Publicist Tales: A Tale of Terror and Triumph in Paradise

October 30, 1906 is probably a date in history that not many of us are familiar with, however it’s monumental for publicists around the globe. On this day, 114 years ago, Ivy Lee issued the first press release. Written on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad after a deadly train crash, Lee didn’t want to leave the details to the media, so he proactively issued the press release to be able to accurately tell the Railroad’s story.

So, on National Publicists Day, BAERING is launching Publicist Tales. A monthly blog series where one of our publicists will share a tale from their career and the first edition comes from Director of Public Relations, Paige Berger.

A Tale of Terror and Triumph in Paradise

In 2017 I was a publicist at UFC and living in Las Vegas. I had been part of a lot of really cool events and got to travel to some pretty amazing locations, so I didn’t really think twice about missing UFC 212 in Brazil as I recovered from wrist surgery. So, when a young kid from Hawaii was crowned champion that night in Brazil, I was excited for him, but didn’t think much more about it.

That all changed the next morning when I woke up to a text from the VP of PR telling me to book the next flight to Hawaii and that I needed to be there to welcome the newly minted champ, Max Holloway, home when he returned from Brazil. I would need to organize a Hawaiian Homecoming complete with fans and every media outlet on the island. She told me UFC President Dana White would be paying close attention to the event’s success because he was seriously considering hosting the UFC’s first event in Hawaii, and of course the expense of sending an employee to Hawaii for four days on five hours’ notice wasn’t small.

My excitement quickly turned to terror. It wasn’t even 6 a.m. in Hawaii, but I had to somehow organize an event and get the entire island of Oahu to attend in less than 24 hours – which included a six-hour flight from Vegas to Honolulu with no internet access.

I woke up at 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 4, 2017 with no plans at all and by 3 p.m. I was on a flight to Hawaii with the fate of my career on the line.

Holloway hosting a scrum with media from across Hawaii

I beat Max to Hawaii by about 10 hours, which were spent meeting with local government and airport officials, arranging security to get Max and fellow UFC fighter Yancy Medeiros from the plane to what would hopefully be a large and raucous crowd, lining up media interviews, and organizing a parade and a second homecoming in Max’s hometown of Waianae, about 45 minutes northwest of Honolulu. I think I got a nap in there somewhere too, but I can’t be sure about that.

Max Holloway on the runway at the airport in Honolulu

Max’s flight arrived in Hawaii mid-afternoon on a Monday. Kids were going to be in school, adults at work. As I sat in the Uber on the way to the airport, my excitement was masked by sheer fear. Could I pull this off? Was anyone actually going to show up? Would I have a job when I returned to Vegas? Only time would tell, but it was either going to be a massive success or a giant fail. There wasn’t going to be an in between.

Holloway and his son, Rush, are surrounded by fans

When Max and Yancy walked off the plane everyone, I was right there to greet them. Airport employees, dignitaries, and travelers alike all stopped what they were doing, it was like time stood still and we were in the presence of greatness. The gate area erupted in applause as their new King emerged from the jetway. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, or anything I’ve experienced since, and it was only the beginning. Never discredit the Aloha Spirit.

The next 48 hours were a blur, but the terror faded into memories I will never forget and one of the true highlights of my career.

Holloway at the parade and party thrown for him in his hometown of Waianae