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A tale of two events: Breaking through to a distracted media

October 3, 2017     Client Work   Events   Lessons in PR   MAVERICK

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Recovery Day Toronto committee chairs Jason Naiker and Alida Flannery receive free Naloxone training from a volunteer pharmacist with the Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres. (Terance Brouse)

This blog post is brought to you by Terance Brouse, Account Director, MAVERICK.

In 2017, client media events run the risk of being neglected, forgotten or cannibalized due to larger events, hard news, stretched newsrooms and sometimes through the echo chamber of media groupthink – that sort of obsessive enthusiasm for (or preoccupation with) one thing. When the media decide it’s time for navel gazing, they usually go all in – feasting on a single issue or topic until every strip of flesh is gone.

When MAVERICK drafts up a strategy for a client event or launch, it always keeps in mind the calendar of events taking place in the city in question. But what if the date has already been set by the client? There must always be a plan B for generating media coverage. Plan B should have several elements – op-eds, letters to the editor, pre-and-post interviews, in studio guest offers and the nimbleness and willingness to constantly change the angle/approach.

Two recent client events provide salient examples for side-stepping potential media roadblocks.

First off, our client St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation received a $10 million gift on September 8th. What could go wrong? It was a perfect day – there was not a single cloud in the sky. Except it was also the opening day of TIFF.

To ensure great coverage amid a distracted media, MAVERICK reached out early and often (persistence is key). And instead of focusing on a two-dimensional story about a cheque presentation, we pitched a broad-themed story that touched on roomy and all-inclusive ideas of community, family and giving, with the added punch and news currency of local healthcare in need.

To do that, we engaged media with a tale of family roots and promise through the personal narratives of two people:

  • The donor, Mattamy Homes CEO Peter Gilgan (he and his six siblings were born at St. Joes)
  • The Promise Campaign co-chair/CIBC CEO Victor Dodig (he and his brother were born at St. Joe’s, his father died there)

In the end, the media loved it. Four television cameras attended and print coverage ran in the Globe and Mail, Metroland, Snapd and an above-the-fold piece in the Toronto Star.

In the warm afterglow of the St. Joe’s success, recovery was in the air in the City of Toronto. As we approached the end of September, we were faced with the summer that never came and wouldn’t leave. Two events took place on the last day of September – the Invictus Games and Recovery Day, which was returning to Toronto for its 5th anniversary.

The challenge for MAVERICK was that Invictus captivated the media’s attention to the extent that Recovery Day (our client) was having difficulty getting any traction at all.

Faced with the seeming Invictus “blackout” we had to face a truth – if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.

MAVERICK pitched a thematic story that was a synthesis between the national addiction recovery day movement and the inspiring athletes participating in the Invictus Games.

“Amid the lingering heat, two seminal events descend upon the city to remind us of the weight of our collective vulnerability, and the buoyant hope of an essential truth – recovery is possible.”

We also created a public health awareness angle, working with the Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres to arrange free Naloxone training during a time of opioid crisis across the country.

Finally, we encouraged the media to hear the compelling stories of triumph and hope in studio, so we wouldn’t have to compete with the stirring Invictus closing ceremony with “Harry and The Boss”.

The strategy worked wonders, and the stories told in studios at CP24, CBC Here and Now and BT were emotionally charged, painful and finally hopeful.  In the end, the Toronto Star showed up despite the competition and filed a remarkable story by columnist Jim Coyle, himself in recovery. Finally, the CBC, which was extremely busy but realized the importance of the recovery movement ran two photos taken by this MAVERICK. We even wrote a meaningful caption for each. Here’s the story – Recovery Day brings stories of hope to Toronto.

Faces and Voices of recovery Co-founders Lisa Simone and Annie McCullough share the stage with Econoline Crush lead singer Trevor Hurst @ Recovery Day Toronto. All three are in long-term recovery from addiction. #soberinthe6 (Terance Brouse)

 

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