Hosting an event can be an effective way to generate publicity and PR for your brand, but it’s certainly not a guarantee. Every avid event planner will know that the preparations are the most exciting part — but it’s also your time to plan exactly how you can leverage the day to ensure your best chances of positive publicity and favorable coverage.
Your best bet to ensure maximum exposure is to hire a dedicated PR agency — who will have the relevant relationships and connections — to complement the work of your event management team. But there are many steps you can take yourself to integrate a simple, solid PR strategy.
Plan a great event
Let’s start with the basics. It’s essential to have all the fundamentals in place before you start looking into potential press opportunities. These days, brands are getting more creative than ever with their in-person events, and landing on a great idea is the first step. “A standard party will be more forgettable than an interactive experience that truly aligns with the brand,” explains Laura Pucker, publicist at Otter PR. “Spend plenty of time brainstorming fantastic ideas that will translate to an impactful, memorable event with a newsworthy angle.”
What makes a newsworthy event?
Journalism is all about finding the story. The key difference between marketing and press coverage is that the latter is not obliged to be overwhelmingly positive. Reporters will not craft a puff piece just because you gave them some free nibbles and a drinks coupon. A newsworthy event gives journalists a reason to write about it. That could be related to something funny, lighthearted or unusual, or perhaps something more serious, like the political or ethical statement your event is making. “Whatever it might be, ask yourself what is actually newsworthy about your event, and why might this be worth covering?” purports Pucker. “If you can’t answer those questions yourself, you might struggle to find journalists who can.”
Hosting pre-event opportunities is a great way to build up a buzz. Whether it’s a press conference, an “in conversation with” event, or casual launch drinks — this is your chance to get the news out to press and generate some hype before the big day. This is also a great opportunity to organize interviews and photo ops for the press, so they have material to turn around for a story.
Promote before it starts
Get the word out about your event nice and early by writing a press release. This should include all the key details, including dates, times, location, anyone notable attending, and what people can expect. Depending on the scale of the event, this could lead to some preliminary coverage. You can also use social media channels to start teasing the announcement and the event itself.
Invite the press
If you want your event to generate publicity, you have to invite the right people. Refrain from blasting a generic invite to an impersonal mail list, and instead look at which reporters cover the relevant beat. For some journalists, you might choose to pitch why they want to come to your event, rather than invite them. Will there be lighthearted, fun stories that will suit a gossip or glossy women’s magazine? Will there be news lines for health and wellness reporters? Will there be great photo opportunities for celebrity websites?
“The more you do your homework, the better your chances of securing some great organic coverage,” Pucker reminds.
Make it a seamless experience
Journalists are very busy people. The easier and more seamless you make the event, the better chance you have coverage. Send a clear invitation with all the details, then outline why you think they might enjoy coming along or any potential stories based on their type of coverage. You should create a press kit with all the relevant materials: press releases, expected guests, picture folders, B-roll for video packages, and details of potential interview opportunities.
The next day after the event, you should send your press pictures folders and an updated press release, which can be used for a quick turnaround piece. If you aren’t on it for the press, something else might come up in the interim, and you will miss the opportunity. Remember also that they are there to enjoy it too — provide plenty of food, drinks, and let them bring a plus one.
“Pics and video or it didn’t happen! Don’t overlook their importance,” exclaims Pucker.
Pictures are the most important element when publishing a story. Journalists simply won’t share an article or news package without them. Photo call opportunities, in particular — especially with influencers or celebrities — create a great incentive for Instagram pages and press outlets to publish them, even if they don’t write more detailed content about the event.
Invite celebrities and influencers
We’re not suggesting you invite the Beyoncés and Brad Pitts of the world, but an event is a great chance to invite some relevant celebrities and influencers along. It gives the press more reason to publish your pictures, and it gets the event in front of relevant audiences. Ultimately, it generates more buzz.
The relationship between journalists, brands, and publicists can be unusual. You may chat often over phone and email, but never actually get a chance to say hello in person. “An IRL event is a great opportunity to actually solidify that relationship and get to know these acquaintances,” says Pucker. “A professional relationship nurtured in real life is much more likely to bring long-term benefits. Even if you don’t secure coverage this time, it could be a good networking opportunity.”
Livestreams and blogging
Remember that you don’t need members of the press to generate your own publicity. Don’t keep your event behind closed doors, and instead consider live blogging or vlogging on your company website or Instagram stories to generate hype. It’s also an opportunity to potentially get press coverage from people who didn’t attend. Something newsworthy might have happened during the event, which might be of interest to a whole new beat of reporters — don’t sit on it and instead get an updated press release out while the news is fresh.
Event publicity can be whatever you make of it, but to ensure you make the most of your efforts and get as much positive publicity as possible, your PR efforts need to start early, and your event must be as media-friendly as possible.
If it all sounds like a bit too much extra responsibility, the right PR agency can apply years of event experience and connections to ensure the big day gets the publicity it deserves.
To learn more about how PR can help you grow as a thought leader, visit Otter PR.