Turning a name into news

This is an article by Ben Frith.
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Having received an invitation to the press day at Leeds Arena, I was quick to jump at the chance and confirm my attendance to gain a sneak peak of Leeds’ hottest new venue.

We name this arena...

We name this arena…

Being a public relations student, a press day is the sort of event I expect I’ll be in charge of putting on at some point in my future career, and having witnessed the launch of three new restaurants at my work placement I understand the importance of them in gaining vital publicity for new ventures.

Having never actually attended one, I was intrigued and interested to see how they actually worked on the day and was even more excited to see a different side to what I’d experienced before.

Upon arrival at the arena at 8am sharp, a friend and I were greeted by the PR manager and taken through the artists’ entrance (snazzy!), down a corridor (passing numerous televisions playing music videos of various artists set to play at the arena) into a dressing room full of journalists.

I actually felt quite intimidated to begin with; there I was, in a room of journalists from the likes of the BBC, Capital FM and ITV and so on anticipating the announcement of something.

With a countdown clock on the wall we were left to mingle for half an hour or so as the PR manager ‘worked the crowd’ and made conversation with everyone thanking them for their attendance.

When the countdown had ended, the journalists, my friend and I were taken through the stage door (something that will probably never happen to me again) into the pitch-black arena with the sound of screams from an audience being played.

We then took a seat and waited eagerly to find out why we were there. Before no time a spotlight was lit at the opposite end of the arena and with some dramatic music in the background the announcement was made that SMG Europe had partnered with First Direct and that Leeds Arena would now be known as First Direct Arena. The managing director of SMG and the chief executive of First Direct were then made available for interviews with the various journalists.

The whole event lasted about two hours, and though not aimed at me I really appreciated being given the opportunity to attend. Here are three things that from what I saw are important in events like this.

1. Turning news into an event
The news of a new sponsorship isn’t that exciting, but turning it into an event making journalists feel as though they’re witnessing something big and well, exciting, is important tool to get coverage. The news could have been sent out via press release, but I believe this way of announcing it will have been more successful in getting the news noticed and reported on.

2. Make sure the journalists are happy and well looked after
This is another important factor to gaining key coverage. After all, PR is about relationship building and throughout the whole event the PR managers were circulating the crowd ensuring that everyone had every bit of information they needed – something which is no doubt important in gaining valuable coverage.

3. Picking the right time for the event
This event begun at 8am and though it was a little early for my liking, I can understand why. News stories and pictures from the press day were already online before the event had even ended. Making sure coverage is generated and spread fast is important and varies from type of news is being announced – for example, I’d expect the launch event to be held at 8pm rather than 8am, for obvious reasons…

The press day ended with goodie bags being distributed to those in attendance, and though it could be seen as ‘buying’ coverage, I thought this was a nice way to win journalists over. I bet they can’t wait to redeem their free show tickets!


  1. You’re right: naming rights to a venue is soft news. But the arena is a good local story for Leeds and Yorkshire and the association with Leeds-based First Direct goes against the trend of ‘banker-bashing’.

    This was one of those rare occasions when a good news story makes it onto the news bulletins.

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