Press Kits & Human Greed at Auto Expo 2016

Auto Expo 2016 - Sample (Custom)

Prologue:

“Press Kits” Commonly described as a pre-packaged set of promotional materials. Usually found being distributed at business events, these form a vital cog in the information dissemination chain. The material contained within such kits tends to include: the official press release from the company, quotes from the top rung of the management & so on. Brochures, specification sheets, etc. too are included. In today’s digital age, where imagery is everything, official photographs too are shared.

For those, covering the event, the stuff mentioned above is sufficient for them to file their reports. Those that work on a more relaxed deadline can also refer to the electronic versions of the documents in the Press Kit. Additionally though, brands also tend to add in a memento or two, to the kits. Call it a gesture of appreciation towards those who’ve taken time out to cover the specific event or a case of wooing the media and subtly encouraging them to highlight the good points about their product/service. Most of the mementos tend to be of limited monetary value, but can be quite handy in this day & age (USB Drives, Media Readers, Battery packs, Card holders, etc). Also, people in the industry tend to respect the unspoken lines that one must never cross. So all’s well with the world or so I’d thought.

Turns out, greed without limits – that’s what us humans are capable of. We can achieve many great things, but those that succumb to greed, plunge down the ladder of respectable behaviour. Uh, oh! We have a problem & a serious one at that!

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The occasion was the Auto Expo 2016 – India’s leading showcase of automotive progress. The who’s who of the industry were in attendance at the Expo. CEO’s, Managing Directors, Marketing Heads, Design Chiefs – all the industry bigwigs were there, not just from India, but also from all parts of the world. Not to mention, the international press too.

The aim of the press was to cover the launches, the showcases and the concept displays – all pointing to an exciting time, both in the near future & beyond. It was a time for much to cheer about, laugh a little, connect with old pals & new. But between all the rushing from one manufacturer pavilion to another, in a bid to report in on all the excitement – something rotten was happening.

You see, a section of the domestic press, were more interested in the ‘’Media Kits” than the actual launch coverage of the cars & bikes themselves. So much so, that while the Top Honchos were sharing the story, and unveiling their key car & bike models, these ‘folks’ were lining up at the ‘’Welcome Desk”, not for the “Official Information” but for those ‘mementos’ the goodies.

Press Kits Fights  (2).CR2 (Custom)

It was total chaos, scenes more akin to a street brawl thank what’s expected out of the Press. Welcome Desks at every manufacturer, big and small, across segments, were swamped by people hungry to get their hands on the ‘Kits’. This small section of people, put the rest of the hardworking folks to shame. The latter were struggling to go about their work of reporting in on the launches from the manufacturers, working on updates from one pavilion, before moving to the next. Meanwhile, the greedy bunch were strutting about with a smug smile on their face, displaying the spoils off their shoulders & arms like trophies. Sick, disgusting assholes.

The poor young men & women, manning the ‘Welcome Desks’ were reduced to a pitiable state. Many were cornered, fielding questions, evading abuses & in a few instances, even trying to dodge a few blows. All this in full view of the said, domestic & international dignitaries along with the global Press folks who were seen to be shaking their heads in disgust.

Me – my blood was boiling, but it wasn’t my battle to fight & besides, there were better knowledgeable folks there to man the scenes.

As I bid adieu to Auto Expo 2016 and walked out to the parking lot for the final time this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about it all though. The event was among the most high profile ones in the industry. The members of the Press weren’t newbies, straight out of college, or anything. These were fully grown up men (& women). Most with years of experience, if not decades. They had been involved with the automotive reporting segment and surely had experienced the finer things in life.

Press Kits Fights  (3).CR2 (Custom)

So why the greed? Why the mad rush to grab on to the freebies being handed out at the Welcome Desks across manufacturers? Baring their greed in front of the whole industry? Didn’t they realize just how much harm they were causing to themselves, to their peers, the poor folks on the brand side & to the image of Indian Press as a whole in front of the international delegates?

I had no good answers for any of the questions. I did however get thinking on how such behaviour could be dealt with. Instead, I decided to spend the time, pondering over a better way to get the kits across to the attendees.

One solution would be for each manufacturer to send the ‘Media Kits/Mementos’ to the registered office of each delegate. They could do this, after the event is concluded. The advantages of this approach would be:

  • The logistics pressure of transporting all mementos to the Event Venue, packaging them into the respective kits and then caring for them throughout the event duration is no longer present.
  • Brands can focus on their launches.
  • The Press Delegates could focus on the launch itself & not worry if they’re going to get their goodies, or the amount of jostling that they’d have to indulge in, to stake claim to their ‘Kit’.
  • The brand representatives can focus on their primary task of information dissemination to the members of the Press.
  • It would no longer look like a scene from the movies, where the representatives are behaving like outnumbered soldiers with their backs to the wall, trying to fight off deranged mobs in some zombie movie. Nor would they come across as attempting to distribute food-packets in a disaster-zone surrounded by starving refugees.
  • Moreover, the Press Delegates could even gain some crucial bit of information that could come handy in their post-launch report.
  • This way, everyone plays a winning role, does a good job and retires for the evening, feeling happy as punch.

Another option would be for mementos for all the brands to be collected at an easily accessible location, possibly, at the venue exit for collection (This was suggested by my colleague, Narendra).

  • Brands could possibly go a step ahead and scan the Event Pass for each kit they hand over.
    This would ensure that only those with a Media pass would get a ‘Kit’.
  • It would also reduce wastage as unauthourized people would no longer be able to take advantage of the chaos & lay their hands on stuff that they’re not intended to receive in the first place.
  • Brands will also be able to determine, the exact number of media attendees at their launches and their roles in preparing & disseminating the coverage for their product – a ‘Big Data’ sort of a project, thingy.

But that’s just my take on the whole scene – a rather limited approach, you could say. Plus, there’s plenty of you’ll out there, with years of experience and understanding of how this entire shindig works – from the Brand & PR Agency side, as well as from the Press Delegate camp. So hit up the comments & share your thoughts on how this could be done in a better & smoother way.

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