Nearly 90% of C-Suite executives believe in the power of events, and 30% of marketers believe events are the single most effective marketing channel, more so than digital, email and content marketing, according to the Bizzabo Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends report.
Of course, people have to know about the event. One study revealed that 30% of people would have attended an event in their area if they were aware of it. Public relations can help overcome that challenge by spreading the word about events, such as: trade shows, conferences, networking meetings, product launch parties, educational presentations, speeches by celebrities and subject matter experts, and online events like webinars.
These are the main steps to follow to get the most out of PR for event marketing.
Media Relations Steps for Event Promotions
Start early. Get PR involved early in the planning process to help select a date and location, advises Sabrina Hutchinson, CEO of Defiant Public Relations. Events may gain little media attention if scheduled on the same date as another major event. Events in locations far from the central hub of cities also tend to draw less media interest.
Plan a wide-ranging media strategy. Identify all the potential national, regional and local news, trade, business, and broadcast sources which have audiences likely to be interested in the event. Review the publications and determine how they typically handle event announcements. Will they run stories or just a listing? What types of stories promoting events do they favor? Might they interview the featured speaker/personality? Will they send a reporter, reviewer or video crew to the event?
Seek a media hook. Before you send news announcements to media outlets, consider why the event might warrant their attention, advises Gary Campbell at Davidson Belluso. Ask yourself: Does your event have a broad appeal? Will it general interest or is it unusual or even an oddity? Have you seen similar events or incidents of this scale in news coverage before? Does your keynote speaker or main draw have broad appeal?
Create presenter interviews. Interview speakers or performers by phone or chat session shortly after they commit to the event. Use the interviews to write teaser articles about the speaker’s presentation – and distribute the article to the news media and on social media.
Give publishers enough time. Sending news announcements too late may be the most common mistake in event promotion. Give media outlets plenty of time to publish your news. Print magazines need months of lead time, and even daily newspapers prefer a week or two of advance notice. PR can continue to release news about event preparations as their team finds new speakers or make other enhancements to the event.
Persuade journalists to attend. Reach out to local and regional journalists, who are more likely to cover your event, says Dan McCarthy at Social Tables. Contact individual journalists directly, rather than simply submitting website contact forms. Build relationships with members of the press, comment on their stories, and suggest face-to-face meetings. Offer them phone interviews with the featured speakers or performers.
Seek photo opportunities. Photos can be the key for winning publicity both before and after the event. Headshots of speakers will do for conferences, but some events offer outstanding photo opportunities. A photo-friendly location for the event, such as a scenic outdoor spot, helps.
On the day of the event, it’s essential to work with a photographer skilled at low-light, fast-action and both candid and staged photos, Hutchinson advises. Photographers also need to turn around photographs that day or early next morning, so PR pros can pitch them to the media. Make sure the event is well-lit and accessible and brief photographers about the main speakers, she adds.
Record the Event. It’s become fairly easy to audio and/or video record webinars and other educational events for live streaming or later viewing on your website or social media channels such as YouTube. The online availability of the recorded event can and should be promoted. Secure written agreement of presenters before recording.
Report on the Event. Plan to write and distribute to the news media and on social media a report that summarizes the event (and establishes its success). The report, including quotes from the speakers’ presentations, is designed to spread the key ideas presented during the event to a wider audience. Immediately after the event, supply video to TV stations.
Digital and Email Promotions
Your website. Announce the event on your website’s home page. You can also create a separate website or webpage dedicated to the event. Include such information as a description of the venue, history of the event, speaker bios and photos, and a prominent “register” button. You can also include event-related videos, such as interview videos with your main speakers.
Blog about it. Write blog posts that continually update the event activities as your organization continues to flesh out the program.
Email marketing. If you have an email list, email marketing may be your best channel. If you don’t, you may ask partners, speakers, or friends to mention the event in their emails, says Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media. Send emails several times. For large events, email once months in advance to announce the speaker lineup and to announce early-bird registration discounts.
Email just before the registration discount ends, and again as the event approaches, Crestodina says. Finally, send an email a few days before with reminders of the time and place, and a final pitch for new registrations.
Event Promotions on Social Media
Social media offers a superb event marketing tool that should not be ignored. Post event notices on the organization’s social media accounts. Encourage employees and partners to post event notices on their social media accounts. Consider creating a special social media account for the event itself on Facebook, Twitter, and other appropriate social media platforms. Produce a short video promotion for use on YouTube and other social networks.
Share on social. As the event date comes closer, continue to share content about to the event. Pin the event announcement to the top of your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. Including strong visuals can help gain attention. Encourage attendees and speakers to mention the event and share updates with their own followers to help spread the word.
Create a hashtag. Create a hashtag for the event that’s relevant, unique and short. Be careful that it cannot be interpreted in unintended ways. Place the hashtag on your event website, dedicated emails, and social networks. Attendees can use the hashtag to converse with event managers, speakers, and each other.
Bottom Line: Public relations is a key element of effective event marketing. Good PR can dramatically increase awareness of events and attract more attendees – and spread the key messages and ideas presented in the event to a wider audience.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.