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All About the Angles

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>As any PR person knows, it’s all about the angles, and I’m not talking geometry.

You’ve got a story to pitch, a product to sell, a book to hawk, an expert to promote, it all comes down to…angles. The more angles, the better.

What’s an angle? It’s a way into a story, and angles vary, depending on a variety of factors—timeliness, dollars, controversy, visuals, the human element, the “cute” factor (are there puppies or kittens involved or some way to logically INVOLVE puppies and kittens?), and your target media market. An angle that works for the Wall Street Journal may not work for ROLLING STONE Magazine.

The more angles you can find, the more potential AUDIENCES there are for your story, product, novel, whatever. Find a way to make your pitch appeal to 18 year olds AND octogenarians, you’ve got a winner.

Like Venice, for example. No, not that Venice.

I’m speaking of Venice, Florida, where myself and my fiancée recently vacationed as part of a bucket-list trip to take in the Baltimore Orioles in spring training.

Venice has many angles. As it’s own promotional materials tout, Venice is “a city…an island…a world of its own!” And evidently a world where people embrace wine and well-groomed pets. We were amazed to find wine available pretty much everywhere – even at the local Walgreens – and every dog on a leashed looked like it had just come from the most chi-chi-fine –canine salon.

Venice has its beaches, and it’s beachside restaurants – the proprietor of our bed and breakfast, The Banyan House, told us about “Sharky’s on the Pier” – and there’s as much or as little as you want to do, whether just relaxing in the sand, going wind-surfing or searching for sharks’ teeth, as Venice Beach is known as the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World.”

There are numerous fine restaurants to enjoy, such as Café Venice restaurant and wine bar (wine, of course) where we dined our first night in town (www.cafeveniceontheisland.com), an out of the way French café called Le Petit Bistro, and a variety of ice creameries along aptly named Venice Avenue.

It’s our habit to pick up a holiday ornament at every place we vacation, and we had plenty of options to choose from, as we stopped in Nifty Nic Nacs, Seaside Chic, and the Venice Centre Mall.

Since we were in town to catch the O’s, we hopped in our rental Yaris and headed up I-75 to Sarasota and Ed Smith Stadium. Like Venice, Sarasota has a lot of angles—there are a lot of big city amenities, but also, a “down home-small town flavor,” which is only natural, given that’s a good way to describe Baltimore, the Orioles regular season home.

When it came time to park the car at a nearby lot to walk over to the ballpark, as I fished in my pocket for the $9 to give to the attendant, he grinned and said, “Stop your diggin’! Go on in!” and allowed us to park for free. My fiancée speculated that it might have been my “Ireland” jersey, but whatever the reason, we appreciated the hospitality.

Ed Smith Stadium is as advertised, a beautiful mini-Camden Yards complete with digital big-screen scoreboard, an always-packed gift shop, crabcakes and hotdogs, green seats with cupholders, the proverbial whole nine yards…though for baseball sake, best make that metaphor the whole 60 feet-six inches. While there we watched the Orioles thump the Atlanta Braves on a sunny Friday afternoon and that Sunday, saw what only happens in spring training games—a tie, 7-7 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But Sarasota wasn’t just about the baseball. Seemed everyone we spoke to as we breakfasted at our B&B (and we met folks from Connecticut to Michigan to North Dakota) recommended we spend a day at the Ringling Brothers Museum.

I admit, I was never a big fan of the circus—I mean, once you’ve seen STAR WARS, a tired looking lion yawning in a cage just doesn’t “do it”—but found the Ringling Museum to be a feast for the senses….and not just because of the 4-star restaurant on the premises, Treviso ( www.trevisorestaurant.com) where we had lunch.

Being unfamiliar with “The Ringling,” (www.ringling.org) we had expected a museum…you know, a building, you walk in, see some interesting things, buy something you don’t need in the gift shop, head out. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that.

“The Ringling” is actually a huge 66-acre campus that features a number of buildings that are best visited with the help of a non-stop-shuttle service (which we found particularly helpful as it rained constantly during our visit that day). First, there’s the Circus Museum which was established in 1948. There’s everything you might expect and many things you wouldn’t, such as the furnished private railcar, The Wisconsin, on which John and Marble Ringling traveled as their circus traversed the country. There were examples of the original circus wagons, costumes, posters, interactive exhibits, videos, and more.

John Ringling was an avid art collector and a trip to the Ringling Museum of Art on the campus is like a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art or the Walters here in Baltimore. There are masterworks by Rubens, Velaquez, Veronese, and Gainsborough just to name a few. A bronze copy of Michelango’s David adorns the west end of the central courtyard. In addition to the classic paintings and sculptures, there is also a wing of modern art, which featured mixed-media, “Joseph’s Coat,” and more.

Then, if you want to see how the “rich lived,” you can stop at John and Mable Ringling’s “winter residence,” which was built in the mid-to-late 1920s at a cost of about $1.5 million. Mable, our tour guide informed us, fell in love with Venice, Italy, and the Mediterranean, and this can be seen in the Venetian Gothic style which permeates the home which has a spectacular view of the ocean.

“The Ringling” also features the Historic Asolo Theater, an education center, the 27,000 square foot Bayfront Gardens which include more than 1,200 roses which Mable Ringling planted herself.

As I say, our trip to Florida had many angles. When I think Florida, I think orange juice and palm trees, and there’s plenty of that, particularly palm trees…and banyan trees, which I had never heard of until we came to Venice. Our bed and breakfast, called The Banyan House (http://www.banyanhouse.com), recognizing the huge banyan tree in the front garden, featured Old World styles and large spacious rooms, and an excellent breakfast each day with fresh orange juice (it’s Florida afterall), bacon quiches, homemade yogurt, and more.

Baseball, the circus, French bistros and even a “cabaret of magic” on Miami Avenue—not what immediately springs to mind when one thinks of the Sunshine State. But that’s what it’s all about, in both public relations and on vacation—angles. Variety. Different hooks to bring you in and make you pay attention.

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