically appropriate for PRs and journalists to be friends today?

I can see both sides of the argument – that having a launch event that is “remarkable” (ie worth talking about) is a great asset.  Building good relationships with journalists is about more than being efficient and knowledgable. 

Over the years the cost and consequences of trying to be different has led to ever higher budgets and 8-star expectations among some media.  Back in the day, they (a few dozen specialist automotive journalists) were happy with a 3-day journey to southern Europe as it was exciting and novel.  They would rave about a car – even getting front page coverage in national newspapers.

Today PR practitioners are working with thousands of journalists – specialist and mainstream – and other influencers (including bloggers).  They face a global, 24-7 world of instant media.  PR is under pressure to prove its value and is often susbsumed within the marketing department as another promotional tool.

Car launches rarely capture major headlines – and there’s another one along tomorrow if not three.  I’m surprised some media can recall what cars they have driven, let alone what makes the launch remarkable.

Personally I’m not sure that the traditional overseas glamour car launch has a long-term future – but if it declines won’t something be lost in terms of relationships between journalists and PR practitioners?  Does that matter?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.