Part I: Getting started
If you are not using public relations to promote your events, you may be missing a huge opportunity. One press release in the right hands could translate into online and print calendar listings, blog mentions, published articles, or television or radio coverage. Good publicity not only can help you increase attendance; reinforce the company’s brand; and attract sponsors, speakers and exhibitors; it also can create goodwill.
If you don’t have a public relations (PR) specialist on your events team, or if you have no prior PR experience, don’t panic. Here’s how to get started:
- Identify your target market segments. Who are you trying to attract to your event: Sponsors? Attendees? Press?
- Figure out what the story is. If you want people to write about your event, you need to “pitch” that story angle, so figure out what makes your event unique and write a press (or news) release for each potential newsy item.
- Gather relevant information. Whether you are going to write the press release or you are going to hire a PR professional to write it for you, you’ll need to know the five Ws and one H of the event:
- Who is producing the event? Who should reporters contact for more information?
- What is going to happen?
- When will it take place?
- Where will it happen?
- Why should people care? Why should they come?
- How can people get more information, get involved, purchase tickets, etc.?
- Compile a list of reporters and editors at magazines, newspapers, Web sites, television and radio stations that target the same market(s) your event does. PR professionals have their own lists and relationships with media professionals, but being able to tell them whom you are targeting will help them focus their efforts and deliver your message into the right hands. And if you’re doing the PR yourself, knowing who to contact and how is half the battle.
If you decide to hire a PR professional, knowing the above information in advance is crucial, especially if they charge by the hour. Always review and approve their work before press/news releases are distributed. Double-check facts and contact information as well as the tone of the release, and be prepared to edit it, if necessary.
The advantage of hiring a PR professional is that it saves you time. They already have media contact lists, relationships with writers, experience crafting attention-getting press releases and knowledge about when editorial deadlines are at different media outlets.
The advantage of doing it yourself is that you will save a lot of money (unless you convince a PR person to volunteer their services). And affordable marketing programs such as ConstantContact.com can help you craft professional-looking, targeted e-mail campaigns and keep track of who is reading what you’ve sent.
Tune in next month, and I’ll go over how to put together the perfect press release.
— Jackie Thornton, M.S., CMP
Jackie Thornton, M.S., CMP, is President of Global Marketing and PR Inc., which offers event planning, marketing and public relations services. She also has taught event planning certificate courses.