Eyebrow-raising moments, head-scratching successes and outside-the-box opportunities as we reflect on The Wakeman Agency’s 12th year
Formative stepping stones signal success in a company’s coming of age. These signposts are sometimes chronicled as “firsts” and other times catalogued as a superlative of some sort (think “best,” “fastest,” “greatest”). The maturation of The Wakeman Agency has been no different.
As we celebrate 12 years of needle-moving, social-change impact, here are some of the most memorable moments that remind us at once of how far we’ve come – and how we made it through without pulling our hair out.
The First-Ever Wakeman Agency Event
Our very first event was a fundraiser called “Women We Are Watching” for The Development & Finishing Institute, a New York City-based nonprofit promoting social and professional opportunities for girls and women. Everything was going according to plan – the Wakeman team arrived early and set everything up to the client’s delight. Anticipation was in the air, and the evening was about to kick into gear just when CEO Vanessa Wakeman experienced her very own version of a clothing malfunction.
“I went in the bathroom to change my clothes and quickly realized that, in my excitement, I neglected to put my event clothes into my car! I had to hide in the bathroom while someone went to my home to retrieve my clothes and shoes,” Wakeman remembers. “I literally hung out there for about an hour, running the event from the bathroom, with staff coming in and out to update me. The client was none the wiser, and the event was a huge success.”
Teachable Takeaway: Events can be like controlled demolitions – they may go down as planned, but will still be apt to leave some mess. Wakeman learned not to panic and how to execute flawlessly, even while in sweatpants and a T-shirt.
The First Celebrity Sighting at a Wakeman Engagement
Major players in the event planning space may pretend not to get hot and bothered when an A-lister enters their realm, but even the most experienced among us always remember who we spotted when. At The Wakeman Agency’s first large-scale event, the Hip-Hop Odyssey Film Festival, all-star rapper, music producer and songwriter Kanye West was the special guest at the closing awards ceremony.
“This was in 2003, before Kanye was Kanye,” says Wakeman. “It was great to hear some of his early material. We were new to PR then, and it was a learning experience to understand the nuances when working with celebrities.”
Just a few months later, The Wakeman Agency planned a gala for Project Enterprise, an NYC-based incubator for small businesses and underserved entrepreneurs. This go-round, mega stars Jay Z and Beyonce were in attendance.
“Leveraging the experience we had working with Kanye, The Wakeman Agency was able to assist with getting them out of the venue quickly while also catering to the requests of the many fans at the event,” according to Wakeman.
Teachable Takeaway: We don’t let star power detract from our performance. “At this point, I would say we are seasoned when it comes to working with celebrities,” says Wakeman.
Funniest Wakeman Agency Moment
Sometimes preparing to the nth degree can’t prevent the unexpected from happening. And these are the moments that create the memories we later look back on and laugh at. For Vanessa Wakeman, it was a case of overexposure – and we aren’t talking about photography.
“We did an event at a country club on the water, and I had to make an announcement about the program being delayed due to an emergency with the guest of honor,” she recalls. “As I was at the mic, a gust of wind lifted my skirt all the way up, and everyone saw my panties. All evening I got thumbs-ups and high fives for my ability to capture everyone’s attention.”
Teachable Takeaway: Make the most of your own “Marilyn Monroe moments,” whatever they may be. Roll with the punches, don’t lose your cool and be able to laugh at yourself.
The Craziest Wakeman Agency Client Request
Wakeman Agency team members are believers in dreaming big. But sometimes clients can challenge our broadest-minded ideas and most boundless limitations. The most over-the-top instance was when the Agency partnered with a corporate client for an annual customer appreciation event.
“The organization was incorporating musical performances into program,” Wakeman explains. “The CEO came to us the day of the event to inform us that it was his dream to crowd surf, and he wanted to do it at this event. Once we realized there was no dissuading him, we worked with members of the staff to create a plan that would ensure his safety while helping to make his dream come true. He still talks about that event to this day.”
Teachable Takeaway: Being willing to stretch ourselves has helped us grow, professionally and personally. Plus, “Executing on our client’s dreams and ideas has led to long-term relationships,” says Wakeman.
The Wakeman Agency Bucket List
Even though we’ve been in business for more than a decade and have no shortage of social-change campaigns, star-studded galas, goal-reaching fundraisers and newfangled PR and marketing offerings under our belt, The Wakeman Agency remains ambitious and aspirational.
Our bucket list takes our expertise to stratospheric levels and would involve teaming up with some of those we watch with awe from the sidelines, including:
- Dreamforce – We are huge fans of Salesforce and are amazed at how flawlessly the event goes each year though the attendance continues to swell above 100,000 guests.
- Ms. Foundation for Women/ Gloria Steinem’s 85th Birthday Party – We love the work of the Ms. Foundation. Combining their annual gala with an even grander event for Ms. Steinem’s 85th birthday in four years would be a dream come true.
Rounding out The Wakeman Agency’s bucket list would be creating a three-day festival for Chimes for Change. We envision crafting a continuous series of global events focused on women and girls, culminating with a high-end gala and concert with a Who’s Who of amazing female artists.
Teachable Takeaway: No matter how successful we become, we’ll always dream big and reach for greater heights. You’re never too longstanding or successful to stop growing and stretching.
Share with us in our anniversary journey. What have been some of the most embarrassing, surprising or unexpected moments in the record books of your organization? We’d love to hear what personal moments of professional growth, expansion and development you’ve encountered in our not-so predictable line of work. Join us on The Wakeman Agency Facebook community to chime in.