Nicole Kidman, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow have all graced the red carpet at the Glamour awards, and seeing as the prestigious awards are coming up, i thought i would shed some light on my recent interview with the events director, Michelle Russell. The interview was conducted as part of my research for my dissertation back in April, and it went swimmingly until my voice recorder started to play up... so ended up looking extremely flustered and a bit of a 'tool' but the woman was lovely, and the interview went surprisingly well. She gave me all the details i needed to know, and i was very grateful seeing as she spends most of her time on the phone to Sir Elton John and other A Listers. Jealous? I think so!
What are the benefits of doing an event?
I mean, primarily for us it is raising the awareness of the magazine, to get it publicity and exposure that we otherwise wouldn’t get. So it allows getting awareness for the magazine in a way that we probably don’t have marketing budgets for.
What are the most important aspects to consider when organising an event?
There are numerous ones and they all have different importance levels. Primarily I think it’s getting the guest list right, so you’ve got to get the right celebrities, if you are doing a celebrity event. If you are doing an event for enjoyment then it doesn’t necessarily have to involve celebrities but if you are doing it to get press then celebrities are key. Getting the right faces, getting the hot faces. It involves us not inviting big brother reality TV stars that type of thing, or maybe mainstream TV stars. You are talking about Hollywood – who’s hot and who’s in that way.
For Conde Nast certainly it’s about location. The company only like to do events W1, WC2 maybe, S1 at the most. Do an event too far out and people can’t be bothered to go.
I think it is also about establishing a reputation for putting on good events and for me that involves having a good level of drink available so there’s not a mad scrabble for the bar, there’s lots of waiters and waitresses around so nobody is having to fight to get for things. I used to work for women’s journal which is a magazine that isn’t produced anymore. It was amazing to see because they had cut their budgets back on say canapés and drinks, whenever a waiter/waitress came out with one of those, it was like a mad scramble. You don’t want that, you don’t want people to think or to panic about where they are going to get their next drink from. In my opinion you should have one waiter per 10 guests or something like that which is a very high ratio or you have a number of bars with really good bar staff and also minimising the amount of drinks available so they have the time to serve well. Also, making sure the drinks are relevant to your company as well. For as example, as its glamour, we would never serve cosmopolitans because cosmopolitan is a rival magazine, despite it being a delicious drink. We would never allow things like that, we like things to be different, innovative and feminine because its glamour and equally male orientated if I'm doing GQ.
What is the time scale?
For Glamour women of the year, from the minute its over we start organising it again. It’s a whole year lead time in terms of I’m already re-booking the venue, securing certain key people who are on board for the following year, be it a host or a presenter we are just constantly improving it, constantly evolving it. The minute the awards are over we need to thank all the brands that were involved and then we create an analysis of how the event went and we are very critical of our own event. We never think we are top of the game and we always look for ways to improve it so we sit around and we all digest every aspect of it. ‘What did you think of venue, music, cars, acts, presenters, did so and so do a good job, did you like the production?’ everything. Then from that we work out how we can improve it for the following year. It never ends really! Regarding 100% commitment I am probably 3 months before the event, totally committed to that event and the minute glamour finishes I go straight on to GQ Man of the Year Awards, so 6 months of solid work and then 6 months of other work where I’m doing other events.
What is the most successful event you are aware of and why?
In this country, I loved the BAFTA’s at the Royal Opera House; they moved there a couple of years ago. In this country, magazine wise I would like to say I don’t know of anything that beats the GQ man of the year and women of the year. In terms of coverage we got (?) 2.8 million in publicity last year and GQ got nearly 2.6 million publicity. When you compare that to the Elle Style Awards or the Cosmopolitan awards, they get a 10th of what we do and that’s not only down to the timing of our events. That is a key thing you always need to make sure there aren’t any events going on at the same time – you don’t want to be competing with other people’s events, you want everyone to be coming to yours. Elle very cleverly do their awards in-between the Brits and the Baftas, and by doing so they get a lot of celebrities coming because they are already in town, but then what they fail to get is the publicity, because the Brits and the Baftas are bigger events than them. Whereas when we do Glamour, it’s in June, there is nothing else going on then and when we do GQ we are in September and are one of the first events of the AW season. Everyone’s coming back from holidays in August, and bam – straight into GQ man of the year, so we absolutely clear the publicity. The only thing we occasionally clash with are the mercury music awards and we liaised with them and last year they moved their event to not clash with us.
What sort of advertising do you do to publicise the event?
We don’t! Its word of mouth. In March and April issues of Glamour and June and July in GQ we have voting pages and so a die-hard reader would be aware of it. What does happen though is because we often invite radio personalities they will be t talking about it ‘I’m going to the GQ awards tonight or Glamour awards and therefore we do have to account for the general public turning up and therefore we have to have crash barriers outside. I mean, nothing compares to the Baftas, where they literally shut both sides of the street on a Sunday night and they spend about £3 million red-carpeting that road and erecting stands and everything. We try not to publicise it because it’s a bigger headache for us in terms of crash barriers and police. As it is at the moment our police bills for each event is about £2,500 and that’s to have 6 policemen available on the night to hold back the paparazzi, you know the nasty ones who try and get pictures of women who are getting out of cars and not wearing lingerie.
How important do you feel an event is to raise awareness of a brand?
Oh my god, it is so key, so key. I mean do it well and everyone loves it, do it badly and they will stop talking about it so you’ve got to do it well. I still remember reading Esquire event in a trade publication where the bra ran draw at half ten, and I still remember that, but because I’m in the industry and that’s my job I am more likely to anyway. Conde Nast do events well and everyone knows that and people want to come to the event because they know they are going to have fun. We take a lot of pride in what we do, be it the food – we would never serve chicken or salmon or something like that, which if you go to an event at the grovener house, most people I know will go for a meal before hand because they know they aren’t going to get great food. So doing an event and doing it well...we wouldn’t do it otherwise. If we thought we were going to do an event badly, we wouldn’t do it at all.
How do you decide on the venue, music, ambiance, food etc?
We tend to get a production company on board, so it’s their job to listen to our wants and needs and interpret that accordingly. I mean obviously if we have a sponsor on board then we have to accommodate certain needs for them. So for example, last year, ossie was our sponsor and ossie is purple, so the event had a purple theme through it. Purple went through the food we had things like barramundi and pineapple based deserts. Loads of things – that doesn’t do it justice at all! It is very much glamorous; there were hair booths in there, there is a huge amount of planning and get it wrong and you’ll know about it. To be honest with you if we do an event and the next day all I hear are nitty-bitty things then that’s good as far as I’m concerned. For example, the minute they get through the door they are getting a champagne reception; they are getting fantastic canapés because we’ve chosen them relevant to the event. For Glamour our brief to the caterers is girly starter, girly main but a really flamboyant desert. To the very last stages of the event, we make sure they are leaving with a goody bag that’s worth £300 and is packed full of everything you want. We don’t allow leaflets or brochures. We want them to go away and open up that bag and think ‘wow, I want everything in there.’ I want that makeup, fragrance, I want to read that book, listen to that CD and god there’s chocolates as well.’ This is everything a girl could need and that’s what we like to see.
Do you know of any disastrous events or have you been to any?
I never seiss going to an event and gauging it in my mind. You know, I go to a friends wedding and I’m costing it up or I’m looking around thinking ‘oh god, I wouldn’t have done that or that’s a bit poor.
Is there anything you would say definitely avoid?
I would say always get your ratio right, if you are doing a service dinner then that is key. I would say for a table of ten it is one waiter per table and one wine waiter per two tables. Get that right and have your service right. I think always having enough drink actually, and the music. I think you could go into a warehouse and still create an amazing event just by having a sound system that’s loud enough, a DJ playing the right music and loads of good drink and a great buzzy atmosphere. Always over-book your guest list, so if you want 600 people coming to an event, you invite 900. Don’t assume that by inviting 600, 600 are going to come because that is never going to happen. There are small things you can do; you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a great event. We just did wired launch party which is another Conde Nast magazine. We just did a party but it was an amazing location, a great bar over-looking the Thames, we had loads of great drinks there, a good DJ and a great buzzing crowd. It was fab. We invited 1000 people to get 600 people at the event and it was spot on – that’s what we wanted, that’s what we got. It is hit and miss and it’s all about learning. A bad event? I don’t know. You don’t have to spend money to create a great event but the ones that do are equally amazing. I think it’s the little touches – at the Glamour event when the guests get in there is a lovely gift waiting for them, whether it’s a gift from Swarovski crystal or somewhere else. It’s about not being afraid to ask for stuff. For a four hour event, have 9 drinks available per head.