Events part two – Turning an event into a prime media relations opportunity

Events are an excellent way of reaching your customers and your prospects — that’s a given. But they also represent a prime opportunity to engage with journalists and play a crucial role in the media relations mix, enabling you to build relationships and generate positive coverage.

That’s not to say you need to move away from the traditional tactic of setting up interviews for key spokespeople — but there are a number of alternative creative approaches you can use to interact with the media, introduce them to your spokespeople and brief them to ensure your business is getting the right messages in the right publications read by the audiences you need to influence.

Make it compelling

Much like how a content strategy guides your narrative and approach to events, your media strategy should dictate what you do at an event. Engaging with the media can be a powerful tool for your business, but the key thing to remember is that you need a reason to get them there. Journalists are news driven and looking for strong opinions and compelling content they can use to shape the news agenda.

If you have major news with significant industry impact such as an M&A announcement, for example, then going down the route of setting up exclusive pre-briefings with top tier press is absolutely the way to go.  Briefing key contacts in advance ensures the journalist is well prepared and they can develop their story to publish as the news is launched at the event. The coverage will quickly amplify the story and adds additional credibility to the announcement.

But you could take that even further and host a press conference live from the event to officially announce the acquisition, with an interactive media Q&A facilitated by a leading industry commentator, to provide real-time comment and reaction to generate immediate hype and coverage.

You could also look to broaden your horizons by hosting a roundtable event structured around a key industry topic or the release of a piece of research, bringing in not just your own spokespeople but independent influencers and customer advocates and using this event within the event to own the agenda.  Providing media with access to independent speakers gives an additional hook to attend and a greater pool of opinion for the journalist to access. This type of event could easily be tagged to an existing forum to save costs, including venue hire and travel for spokespeople.

Related: Event Series – Content comes first: reviving the lost art of event storytelling

Related: Event Series Webinar Summary  Redefining event marketing: Plan for success

Make it creative

A company’s own flagship event can sometimes be ruled out from a media perspective, with clients concerned about mixing customers and prospects with media attendees.  However, creating a dedicated press track gives the opportunity to give journalists access to the most compelling content, for example, keynotes, customers and future looking technology updates.  Arranging an exclusive lunch with the CEO or a site visit to a nearby customer for a chance to see a real-world implementation in action adds a different element to the agenda.

Of course, if you’re not going to have strong news for every event, you need to find creative ways to get that engagement and ensure you’re getting the best mileage out of your PR budget. The question is, how?

Consider hosting a breakfast briefing, taking place before the event, close to the venue. The two main elements here are making it easy for journalists to attend and giving them something of value once they are there. This could include views on upcoming trends, strong opinions on the industry or commentary on the future of the business.

Then of course there’s hosting casual drinks on stand or inviting journalists around for a swing by.

The value from these sorts of engagements is two-fold; first, while you may not have news to share, you’re still getting your spokespeople in front of journalists for an informal chat about the show, the industry in general and upcoming trends. Second, the conversation goes both ways. Just as journalists are discovering more about your company and your take on things, even on an informal level, your spokespeople gain an understanding of the journalist’s view of the industry, the future and what topics they are currently writing about or interested in.

These types of meetings are likely not to yield immediate media coverage, but they can help shape future engagements and provide ideas for future content and thought leadership opportunities.

Related: Event Series – Getting the most out of your social media strategy at events

Related: Event Series Webinar Summary  Redefining event marketing: Plan for success

Make it count

The success of your event is a culmination of months of hard work, but it doesn’t end there. Regardless of the engagement, whether a formal interview, a meet and greet, casual drinks or a press conference, it’s important to follow up with journalists, thanking them for their time, checking if they have all the information need – and you’ll be investing in that relationship for the future.

Simon Coughlin, Senior Account Director

Deliver Integrated Campaigns