It’s a common expectation that when Apple releases a new iPhone, there will be a top exec running a demonstration to a packed auditorium, and when a festival or new exhibition is announced a gathering of popular influencers will surely ensue at the most on-trend venue in town.
Announcement events are now a given but whatever the reason, the main purpose of an event should be to connect with current and potential stakeholders, clients or customers.
Hosting an event is also a good way to showcase aspects of a business like your staff, products and services in a fun, interactive way. It builds more than just good brand awareness; it can increase your credibility as a trailblazer in your area and underpin your credentials as a thought-leader, forging important relationships as a consequence.
Before you begin planning the event, spend time defining your target audience(s) and the messages you want to communicate to them. Think about what value you are adding that makes it worth giving up valuable time for. Whether it’s invite only or a paid event, people will attend if they are interested in the subject matter, so build the event around them and make the content and line-up as robust and compelling as possible.
While events are an excellent platform from which to promote your organisation or agenda, in a saturated marketplace, you need to set out a clear USP to earn media cut-through. Do you have a high-profile or quirky speaker that can generate pre-event publicity? Have you new research or stats that set the scene for your event? Are you launching a new service or report? Journalists are inundated with event pitches and diary notices so consider what makes your event stand out from the rest and build your news angle from the most compelling or unique hook.
Public relations is an important part of event promotion, but it should not work independently of your wider ticket sales or promotion plan. Have you budget for print or radio advertising? What is your social media strategy?
As a starting point, create a webpage where people can register – this could even be an Eventbrite page – develop a hashtag but make sure it hasn’t been used for anything untoward before, create a Facebook event, write a piece about why you are hosting the event on LinkedIn, and allocate some budget for a Snapchat filter if it fits your strategy. As your campaign progresses, tweet and boost Instagram posts, reach out to your current clients with a Mail chimp update or a direct email and ask your stakeholders to push it out through their channels too.
Be prepared to pull in favours and spend more time than usual on an event. While they will require more resource and time than typical press office or marketing activity, events can have a tangible and positive impact on your business, and, more importantly, your reputation as an industry leader or agenda-setter.
Nuala Ryan is Client Director at PR360 specialising in brand strategy and communications. Nuala helps clients find their distinctive voice and turn their narrative into a creative concept, strategic approach and engaging execution. Wherever there is strong coffee and good company, you’ll find her.