There are few projects we find more fun and energizing than helping our clients promote their events. From grand openings to festivals to company launches, events can be an effective way to generate buzz, engage your audience, and yes, sell products and services.
As any event planner will tell you, events require an intense level of organization, attention to detail and creativity in order to be successful. And to get people in the door, they may also require months of careful PR and marketing planning and coordination. We’ve pulled together six PR and marketing tips for your next event to help ensure that it gets attention it deserves. And while by no means is this list exhaustive, it’ll get you on the right path!
- Create a timeline. To kick things off, you’ll want a detailed PR and marketing timeline that the entire team can work from. We like to create our timelines in Google docs so that it’s easy to share and collaborate. Begin with the date of the event and work backwards. You’ll want to include milestones and important deadlines such as timing for media outreach (e.g. long-lead media outlets, short-lead media outlets, and blogs), social media campaigns, marketing materials (e.g. flyers, invites, signage, social media graphics), vendor deadlines (e.g. catering), and ticket sales.
- Alert the media. We recommend a highly targeted approach when it comes to sharing your event with the media. First ask yourself: Why should this reporter care? If you can’t answer that clearly, you may want to reconsider reaching out to that particular person. For our clients, we create a targeted list of reporters and editors based on the topics/beats they cover. Then from there, we create story ideas that might appeal to each writer. You’ll also want to be mindful of editorial calendars for each publication you are targeting. Print magazines may need up to three months advance notice to even consider covering your event while blogs may just need a week or so. Next, you’ll want to reach out to each writer or editor with a personalized email that includes details about the event. You may even want to plan a press preview that will generate interest and coverage prior to the event itself. In the week or so leading up to the event, also consider sending out a media alert.
- Plan a social media campaign. Social media is one of several communications channels you can use to publicize your event. Start by determining when to launch the campaign. We recommend 4-6 weeks before large events and increasing frequency in the two weeks leading up to the big day. Then you’ll need to develop key messaging and graphics to support the campaign. If you’re on a tight budget, you can even create your own social media graphics using a tool like Canva. Select the platforms where the campaign will run. On Facebook, you can set up ads to highly target potential attendees by location and interests. Instagram is also enormously popular for event promotions. Just be sure to include a compelling image and a clear call to action (e.g. save the date, learn more, buy tickets, find out about sponsorships, etc.)
- Submit listings to public calendars. If your event is open to the public, consider submitting it to event calendar listings on publication websites, local blogs, chambers of commerce, and community groups.
- Plan an email marketing campaign. If you already send out regular eblasts or enewsletters, you’ll want to start promoting your event up to 2 months prior to the big day with a “Save the Date” blast. If don’t already have a formal email marketing program set up, consider starting one using MailChimp or Constant Contact! These tips were written to help conference planners with email marketing, but are applicable to many other types of events as well.
- Invest in a photographer. Set aside budget to hire a good photographer to document your event. Even if your budget is small, you should still be able to hire a talented photography student or someone who is just getting their photography business off the ground and would like to build their portfolio. Provide your photographer with a detailed shot list to ensure that you get all types of great photos that you can use for your website, marketing materials, and social media. And talk with your photographer to see how quickly they’ll be able to deliver photos from the event so that you can use them on a wrap up blog post or share with media for post-event coverage (if media outlets don’t send their own photographers).