Public Relations Tips for Event Professionals (Guest Post by Gini Dietrich)
When it comes to planning an event, word-of-mouth is crucial to success. To create that kind of referral system, public relations is the best way to go. Sure, there are many components that go into planning a meeting — location, size, speakers, promotion, budgeting, and more — but PR is what will get the message out to a broad audience. At every step of planning, meeting professionals should be keeping the PR plan an integral part, instead of an afterthought. The PR efforts must begin at the same time you begin planning the event.
Here are a few tips from Gini Dietrich (Founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich and author of the popular Spin Sucks blog) to help you do just that.
Have a dedicated webpage for your event. As soon as you know the date and location for your event, you should have a landing page to spark conversation. Even if you don’t have all of the information (speaker bios, agenda, etc), having a centralized location will allow you to direct promotional traffic to one place. The front page of your website should have compelling information about your event, including:
- Topic of your event
- Target audience: Who should attend? Why should they attend? What are the benefits?
- Third-party endorsements, such as testimonials and videos from previous events
- Information about your sponsors
- A prominent call-to-action button, such as “Learn More” or “Register Now”
Create a media kit. In order for speakers, attendees, and journalists to get the information they need, a media kit should be posted on your website. Your media kit should include:
- Event and company overview: In addition to the who, what, why of the specific event you’re promoting, the overview should include information about the company behind the event.
- Speaker bios: Keep these short and sweet. Bios should be 100 words or less. Include a downloadable photo and social media information (when relevant).
- Frequently asked questions: This should include the date, registration price and deadlines, location, agenda, speakers, social media accounts, and anything else you can imagine being asked. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.
- Photos and images: Include not just speaker headshots, but your logo, hi-res photos from previous events, and anything else relevant to the promotion of your event.
- Social media: It’s helpful to have a set of pre-written social media updates. Write seven to 10 tweets, and three to five Facebook and LinkedIn messages. Include images people can share on Instagram and Pinterest. You’ll be amazed at how many people just copy and paste because it’s easier.
- Badges: Speakers and attendees often add badges to their websites or blogs. Create one that links back to your event’s online page and you’ll have both the benefit of people seeing it in other spots and of the link back to your site (which is valuable search engine optimization).
Write a news release. Don’t write it in the form of “such and such organization announces such and such event.” Boring! What would you want to read about the event? Write that story. Make people care about the event and motivate them to learn more. You can take a lot of creative liberty with news releases today so don’t be afraid to have some fun.
Call local media outlets. In addition to distributing your news release to targeted trades, news, and blogs it’s important to send customized emails to local media where your event will be held. When you compose emails, be brief and don’t ask for a promotional piece about your event. Instead, offer an intriguing angle. It could be about the speakers, why this event matters to the industry, or how this event will contribute to the local community.
Example: Last September, the local media was abuzz about how much revenue this one event in Cleveland generated for the city. You can emulate that very idea.
Be mindful of deadlines. Most blogs and daily news sites need 30-days notice. Most magazines and trade publication need 90-days notice. The sooner you can get information out to the media, the better.
Create a hashtag to direct and curate conversation. This can be as simple as the name of your event. A hashtag brings the conversation together before, during, and after your event. Include this hashtag on all promotional materials (including print), in the media kit, and all activity across social media and email.
Promote the location, as well as the event. When planning an event, it’s important to recognize and point out the key features of the city you’re holding the event. What are the local attractions? Where can your attendees dine and network in their free time? Where are the amenities? What are the hotel options?
Make your event easy to share. The website, the hashtag, the location—all of these are crucial pieces to the public relations puzzle to get people talking about your event. But it needs to be easy for them to talk about it.
Here are a few ways to create shareable content:
- Use share buttons on your event page so speakers, sponsors, and registered attendees can easily disseminate information with the click of a button.
- Create templated text copy for your sponsors and speakers. It’s mutually beneficial for your speakers and sponsors to get people talking about your event, but they’re usually very busy. Templated emails, social media copy, and shortened links to make it easy for them to help promote your event.
- Leverage the thought leadership of your event and its speakers to create content to share on your social channels. The more you share, the more information there will be for others to share with a simple retweet.
Use paid promotion on social media to reach your target audience. People rarely register for an event the first time they hear of it, which makes remarketing an effective strategy. On Facebook, you can use custom audiences to show ads to people who have already visited your website. You can show event ads to Facebook users who left the website before purchasing a ticket. On Twitter, you can create custom audiences and reach your target audiences (who aren’t already following you on Twitter). LinkedIn offers sponsored posts. With all of your promotional materials in place, targeted ads on social media will help you reach a wider audience to help drive traffic to your event.
Capitalize on post-event promotion. The promotion doesn’t end when the event is over. Post photos and videos on social media, send thank you emails, and encourage attendees to continue talking about the event by using the hashtag. Don’t forget to follow up with the media outlets with hi-res photographs and testimonials about the event.
There are countless ways to use both traditional and digital PR to promote events. But, if you take only one thing away, make it this: efforts need to begin as soon as humanly possible. Don’t wait until two weeks before the event. At the very latest, you should begin six months out. When you do that, you’ll feel like everyone is talking about your big event.
Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.