We’re all looking forward to the day when events, conferences, and professional get-togethers of every size and purpose can get back to the way they were before the spring of 2020.
We hope that day arrives sooner rather than later but we can all be sure of one thing—events will be back in a big way once we all get the green light.
That’s why we thought it would be a great time to review some tips for planning and strategies to help make your next PR event a huge success. You can never stress the basics enough and even seasoned pros can pick up some new twists on familiar ideas so a refresher on the elements of a great PR event plan is always a good thing.
But before we dive in—and until that green light comes—let us just quickly remind everybody that you can organize effective online-only PR events for as long as you have to. Sure, they’re not your first option but don’t underestimate how much you can achieve with some creativity and effort. From simple Q&A sessions to deeper, more engaging contact, there is plenty you can do to keep your brand or client in the minds of your media contacts. Read our dedicated post on the subject of promotional events in the age of physical distancing for more details.
So let’s turn the focus to the future with tips on how to make a great return to the world of face-to-face PR events.
PR tactics for events
Establish the format of the PR event
- What’s the experience going to look like for those who attend the event?
- How many different people will address those gathered, on what topics, and with what visual aids (if any)?
- What’s the general “flow” of everything from beginning to end?
These are important questions for a number of practical reasons, from how to pitch the event (we’ll get to that in a minute) to physically organizing and scheduling anyone who will speak into a microphone. But there are other benefits that come with examining these questions that you may not have considered.
By carefully planning the format of the event well in advance, you get a chance to focus on potential speakers and presenters (and the time to connect with them and start the conversation about joining you). This can be a key element in the success of any PR event for a couple of reasons. Not only can the lineup of speakers be decisive in attracting media attention, but those who follow the speakers for professional reasons can expand your audience and result in even more coverage.
Leveraging the professional profile of speakers and presenters can greatly expand your media reach and is easier than ever, thanks to social media. Connecting with those who may not have heard of your event but are fans of someone appearing at it is essentially free exposure—it’s simply a matter of working with them to get the word out.
The fact that it’s possible to enlist the help of people with bigger media footprints than you might have is something to embrace, so think about how the message of your event can be amplified with their help!
Focus on the right media contacts
The media contacts in attendance are the oxygen of any public relations event. Getting your pitch in front of the right people puts you in a position to maximize the potential of your PR event by preselecting journalists who are likely to be interested in learning more about you and what you have to share.
It’s important to be on the right side of the quality vs. quantity issue here. Put an emphasis on contacting and inviting the journalists that are most likely to use their platforms to rebroadcast your message. That often means they have:
- Existing connections to your industry. You want journalists who are already focused on your field and write for the audience that comes with that. This also makes it easier to pitch to them since they will more easily understand the significance of whatever you are sharing.
- Ties to the local scene related to your field. Sure, it would be great to have journalists from huge national media outlets sitting in the front row during your presentation and there’s nothing wrong with trying to make that happen. However, there are likely plenty of local journalists who would accept your invitation to join your event. Their audience may be smaller but they can be more willing to deliver the kind of coverage you want. Once that coverage is posted online, it becomes just as valuable as any other link when it comes to enhancing your digital presence. Don’t overlook journalists in your own backyard, especially if your PR event has primarily local relevance.
- Some history with you or the people you work with. It makes sense to reach out to contacts that you’ve worked with in the past. Use relationships built on previous cooperation to start making the list for your next event.
Still, your PR event strategy requires you to cast your net as wide as you can and that will probably involve reaching out to new contacts. The challenge then becomes connecting with as many high-value media contacts as possible while not spending all of your time trying to figure out who makes the list. A shortcut to success would be helpful here.
That’s where tools like Prowly’s Media Database come in handy. You can get access to a curated list of verified contacts from every field and location you might need, saving you tons of time and skipping the hard work of finding the contacts on your own.
Creating a targeted audience from these contacts puts you closer to your goal of media coverage and the same tool can be used to craft and send your pitch. And speaking of your pitch…
Craft the perfect pitch (and press release)
With a clear vision of what your PR event is all about and a carefully selected list of journalists, putting together the PR materials you’ll need to get attention will be that much easier.
That means a pitch to invite journalists to attend your PR event and a press release for those who can’t or don’t. These are often very similar texts but we’ve covered the difference between them extensively if you need a reminder.
The essentials of any PR pitch apply here. That means addressing these questions:
- Why should your media contact be interested in your PR event? What’s in it for them?
- How is the information you want to present at the PR event relevant to the journalist’s audience? How will you help to provide engaging content for them?
- How does your PR event fit with the subject area the journalist / media outlet covers? Is there some way you can present the focus of your event as especially relevant?
When creating your pitch, consider adding the possibility of some kind of exclusivity, whether in the form of early access, interviews, or personalized guidance through the substance of your PR event. This can be especially beneficial for products, services, or other topics that may require a bit more information and context than most journalists might bring to the table. Don’t let a complex message get in the way of media engagement—take the first step and offer the help needed to adequately cover your announcement.
Now let’s turn to press releases for a moment and their role in PR events.
Of course, your first choice is to get lots of RSVPs from journalists eager to attend your event but many will be unable to join in person. That doesn’t mean they’re lost as a potential source of media coverage, though. That’s where your press release comes in. After the event, follow up with those who could not attend with the bullet-point version of the highlights of your announcement along with an invitation to get in touch to learn more.
Anyone who responds to your pitch, even with a “Sorry, but I can’t make it”, is still part of an ongoing conversation, so take advantage of the opportunity to keep them engaged through your press release.
If you run into the classic “What should my press release look like?” version of writer’s block, have a look at these press release templates to get your preparation back in the fast lane.
And when it comes to pitches, press releases, and other materials you share with journalists, upgrade your game to an online newsroom. This is a dedicated, branded online space where you can post any & all materials you want to share about you and your brand. Online newsrooms offer more than just convenience, they’re a modern spin on PR work and a pleasant surprise to journalists used to old-fashioned pitches.
Instead of sending PDFs or asking journalists to download your press packet, you can just include a link that takes them to your newsroom for live, up-to-date info about, for example, your upcoming PR event. This lets you add updates, make corrections, and allows for last-minute changes when needed—try that with PDF.
Get the word about your PR event out to interested journalists
By now, you’ve got your targeted contact list ready to go, your killer pitch and press release written and you know exactly what the whole event should look like. It’s time to get your invitations out through the channel that journalists repeatedly indicate as their preferred method of communication.
That means email.
Even in this social media-driven world, email is the way to go when it’s time to get your pitch in front of a potential audience. If you have an existing relationship with a particular media contact, then you may already have a message chain going somewhere in social media. For everyone else, start with email.
Integration between your contact lists and your email tool is a huge time saver. Even better, a tool where they are natively integrated can turbocharge your PR outreach. Managing your outgoing messages and responses to them while easily adding additional contacts allows you to react appropriately as journalists engage with you. In addition to carrying on conversations, you can follow up with those who, for example, opened your mail but didn’t respond or didn’t open your message at all.
Different contexts call for different kinds of follow-ups and the right tool makes it easier to juggle all the separate conversations you’re involved in while putting together a PR event.
The right platform will help you keep all those balls in the air until they’re lined up & signed up for your event!
PR events will be back soon—are you ready?
So there’s our refresher course on the basics of planning an in-person PR event. It’s been too long since things have functioned normally but we’re sure that everything will come back to you once we get into the swing of things. We’ve got our fingers crossed for your long-awaited return to successful live PR events!
Cover photo by Andrei Stratu