Rendezvous with Veritas; Winner of the 2016 ACE Award for Best Use of Special Events
Nina Szirmay-Kalos* is the Group Vice President at Veritas Communications. She is an award-winning media relations guru, PR extraordinaire, dedicated leader and a wise mentor. She is an experienced and highly motivated PR practitioner known for pitching ice to a snowman.
Kaur: Hi. I’m Suneet Kaur, a graduate of Public Relations at Seneca College. I’m talking today about the Award-Winning Sensorium by Stella Artois, a PR campaign planned and executed by Veritas Communications. It’s my pleasure to be speaking with Nina Szirmay-Kalos, Group Vice President of Veritas Communications.
Nina, first things first, what inspired you to launch Sensorium with Stella Artois?
Kalos: We’re always looking for new sources of inspiration. We knew our client wanted to be part of the circuit during TIFF but we needed to find a way to do that which was authentic to the brand and disruptive enough to break through the Festival clutter. Nothing is more authentic to the brand than the Stella Artois’ Chalice, so we used that as a jumping off point. The chalice is specifically designed to engage all senses – so we wondered what an event that did the same could look like. Sensorium was born.
Kaur: Like you mentioned, the campaign was timed around TIFF, and there was a lot of festival clutter. Not only did you break through the clutter, but won honours at the Ace Awards. Why do you think the campaign was such a huge success in the end?
Kalos: I think the campaign attracted so much attention and was a huge success because it was grounded in insight. We knew that our target demographic was more motivated by cool experiences than they were by cool things so we took our product and imagined a way for them to interact with it in a unique way. You need to always consider the needs of your market when building out campaigns and then ultimately deliver against those needs.
Kaur: You have your finger on the pulse with key industry trends. What is the most important aspect in PR campaign strategy design?
Kalos: Insights, insights, insights. You need to start from a smart place to end at an effective one!
Kaur: What was the significance, if any, of social media in your campaign?
Kalos: Social was of huge significance – an answer you’ll get 9 times out of 10 from most PR professionals. Our goal with this campaign was ultimately ticket sales and because of that we wanted to cast a wide media net to spread the word. By the time our media preview rolled around, the event was actually sold out, so the purpose of social went from driving ticket sales, to allowing all those who couldn’t actually attend to experience the event in some way. It also helped to drive interest in Sensorium, which Stella Artois has grown into a global adapt and reapply, largely based on the interest generated in Toronto.
Kaur: How did you pitch media and influencers to cover your event? Any tips for Public Relations students?
Kalos: We used the same insight we had for our consumers. We hosted a media preview before the launch of Sensorium, so media was enticed by also getting to experience this unique event. It was a huge draw given that this was all taking place during TIFF and the demands on media were so high – we really need to give them a reason to take notice of us.
Kaur: Did you have an ACE Award on your mind during the campaign, or was it only after that you thought to submit? Why did you think of submitting to the ACE Awards?
Kalos: Winning awards is wonderful. We love to celebrate great, smart partnerships with our clients – because don’t forget that none of what we do would be possible without engaged and collaborative clients. But that’s not the basis of our campaigns. We work towards objectives that are clearly defined from the outset which rarely but sometimes includes getting industry recognition – but that’s less about the award itself and more about pushing ourselves to do something truly great and impactful.
Kaur: Do you think it’s important to submit to recognition awards like ACE?
Kalos: I think ACE awards serve a wonderful purpose. They inspire the industry community. It’s fantastic to see what your counterparts are doing and what they’re achieving. It motivates us all to find the next big thing.
Kaur: Why do you think VERITAS won last year?
Kalos: I think we were successful in last year’s awards competition because we had an awesome campaign that we presented to the judges in a clear, concise and illustrative way. Sometimes these awards submissions are difficult because you’re trying to bring to life a campaign that literately took months to conceive and execute through 2-3 written pages. Award submissions really are an art and the team takes them seriously.
Kaur: What advice do you have for those PR campaigns being submitted this year?
Kalos: Make sure your submissions are grounded in insights and that your objectives link to tangible results. You can have an interesting campaign, but if it didn’t move the needle for your client, you’ll have real trouble showing business-minded people why their investment in PR was a valuable spend.
By Suneet Kaur Lamba, Seneca College