#17 How to Bring Red Carpet Cache to Your Event – Media Training Part 1

rock-of-ages-opening-night-on-broadway-_-ticket1 Last night I attended the premiere of Rock of Ages on Broadway. Here is a review. It ROCKED! I was with my friend who works in the entertainment industry. In this post I share what I learned re: ins and outs of the red carpet. What does this have to do with The Hot Mommas Project and entrepreneurs , in general?  With a little organization, red carpet “cache” can be applied to any event needing to stand out from the crowd. Below are my top 5 observations about the red carpet, how it works, and ideas for applying it (entrepreneurial bootstrap style) to an event.
On March 9, the winners of our 2008-2009 Case Competition were announced in conjunction with a Hoffman Lecture Series at the George Washington School of Business, hosted by Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Now that we are into our 2009-2010 Hot Mommas Project Case Competition, many have suggested to us that we are have a really great event to raise funding and coincide with our awards. So, as I attended the Rock of Ages opening night on broadway, I was taking major notes.


1. Walking the Red Carpet

How it works: This was fascinating to watch. There was a big red carpet laid out in front of the theatre. There are two sets of barricades. One barricade keeps “normal people” separate from the red carpet “walk” section. The other barricade keeps the press back off the red carpet walk. The event started at 6:45, the red carpet opened at 6:15, and the photographers had to show up at 5:30 to get lined up. Major “A list” publications get the best spots. Two photographers will typically be allowed on the red carpet itself (not behind the barricade), for instance a photographer hired by the studio or sponsor company as well as an industry publication photography (think “Variety”). I watched my friend in action as she acted as a “handler” for a celebrity. First, she walked him around to the head of the red carpet. The press is on the left, and the “Rock of Ages” 6-foot tall backdrops are on the right up against the building.  She yells out his name to the press, then he steps out onto the red carpet. The Rock of Ages publicist takes over at that point and moves him from the first stopping point to the next stopping point so all photographers can get a shot. Then, she escorts him down to the end of the red carpet where my friend was waiting for him with his ticket and showed him through the VIP entrance. (Yes, I know you want to know who this person is but I am supposed to keep all confidential .)

How to do the red carpet at an event: Take the extra step of getting a red carpet from IKEA or the hardware store, hanging a banner, and taking a picture of attendees. Example: Recently, the Hot Mommas Project announced winners of our 2008-2009 case competition (role models on paper for women and girls). I realized that, in the future, I would like to highlight the case others writers by walking them down a red carpet. Thus, after taking their nametag, I would like one of our team members to be a “handler” and walk the case writers, sponsors, and partners down the red carpet toting a clip board and calling out their name before they proceed to the designated spot for a picture. What a great Flickr roll that would be! It is also a great way of saying thank you and letting them know their importance to us.

A party held by Guy Kawasaki last summer in advance of BlogHer had a lot of these elements: Photographers, fun pictures, and many unique elements and amazing SWAG. Guy had boas and other fun stuff people wore for pictures. You social media folk who remember Guy’s avatar with the boa? That was an outgrowth of the party.

2. Celebrity attendance



Lead singer from Survivor, Rock of Ages after party

Lead singer from Survivor, Rock of Ages after party

How it works: My friend was calling around trying to get celebrities to attend this event. This is where connections and calling in favors come in handy. I sat directly behind the guy who founded Twisted Sister and his amazing girlfriend who is in business publishing. Two seats down from him was Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister, and his wife who really showed her savvy in a “Rock Wives” show a few years back. I leaned over to my friend and said, “Dee Snider is sitting RIGHT THERE!!” She said, “Yeah, all the hair bands from the 80s were invited to the premiere because their music is in the show.” Dee still has great hair. [Side note: The band has an incredibly cool, but little-known, story that I may write about in a case for a business textbook. Stay tuned on that.]

How to get a celebrity to attend your event: Start EARLY making connections with local or national luminaries to see if they will attend your event. Maybe you want to honor them with a special award to acknowledge their work in your industry or have them as a speaker. Once you lock them in, let the press know. Start asking around NOW unless you know tons of luminaries who will do whatever you say at the drop of a hat.  Example: In DC and in business, Linda Rabbitt (who spoke at the Hoffman Lecture Series preceding our event) is a big deal. She owns one of the top 50 largest woman- owned companies in the US, and the 2nd larges woman-owned construction company in the nation. I went to Erik Winslow in my department at GW and presented the idea of her as a speaker, followed by the Hot Mommas Project awards. He contacted her, she liked the idea, done. People still have not stopped talking to me about the event. Take the extra step, ask around. You never know whose sister’s cousin knows Kevin Bacon.

[Update – many entertainment industry folks thought Steve Perry performed at the after-party, but, in fact – it was a cover band “Evolution” – now THAT is talent!]

3.  Giveaways/SWAG

How it works: Rock of Ages is a Broadway show, soon to be a film, so clearly there are tickets involved (see image at top). There were also great giveaways that I thought were cool, different, and I will definitely use (or my kids will use) in the future. At Rock of Ages they gave out what looked like lighters with LED lights with “Rock of Ages” printed on it. People used those during the play like they were at a concert. At the after-party, they gave out flasks with “Rock of Ages” printed on them. This particular giveaway was so perfect given the tone of the play (e.g., Rock, excess, etc.).

How to get cheap giveaways for your event: It would be easy and cheap to print something that looked like a Broadway show ticket, pictured here. Maybe someone pictured on the Red Carpet could frame the ticket with their red carpet picture. Marketing for you when someone walks in their office and says, “Where were you there?”  As far as cheap giveaways, I have to give a shout out to my husband’s company who are some of the best in the business at this stuff. www.OnSalePromos.com. There are SO MANY thousands of products. It would be good to have someone to brainstorm with about options in a certain price range. Also, corporations often have leftover giveaways from tradeshows, etc. Maybe you could recycle some of those, and offer sponsors and partners the opportunity to get their name out at your event.  At our March 9 event, we had many sponsors ranging from SEPHORA to Green Valley Spa to David and Goliath and Beijo Bags who donated free goods to our winners. See our prize list here. ALL our prizes were donated. We targeted and approached individual companies that I liked and fit with our project. Another alternative is Peter Shankman’s Friday HARO where he lists gift bag queries.

4. Bathroom traffic director

How it works: This poor little theater was overwhelmed by the stampeding opening night crowd.  I was in a bathroom line at intermission which looked hopeless. I think there must have been 100 people in front of me. Ladies, I know you hear me on this. One of the great injustices in the world is male and female bathroom inequities. Anyway, I got it! I thought, “How did THAT happen?” Then, I see the bathroom traffic director. “Number 6 is open!” she yells out. “Mam, wait right there. Okay, number 4 is open.” This is the first time I have ever seen such a thing. Now, behind that is someone who knows how to run an operation.

How to have your own bathroom traffic director: Okay, so, the real point here is a really memorable, stand-out element that helps your event run smoothly. You could pay someone $100 for five hours to do something really cool at your event. Example: “Neworking Fairy.” At a Hot Mommas Project event, let’s say a “Networking Fairy” is walking around with an earpiece, and I have the other earpiece. The “Networking Fairy” introduces people that should meet. For example, if I am talking to the publicist from Rock of Ages, I will tell the networking fairy “Bring my husband down to the bar on the first floor, I want him to meet the Rock of Ages publicist about doing their giveaways.”  The press can help your event seem unique, too, in terms of the less obvious experience. At Guy Kawasaki’s event last summer, people were there recording podcasts. So, in that way, the press can be a credibility/excitement-infusing tool. At our March 9 event, US News and World Report was there doing a segment on women’s education. They interviewed Hot Mommas Case Authors Saranne Rothberg, Lydia Fernandes, and others. People were talking about it “Did you get interviewed by US News and World Report?”…just as I was talking about the bathroom traffic director at Rock of Ages. US News found out about us because of this press release.

5. Afterparty with unique elements

How it works: At the play, we got passes to an after party at a bar two doors down. The VIPs headed to a special section guarded by security. Everyone else went into the main area by the stage. Constantine (from American Idol and who stars in the Broadway Rock of Ages show) sang at the after party as well as Survivor. [[Reality check: How cool is THAT?]] There were two dancers up on stage who – shall we say – really got everyone’s attention. The after-party seemed to feed off the energy of the play. It was great.
How to have your own unique after-party: If you’re having an event, print after-party passes to hand out with nametags/tickets. If it’s a weeknight, I’m sure a local bar or restaurant would be happy to have your posse storm their bar. The cheap version is to have a cash bar or make an arrangement with the restaurant for discount drinks that you pay for. The expensive version is to have a private room and you or a sponsor take care of the tab.  Example: One of my big regrets is not having an after party after the Hot Mommas Project awards were given out at GW on March 9. I was very caught up in what was appropriate vs not given the fact that we were hanger-oners to a university event (a Hoffman Lecture Series). The lecturer, Linda Rabbitt, was inspirational. The awardees and their stories were as well. People were crying, buzzing like bees, and networking at the bottom of the lecture hall after the event. There was an incredible energy in the air. There was a reception afterward where the mingling continued. However, next year I see that more “outlets” are needed for the massive energy of the crowd. I will definitely plan on speaking with a nearby restaurant early to check on interest of sponsoring an after-party. As far as unique elements, it would be great to immediately flash the red carpet pictures on a screen throughout the party as well as quotes from cases/sponsors. If Shashi Bellamkonda comes to your event you’re in business, because he essentially does real-time coverage. He is a machine! Here is the Flickr roll of some pics he took at our March 9 event. Because I am so exhausted from the premiere and after party, I can’t be any more creative than that presently.

Any cool/unique things you’ve seen at events that might help an entrepreneur? Post here.


8 thoughts on “#17 How to Bring Red Carpet Cache to Your Event – Media Training Part 1

  1. Steve Perry of “Journey” was NOT on the stage last night—in reality, it was “EVOLUTION” the world’s greatest Journey Tribute Band…how do I know this? I am both their videographer and the bass players girlfriend. EVOLUTION features the AMAZING vocals of HUGO- not Steve Perry! He looks and sounds eirily alike.
    Evolution ROCKED the house last night! These amazingingly talented, lifelong musicians are powerhouse entertainers. They are: Hugo- lead vocals, Les Jansson- bass, Mike Morales- drums, Adam Holland- guitar & Lance Millard, keyboards. They have traveled the globe as “Evolution” treating fans to the Steve Perry era of Journey.
    Thank you for your mention!

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