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Stop the Press Event! How Oprah Can Kill a Conversation

Mike Santoro

Oprah taping live on michigan avenueWhenever you plan a media event, you take the chance that something may outshine you on that day. Last year we lost half our TV coverage for a charity event due to a big fire on the Southside. It happens.

Unfortunately in the days of crunched deadline and busy camera crews, things come up. Even with a breaking story stealing your thunder, you may get the same number of placements, but you lose the conversations, and that’s often the most important part.

On Tuesday, Oprah took over Chicago. It was also the first day of Chicago Public Schools. Both got covered, but one was much more talked about than another.What if you held an art gallery opening on Tuesday? If it had been a slow news day you might have heard someone say, “I heard a new gallery opened today. I’m going to check it out this weekend.” Instead you heard, “Oprah!”

The same thing happened the day after when Apple hosted the “It’s Only Rock and Roll” event. If you were a consumer electronic product, now was not the time to roll out a new product. Exhibit A in this argument is the Palm Pixi, a device that on any other day would have been heavily discussed, yet yesterday was barely touched.

pixie_dock_vert_r_qwerty_rgbYes, it got a ton of coverage. It was on Engadget, TechCrunch, Gizmodo and all the other right places. If you put together a PR report you could point to it with confidence and say, “Look at all the placements we got,” but what you missed were the discussions.

The typical gadget fanboy wasn’t talking about Palm; he was talking about Apple. If you’re Palm that’s a big problem. When the Pixi was first announced it drew 224 comments on EnGadget and was Dugg 58 times. Yesterday when the actual product was released – 70 comments. It’s hard to talk about the Pixi when your mouth can’t stop spewing praise about how awesome the new Nano is.

One of the most powerful effects of good PR is how it inspires conversations. “Have you heard about…” “Did you see…” Those conversations affect the decisions to make a purchase of your product or service. When they get short circuited by a bigger better event, you’ve lost a critical part of your campaign. If Palm could have waited a week, shouldn’t they have?

This becomes even more important now that we can begin measuring conversations through social media. Five years ago I couldn’t see if a water cooler conversation had broken out on my client’s product. Now I can see if it’s a trending topic on Twitter.

So that’s what you miss by trying to compete with a bigger event. If you can, move your event. Sure you may get the coverage that looks like success, but you lose the chatter.

Next month we’re supporting Kids Fight Cancer at their 25th Anniversary Gala on October 24th. Obviously we can’t move it so I’m hoping for no Southside fires this time. And Oprah, unless you’re planning to attend, please keep a low profile.