Lets plan an event!

For a PR, hearing the words, “Okay, we’re going to do an event” is absolutely terrifying. First of all there’s the planning which of course is the fun part – where are we going to host it? what are we going to do? What’s do we want our attendees to take from it? Then there’s the equally fun task of negotiating prices, lining up suppliers and thinking of clever ways to reduce costs. The client is amazed at your creativity and makes more suggestions which you’re either trying to push more budget for or shoo shooing in the most polite way possible.

Phase two – The venue is booked, the activity is confirmed, now its time to get inviting. You whip up an attractive invite that is simple, to the point and paste it into an email. Next, you fire it off to your Gorkana created list of 20 “tier 1 journalists” that simply MUST come to the event. No response from any of them standardly… must make a note to chase them tomorrow.

The next day rolls over and its time to invite the “tier 2 journalists” – otherwise known as the, “it would be nice for them to be there” group. This part always made me laugh – why not send them at the same time? Oh yeah because we only have 20 spots on on our fabulous event and of course EVERY journalist is going to drop what they’re doing to attend.

Yay! Somebody has confirmed attendance – oh it was an advertising exec from the magazine – put them in the maybe pile if we need to make up numbers.

A week has passed and there are only 6 confirmed to attend our event – nobody from the tier 1 group so your account director is playing damage control with the client’s expectations in between hourly bursts of “Chase them up!” You’re on the phone a lot these days and re-emailing invites until the journalist directly says, “I can’t make it but feel free to send a sample”.

Two weeks later and the event is about to start – thankfully there are 30 confirmed on the guestlist – there were 34 but 4 have cancelled this morning. Unfortunately only 1 tier 1 journo is definitely coming and a few tier 2, most are randoms from Gorkana who you’re a little unsure on why they are actually coming but they make up numbers so who are you to argue.

20 minutes into the event and only 11 have turned up – thankfully the Tier 1 journo has but none of the tier 2s. Cue heading to the back on your mobile to ring around the guestlist chasing them up.

The event is over and your client looks a little disappointed to say the least. The tier 1 journo had a great time and will probably mention the brand in her feature – but it won’t be out until August. Now its time to get chasing the attendees up to see when they will be writing about your product. Likewise, following up with the journos who couldn’t make it as well. Fingers crossed we meet the ROI!

Lets not plan an event…

Don’t get me wrong, a strange part of me used to love the adrenaline associated with event planning and the rush you’d have whilst waiting for the attendees to turn up and I’ve never shyed away from chasing on the phone however, I never truly understood the value of these events. Surely you would prefer a targeted method of announcing news over an expensive, time consuming event where most of the influencers don’t turn up. Sure events are fun, look good to clients and give you something to talk about on social media but when converted to an ROI is it enough? There are also a lot of issues that arise with events that we PRs really never seem to acknowledge:

Journos work in an office [most of the time] meaning that they can’t just waltz in and out to attend events during their working day. Unless you represent a key brand for that publication, they are likely to dodge the mid morning/mid afternoon events.  Journos also have a life and already work long hours. Why on earth would they attend your cooking class in the evening when they can go home to their families? Finally, breakfast briefings? Very easy to drop out of. In other words – there is no “good” time of the day to host an event.

There are dozens of events going on each week. If a journalist attended all of them, they would never get any writing done. Everybody is launching something new so you need to really identify something interesting that they can take home and write about. Key brands will always win as well – if you don’t advertise with the publication, it is unlikely that big brands will be dropped over you.

“Hi miss client, look at the coverage our event generated….”

Clients are in the dark about the politics of PR launch events nowadays. Journalists are busier than ever and nobody ever seems to tell the client that it will be very difficult to get that list of journalists there – why don’t we do something a bit more innovative.

Okay, so what do we do instead?


Do your research

Okay so you’re paid to have relationships with the media – find out what they like! Maybe they don’t actually attend events at all and do prefer a scheduled call to talk about launches. Continually updating a database about the sort of events journalists attend and their preferred methods of contact gives you something really valuable knowledge to approach your client with.

Get digital!

A journalist may not be able to commit to an event during their working day but what about a 20 minute periscope chat. It’s easy to track who is online and watching and a lot more attractive for them to commit to.

Timing is key so ensure the key messages are clear and you are not waffling on too much. Less is definitely more here and your chat needs to be top quality.

Bring the event to them!

A journalist is very likely to turn down an event 10 tube stops away from their office so location is key. The most successful event I managed was for Lindt chocolate where we hired a room within IPC media and told journalists to come along there to see the Christmas selection. Turnout was great as we were there all day, so they could easily pop in for a coffee when they had a spare moment.

Also, another successful “event” was where we scheduled hand massages to be done at journalists’ desks to promote a range of honey body lotions. The logistics were a bit tricky – calculating how long to travel between each media house and a few appointments overran etc. However the ROI was excellent for a relatively inexpensive activity.

SO there you have it – the PR event is certainly not dead but it has evolved and for us to remain competitive and effective with our media communications, we need to start listening to how the media actually want to be reached and how we can be innovative to stand out.