With top managers eager to burnish their corporate image with a cynical public, many event professionals are adding an altruistic element to the special event programs they create. From local programs to nationwide campaigns, the focus today is on demonstrating the host's sense of social responsibility.
"Community involvement is becoming more prevalent in our corporate culture," according to John Short and Bill Svoboda, owners of Kansas City, Mo.-based EventPros. "Clients are decorating holiday events with toys that are subsequently donated to children's charities, and hosting their employee picnics in conjunction with public fundraising events to ensure their employees are aware of the company's civic commitments."
On the local level, DMC GEP Atlanta recently created an event program for a pharmaceutical client that included working with five Atlanta charities. Attendees built furniture for those transitioning from homelessness, packaged meals for the terminally ill, and packed medical supplies for emerging nations, notes president Michele Lend. A reception back at the hotel allowed each group to share its experiences.
As an event agency specializing in car launches, Cleveland-based Automotive Events tours many locations with clients but often for only short stays. Even so, the team digs deep into the local community to provide support and ensure the programs' success, according to company head John Thorne.
In the recent launch of the Volkswagen Touareg 2 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Automotive Events not only made a donation to the local community college but teamed with its automotive school. "The school provided valuable work shop space for our technicians, while the students gained firsthand experience of working alongside some of the most brilliant automotive minds in the world," Thorne notes.
When the tour for VW's Tiguan stopped in Boulder, Colo., the team recruited journalism students from the University of Colorado at Boulder to work as interns for a week to help produce the event. "The cool part about this event was the fact that the students not only mingled with real-life veteran automotive journalists but actually experienced each and every aspect of the program, from the press conference to the ride-and-drive," Thorne says. The students wrote reviews of the vehicle with advice and support from the journalists; one of the articles was published by leading magazine Car & Driver, he adds.
On a broader level, South Pasadena, Calif.-based Fresh Events Co. helped an apparel company demonstrate its commitment to fighting cancer with a splashy press launch in December.
For client PRVCY Premium, Fresh Events brought in celebrity cancer survivors from throughout the U.S. Keying on the pink ribbon symbol of the fight against breast cancer, Fresh Events used a pink carpet to lead to its logo'd step-and-repeat. Once inside the restaurant venue, guests were served pink cocktails in a room bathed with candlelight from branded votives. The company's jeans were displayed on both flat screens and live models.
The evening culminated with a presentation by the company's founder, who told her story about starting the firm after her own mother died of breast cancer, along with stories from the cancer survivors, says Fresh Events' Ada Chan. She adds, "In a room of 400, there wasn't a dry eye to be seen."
Photo by iStockphoto.com / © Lise Gagne