Weddings take place in Vegas every day.
Yet, I think I can safely say the Sony wedding at CES between the TV and Internet was a first.
I promised last week to investigate the wedding and report back to you. Conversations with sources led me to Ray Hartjen, senior PR manager at Sony Electronics who teamed with Rob Manfredo to create the wedding.
Ray was gracious enough to share what took place behind the curtain.
Lou: Tell us how the idea behind the wedding came about? Were you trying to come up with an idea that supported Sony’s strength in television and the Internet? Or was it more about bringing fun to the Sony brand?
Ray: Traditionally at CES, we might have the “press dinner,” which is where we take out a group of key media and eat over-priced steaks washed down with over-priced wine, with the objective to further foster relationships. The trouble is, all companies do that.
Lou: Didn’t want to do the same boring stuff.
Ray: Exactly. We wanted to cut through the CES noise. We thought with a bit more budget, we could accomplish the same objectives, but with a bigger group of media, having much more fun, and actually drive a bit of short-term coverage in the process. Plus, we had a story to tell. Sony was the first to bring connected TVs to market. We were the first to bring Google TV to market. After a long courtship with starts and stops, the union between home entertainment and the Internet was ready to settle down. And we wanted to have fun. It’s important to do that every once in a while, right?
Lou: I’m not going to disagree with that last point and become known as the “funless communicator.”
Ray: Good move.
Lou: Obviously, there’s always risk with such a big idea. Was it a challenge to sell your management on the wedding?
Ray: We heard a bit of skepticism at the beginning. But, at the end of the day, it was about doing something different in an effort to get a different result. We could have done the same ol’ same ol’, but that would have done nothing but got us what it got us last year, and the year before that, and the year … Let’s take a bit of a risk, have a little fun, and do something different. Worst case scenario is we learn what NOT to do next year.
Lou: I love the narrative that you put together for the wedding. Do you think business communicators need to find more ways to explore storytelling in building their respective company brands?
Ray: Storytelling in always important. There is so much “noise” out there, it’s easy to skip onto the next piece of content. We wanted to stretch ourselves and challenge ourselves to capture the attention and imagination of both the media and their end-user audiences, whether it be readers or viewers. If we can tell better stories, we can capture more attention and actual engagement, thereby significantly raising the odds of conveying our messages in a way that make an impact, with awareness and recall.
Lou: Can you share a vignette from the wedding narrative that was just “too much” and ended up on the cutting-room floor (didn’t make the final version)?
Ray: We thought about having an actual ceremony, with the personifications of home entertainment and the Internet exchanging vows, perhaps under the watchful eyes of an Elvis impersonator.
Lou: There is something about an Elvis impersonator that says “Vegas.”
Lou: We both know what happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas. Once the bride and groom said “I do,” how did the story play out?
Ray: After a few remarks from executives representing TV, HAV and Sony Entertainment Network, the rest of the night was the reception – lots of fun and games, dancing and product/service demonstrations. We’re hoping not everything stays in Vegas. Being in PR, I’m more than happy to seed stories and drive traffic to our wedding photo album.
Lou: One final question – How did you measure the success of the wedding? I can see almost 7,000 people signed the wedding album. What other metrics did you use?
Ray: Good question. When we first sent out the wedding invitation, we immediately got four well-placed articles in Engadget, Slash Gear, TechnoBuffalo and CE Pro. Some old-school PR pros might say the art of PR is generating news when there isn’t any news. They would call that a success, just by sending out the invitation. Certainly, we’ll measure the social media traffic, not just to the site, but various online mentions and the traffic on Twitter at #sonywedding. Then, subjectively, we look at the relationships we were able to continue to foster with the media, not just with us PR representatives, but with our Sony executives and product team members who were in attendance as well. Those one-to-one conversations build relationships long-term that are beneficial for our business.
Lou: Good stuff. Thanks for sharing the story behind the story.
Ray: No problem.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what was done before.
I particularly liked the way Ray and Rob packaged the worse-case scenario for the wedding, “we learn what NOT to do next year.”
For those visual learners, the wedding album is on Flickr.
We’ve included a few of the photos below.