One of the most difficult tasks in PR is organizing events from scratch. Especially without star speakers and strong support from the media. You understand that you are doing a cool event, but how to make others understand this?
Naturally, the organization of events consists not only of PR. This includes delicious food, a well-chosen location, and great speakers/artists. But even well-organized events need people. Many people. And public attention.
How do you make sure your event doesn’t go unnoticed? Below are 12 simple steps for effective event promotion.
1. Write down the main details of the event each time
This advice seems to be too obvious. It’s clear that we need to talk about the upcoming event, but, for example, when we were preparing for the award, we didn’t immediately understand what the catch was. The organizers have a cognitive distortion: “I’ve told all my friends about the event a hundred times, I also posted a couple of stories — everyone’s definitely in the know!”.
The bad news is that people don’t remember everything they are told. Even if more than once. Therefore, it’s necessary to convey the key information on the event in all the materials about it.
The main goals of event PR are to generate interest and get registrations. Press readers and social media users are much more likely to turn into your visitors if you provide all the key information in advance:
- Event name;
- Idea and program (be sure to write how the event can be useful, what results the participants will get);
- Key speakers:
- Time and date;
- The way to book/purchase tickets.
It’ll be great if you manage to make up some new cool details or descriptions every time you talk about the event. We have been working on the award for more than a year, now the preparation for the second ceremony is in progress, and we are still coming up with new features in the positioning and description of the event.
2. Write a presentation for the media
When you’re trying to get the media interested, try doing it through the stories inside the event. Journalists want to hear interesting plots behind colorful descriptions and figures. What does “20 Great Speakers” mean? And who are they? What is interesting about them? What price did they pay for their achievements? What are they fighting for/against? Introduce your characters to the media before the event.
Think who the needed journalists write for and the invited bloggers make videos for. What value can your information give to their audience? Even if this value is just entertaining, it can still be important. You need to choose the right feed and the relevant format.
3. Conduct media analytics and determine how you will distribute the content
Effective PR starts with studying the media and bloggers. You need to find out at the start which of them are most likely to visit your event and talk about it. Next, we will find out which sections, authors, editors, etc. specialize in the theme of the upcoming event. Finally, we combine all the found information into a list of relevant media. You will probably need this list more than once to work with event media promotion. Below is an example of such a table:
It’s also convenient to draw up a content plan in advance. Of course, it’s not set in stone. If there’s an interesting newsbreak, you can always include it in the agenda. Here is an example of a handy scheme that helps our team follow the status of media communications:
We’re used to tracking the status of materials using colors. Yellow means something is in progress, green happily signals the release of an article or a post.
You can also think about how to distribute the news about publications — here’s a table for this.
It’s important to give a clickable link to your event landing page in each publication. You can simply indicate the name of the author in the lead and add his or her position with a link to the project. Just go back to the beginning of the article to see an example.
4. Don’t neglect local information sites and event listings
This advice is especially relevant if the event is local rather than industry specific. If it takes place at a local venue in a residential area, try inviting locals in an online community. You can give them a discount or even make the entrance free. Especially when you really need to catch up with the audience. People like to attend events close to home, so you have every chance to attract additional guests.
5. Use event headliners to promote
When the hard work has been done to find cool speakers and talents for the event, it’s time to bring them to the promotion. Leverage their influence and exposure to generate media and social media coverage by including them in your presentation.
You can also ask the headliners to talk about their upcoming performance on social media. As a rule, a post or story in a popular account takes a couple of minutes from its owner, but the PR effect can be huge. Remember the announcement of the performance with the participation of Buzova, when tickets to the Moscow Art Theater sold out in a matter of minutes. Even if your speakers are not so media-oriented, they probably have their own warm audience of followers who will gladly come to listen to their favorite expert or artist. Often, speakers themselves willingly share their plans with the audience without any reminders. But if this didn’t happen, you can tactfully ask for it.
For example, when we were preparing for the first “Louder!” award, we had no winners yet and we had little idea who would apply and attend the event. Then we asked the speakers of our educational intensives to make posts about us. It had its media value.
After the winners were selected, we began to involve them in the promotion of the award: interviewed them, talked about their cases in the media and social networks. It turned out that the media mentioned both our winners and us — win-win. Then we all shared the released material together — this is how we got an effective collaboration every time.
6. Start Your PR Campaign Early
Of course, this advice is far from being a cutting-edge discovery, but still I want to mention one unspoken rule of PR people under the unpretentious name “Six weeks before”. The rule says that you need to start a PR campaign and invite speakers no later than six weeks before the start of the event. Otherwise, there is a big risk of not having time to make the promotion of your dream. Even warm-ups on Instagram, as a rule, last at least a month, or even as many as three.
Ideally, online publications should be out at least a month before the event, and printed materials — two months before. Moreover, the larger the publication or blog, the more time it takes to prepare and coordinate content.
Of course, if we are talking about a small local event, the duration of the promotional campaign can be reduced.
With our “Louder!” PR award, we start promoting it four months before because people are not always in a hurry to apply as soon as they see an advertisement or publication. One has to remind several times. It still takes a lot of time to attract participants through targeted advertising and publications. Yes, and people, as a rule, need some time before starting to take action and apply. Still, the lion’s share of applications comes during the last week of admission. Many registrations happen on the last day.
Plus, we spend the whole year thinking about how not to lose contact with our audience. For example, we conduct monthly educational intensives. In fact, in this way we remind our participants and partners about ourselves. Organizing regular intensives is one of the mechanisms for maintaining relationships with partners and potential participants (we also regularly generate useful content for this purpose). All this lets people know that our agreements are in force and the award will take place again next year.
An important point: the content should not consist of continuous announcements of upcoming events. You need to create content for different platforms. At the same time, you don’t need to promote yourself in every line — just tell really useful things. Such information will work for you in the long run and gradually build your reputation as an expert.
Also, if you build good mutually beneficial relationships with all the people you work with, this will also work for your PR. For example, thanks to our winner Anton Vert, we got into the list of Inventology awards. And the more time passes, the more people will see this list. Again PR for a long time.
7. Social media and advertising
Info support and useful content are all good and important, but not enough. We are convinced that it is rather difficult to attract participants without a clear advertising campaign, because there is a widespread opinion that contests and events, especially online, are a waste of time. In general, you will have to spend time and money convincing people otherwise, unless you invite them to Tony Robbins’s meetings. Yet, we can guess how much he and his team spent on promotion and invitations.
8. Try to find interested media partners
It’s great if you manage to attract information partners who will collaborate with you. Especially if you are doing a free event like we are.
You need to clearly understand what your event is about, and convey the key message and benefits to everyone who might be interested in participating in it.
You can even try to involve the relevant ministries and departments — sectoral and regional. For example, we managed to agree on an information partnership with the State Budgetary Institution “Small Business of Moscow”. As a result, we jointly attract people to the award, and the project brings reputational benefits to both them and us. We also cooperate with regional entrepreneurship support funds, and they tell their participants about our event free of charge. Try this option too.
9. Create a cool visual
Another piece of advice from the series of obvious recommendations. But I want to emphasize that now promotion through social networks is coming to the fore and nothing will help you with this better than cool photo spots.
Our award, of course, has not yet grown to the scale of a top event, but I personally am very inspired by the design of the Web Summit. Its organizers and partners are always trying to make the visual part really impressive so that people want to take as many photos and videos as possible and share them on social networks. For example, at one of the events there was a spectacular drum show. Naturally, it gathered a whole crowd of people, and everyone happily posted content on Facebook and Instagram.
Another example of a cool visual is the NFT installation at the Russian CIPR conference. As a result, the organizers managed not only to make a memorable design, but also to add an unusual activity to the event: NFT-works of six artists were sold at the conference.
Besides, you can ask for cool photos from speakers and other important participants of the event for promotion. Use the best pictures from the previous events and create memorable infographics for publications in social networks and media.
10. Choose an event hashtag
Promoting through a hashtag can bring unexpectedly large reach. Also, when the hashtag of an event gets really popular, social media users perceive the event with more enthusiasm and trust. Another important benefit of using hashtags is increased engagement among event guests. People start to actively get to know each other and they get involved in online networking.
The easiest way to draw attention to the official hashtag at the event is to place it directly on the wall. You can also use signs, red carpets, tickets, printed materials, merchandise, whatever. In 2012, the organizers of the Project X movie release party wrote a hashtag on the bottom of the pool. In general, be creative.
11. Track all steps to promote the event and communicate them to the audience
It sounds indecently simple, but many event organizers fail to generate the intended media coverage simply because they don’t follow the progress of communications well enough.
Remember the “Status” column in the chart from the third paragraph? Fill it in as soon as updates appear. Be sure to write about all agreements with the media, indicating the date. In the hectic preparation for the event, it is impossible to keep everything in your head. Also, set a day when you analyze the chart and contact everyone who misses deadlines or does something different from what was agreed at the start.
You can share news from the front line with your followers on social networks. This is how you kill two birds with one stone: both fixing the progress of preparatory work and maintaining constant contact with the audience. Win-win again.
12. Invite members of the media to the event itself
PR of an event doesn’t stop with its beginning. It’ll be great if you manage to involve journalists and bloggers not only in preliminary advertising activities, but also in covering the event itself. Better yet, get some nice post-releases in addition.
In order for the media to willingly come to events, you need to build long-term mutually beneficial relationships with them. If successful, you can get a live broadcast or an article describing the event after it ends. Journalists/editors/bloggers can also introduce you to colleagues in their field, and this will further expand your PR opportunities.
Communicate with the media, give them free access to events and various goodies, create useful expert content for them — and everyone will be happy.
After the significant materials about your event are released, don’t forget to share information about this joyful thing through all your channels. Actually, this rule is true for any PR-success.
Of course, many people dream of covering their event in the top media of the Forbes level. You have to come to terms with the fact that if you aren’t organizing a major event with top-tier stars, it’ll be quite difficult to attract federal or international media, because they already have their own agenda and there is no shortage of material. Even if you have real stars of a specific industry performing, they probably won’t be known outside a rather narrow audience, which means they are unlikely to attract the attention of the BBC.
For our “Louder!” team, this issue is not yet resolved. If you by chance know how to do this, we’ll be glad to receive feedback.
At the same time, when we did one of the Russian exhibitions in France, where top officials came, we didn’t even have to ask someone to become our media partner because the guests of the event were of interest to everyone.
We really like the case of the EMERGE international conference in 2018, when the organizers invited Natalia Vodianova as a speaker. The top model and philanthropist spoke about the Elbi charity app and why foundations need to go online. Then the federal media (not only Belarusian, but also Russian) all wrote about the conference.
We wish your events no less coverage and attention!