Most event planners know that PR pros write press releases but you might be surprised to learn they do a lot more that can help you get more people to your next event. Here are 18 ways they can help.
There’s no such thing as bad PR, right?
That’s highly debatable in the age of social media. What would’ve once been a localized brand disaster, can now fester and grow into something that hits the Interwebs within minutes, and can damage a brand to the point of plummeting stock prices within an hour. While that’s likely not something you need to worry about with your next event, a public relations firm cannot only help you navigate when you find yourself in hot water but it can also help you garner a lot of attention for your event.
If you’ve been thinking about using a PR firm to get the word out, here are a few things you should know.
How to Best Use a PR Firm for Your Event
Like most client-service companies, there is a host of services that a PR firm can provide for your event. Some are basic like writing and circulating press releases, while others have embraced experiential marketing. Here are several PR activities you may not have thought of. Before hiring a PR firm, make sure they perform these services as some may not.
1. Media Releases
We used to call them press releases, but those days are no more. Today, they’re media releases and a PR firm can write them for you and make sure they are circulated on not only the major and local news outlets, (assuming that sort of coverage fits your event) but also the trade and industry places, or niche groups that may have interest in your event.
2. Content Marketing
Many PR firms have crossed over in providing content marketing because being able to establish yourself, your cause, or your organization as the top in your field, is largely a PR undertaking. Most PR firms now look at providing integrated marketing communications on all levels. Content marketing falls under their expertise in trying to help you get exposure in the places that will mean more event ticket sales.
Along the lines of integrated marketing communications, PR firms are branching out into storytelling as well. They can help build a story that elevates your event brand and brings an emotional draw to your event. If you don’t have the time to tell your story, hire someone who can.
4. External Communication
Media and blogger relations are not things you can cultivate overnight but they are incredibly valuable to the efforts of getting tickets sold. A PR firm already has those relationships so when you’re ready to use them, your firm can reach out to its connections and ask for a few favors.
Too often, event planners and other groups approach the media and industry bloggers with demands. They generally follow this shell:
“Hi, I read your article entitled __________. I enjoyed it.
I was wondering why you didn’t include <my event>. Could you please add it?”
Why on earth would they do that? They don’t know you and giving them one compliment isn’t going to make them your new BFF who caters to your every demand.
But if their friend the PR professional calls them and asks to be included, that relationship existed long before the article. They are more willing to agree to it. Either take the time to build the relationships or hire someone who has them.
5. Crisis Management
If a tragedy, natural disaster, or security issue occurs at your event, having a PR firm on board can mitigate parts of that terrible occurrence. Their work won’t negate the tragedy but their skills can help you assess the situation and minimize the damage to your event brand in the media.
Crisis management also includes some of the executive services listed below. Remember how United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz fared right after that passenger was forcibly removed from the plane in April of 2017? While that wasn’t a terrorist activity, it did bring up questions of safety. HIs initial response was not well received. A PR professional can help you navigate difficult situations like that.
6. Executive Services
If you’re hosting a large event and will have media spots, you may want to consider using a PR firm to help you with interview coaching, speech writing and prep, and/or presentation training. Today’s world is all about the clip. A slip of the tongue can go worldwide faster than The Flash so you want to ensure you, and thus your event is seen as the consummate professional you are.
7. Change Management
If you’re taking your event in a completely new direction this year or changing something major about it, you may want to seek the counsel of a PR professional. They can help you handle the PR needs of rolling out new branding, a new software platform, or a completely new vision for your event. They can ensure that all communication is persuasive, branded, and cohesive, taking a lot of the worry out of it for you.
8. Public Affairs
If you’re involved with bringing your large event to a new city or you are hosting a brand new event and are scouting host cities, a PR firm can help you coordinate the components of working with government.
9. PR Strategy
This is a no-brainer but a PR firm can help you come up with a solid strategy. Often in digital media and events, we do what we have time for, which means a little post here, a random blog post there. But cohesion and strategy are what help create momentum which spurs engagement. So if you don’t have the time to create the strategy, there’s someone who can help with that.
10. Go After Testimonials/Reviews
It’s rare that testimonials just fall into our laps. Most of the time we have to ask for them. While testimonials and reviews are widely successful in getting people interested in your event, it’s hard to set aside the time to make the request.
So you pull things from old surveys but even then you have to ask if they can be used in a promotional situation (unless you had the forethought to do that when it was initially given on the survey. If so, go you!)
A PR person can do all of that for you as well as put a strategy in place to secure more of them going forward so you won’t need to worry about testimonials at the last minute again.
11. Online Community Management
As mentioned earlier, a lot of PR firms have crossed over into digital media and marketing. That means if you’ve wanted to expand your social media and other digital media but don’t have the resources to do so, a PR firm might be able to help.
Because you are sharing the costs of a social media team with other clients of the PR firm, it’s often less expensive to hire a firm than a person to work directly for you on expanding your reach.
One very popular way event planners are staying in touch with attendees throughout the year is a private online community. You can use your own privately-hosted option or create a closed group on Facebook. Whatever you decide, you’ll need someone to seed it with content and manage it. Some PR firms offer community management as a service.
12. Speaker Press
If you have a well-known speaker coming in for your event, or several for that matter, a PR firm can help you share that information with the media. They may be able to arrange interviews, or at the very least, create media releases that get a lot of buzz. Again, this is often something the event planner doesn’t have time for. If you have last-minute tickets to sell, having someone who can drum up a little press for your speakers is a good way to get those tickets sold.
This strategy may also apply to the entertainment or emcee you’re bringing in. If you have a notable name, a PR firm can help you leverage that person to the fullest extent with local media.
13. Creating a Creative Hashtag Campaign
Sometimes hashtags are amazing rallying cries for an event. They’re so spot on or fun to use that they just take off. Marketing firms can create memorable hashtag campaigns for your event but so can PR firms. Remember, you want people to use it so make it memorable.
14. Event Buzz
A PR firm can also capture the mood at the event, write articles from the show floor, work with the media to give them an inside look, and handle the day-of social media. There is plenty of excitement going on at your event. Having a media relations expert on hand can help you make the most of it and expand your reach.
15. Tailor Messages for Each Channel
Your event likely attracts several types of attendees. You need to use messaging that appeals to them. The same is true of social media channels. You don’t post the same sorts of things to Instagram as you do LinkedIn.
A PR firm can help you with your posting strategy including tailoring your messages by the type of channel you’re using. Most of us don’t have the time to even think about that, let alone do it. A PR firm can help you with the limited resource problems and give you a sound strategy for each channel.
Large PR firms sometimes have celebrity connections. If you have a worthwhile cause or something that celebrity wanted to get involved in, a PR firm might just be able to make that introduction.
17. Help You Make a Major Announcement
PR firms excel at making special announcements because the media is always looking for something newsworthy and these firms have good media connections. If you’re planning a major announcement at your event, having a professional who can walk you through all of the necessary steps and best practices is incredibly helpful and one less thing for you to worry about. You want to make the most of the excitement surrounding the big announcement and a pro can help you do that.
18. Run a Drip Marketing or Nurture Campaign
Nurture campaigns can keep late registrants in the know while they make up their minds about attending. Drip marketing campaigns can create excitement among registered attendees as they get new information from you on a weekly basis.
But drip marketing campaigns, while effective, are time-consuming. You not only have to create the communications and the order in which they’re sent, but you also need to design them and learn the technology behind scheduling them out. A PR firm can take that off your to-do list.
A Final Word About Hiring a PR Professional
Again, PR firms vary in the services they provide. If you’re interested in one of the skills listed above, ask them about it. Please don’t assume they perform all of them, though a full-service firm most likely does.
If you are auditioning PR professionals don’t wait until the last minute thinking you only need their services a few weeks before the event. Members of the media and influential bloggers have full calendars. The earlier you can get on those calendars the better. A PR firm can help you begin promoting as soon as you have an event date.
Also, keep in mind early press could mean more sponsorships because the potential sponsors see you get a lot of exposure early on. These sponsors will assume that will continue and will want to be a part of it.
While it’s not necessary in most event cases to use a PR firm, it means less work for you. Many of them have branched out to embrace consultative roles on best marketing practices and ways to build relationships while continuing their traditional services like media relations. You can use PR professionals for a variety of tasks depending on your event needs. But as your event gets larger, your needs change. So, ensure that you assess those needs on a regular basis to see if the counsel of a PR firm is something that would benefit your event.
Additional Resources on Public Relations and Events
How to Handle 4 Association PR Nightmares
How to Leverage New Social Media Influencers for Your Event
How to Attract Influencers to Your Annual Meeting
5 Ways to Make Press Feel Welcome at Your Next Event
How to Work with Influencers to Promote Your Event