Event Marketing: Creating a Successful Public Relations Campaign

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Just as a pastry chef knows the exact ingredients that go into baking his or her signature dessert, the precise measurement of those ingredients, and the exact time and temperature at which it must bake, so does a good planner know what goes into creating the perfect event. But, if the chef’s confection is never tasted, or if the perfectly planned event fails to attract its target audience, can either be considered a success? Simply whipping up the perfect ingredients for an event—a profound message, an awesome keynote speaker, a perfect venue—does not guarantee it will rise to its potential. The planner of the event also must build enthusiasm and excitement to target potential attendees, making it feel like a must-attend event. Creating that buzz is something a well-coordinated public relations campaign can provide. Associations and their event planners must compete with other organizations and events targeting the same audience, and in the current economy, access to those people is further impeded by the fact that they have fewer dollars to spend. By using public relations to create the perception that your organization’s event has greater value than another, you can capture the audience participation you want. Your message has to reach the marketplace in credible ways so you can build on your reputation. Focus your public relations campaign on trade journals, consumer magazines or any other reputable publications where your target audience is likely to see your message. Once you’ve created your list of publications, identify the journalists who regularly contribute articles to them and reach out to those writers with news items about your company or event. Many journalists today are freelance writers who toil in a world of 24/7 news cycles, so they are often hungry for news. You should not be shy about feeding them. Press releases should highlight success stories, accomplishments from recent events, inventions or innovations, case studies, industry partnerships, new services or products, community outreach programs and anything else that will reflect positively on your organization or event. Over time, these frequent mentions of your meeting through media outlets will resonate with your target audience, and you will be perceived as a leading influence in your industry or field. Once that perception takes hold, your event will be a must on everyone’s calendar.

In addition to the journals, there are numerous influencers who shape opinion and action much more quickly, almost in real-time. Information from the blogosphere plays a big role in decision-making, along with Twitter. Live, on-site tweets from today’s event—especially photos or video—can provide fodder for the promotion of your next event. Conceiving and executing a successful public relations campaign around your organization or event can be a full-time job, but in order to produce the results you want, it does not have to be any more complex than the fundamentals outlined above. If you don’t have the resources available internally, you might consider outsourcing your public relations project. The investment is sure to pay dividends by establishing the perception with your target audience that your company is an industry leader and your event an authoritative, must-attend forum for thought leadership. As for the competition: Let them eat cake.