I’m going to let you in on a secret. Nobody is ever going to pay as much attention to your business as you do. Once you acknowledge that, you can stop wasting your time on press releases and start figuring out more creative ways to gain attention for your business. In my experience, when you capture the right strategy, recruit the best messengers and expertly execute a creative event, media attention will follow.
Many companies and organizations treat public relations events as a task on a to-do list that has little or no relationship to an overall business strategy. Send press release. Check. Recruit influencers. Check. Host an event—ah, we’re all too busy, so how about just a happy hour at our new office that only our friends and family attend—check. But actually collecting press clips and qualified business leads? The line falls flat on that.
To leverage an impactful event for your business, you need a dual perspective. That requires identifying your ideal customer and your ideal news source. What sort of event will resonate with your target audience and inspire them to engage with your brand? Which reporter at your dream news outlet covers your beat, and what can you do that is newsworthy enough to catch his or her attention?
Scratch the white linens and plastic wine glasses so that your next PR event packs a punch with potential customers and creates a real opportunity for media coverage.
In 2015, I helped rocket Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s effort to pass universal pre-K for the state’s four-year-olds into the media and the hearts and minds of voters. Knowing the target audience was parents of preschoolers, I created new lyrics to the popular song from Frozen, “Let It Go,” framing it as “Let Them Learn” and partnered with the national parenting magazine Mamalode to create interactive events across Montana’s larger towns. We hired a face painter, provided hot cocoa, and of course, “Elsa” and other characters from the movie were on hand to excite the kids. The campaign drew hundreds of parents and educators who contacted legislators to support the bill.
Always think of your event as part of a campaign, regardless of whether you work in politics.
What’s the win? How does your event fit into the larger narrative you are trying to weave across all your marketing channels? A stand-alone event can only accomplish so much, and ideally, it will reflect your key messages and amplify the “echo chamber” created by integrated marketing tactics like digital ads, social media, print, billboards, or radio and TV ads. An integrated campaign has a creative concept, an attention-grabbing headline and strategic actions for people to take—all of which work together to funnel your audience to take action.
One of my proudest professional moments came when my former client, national nonprofit Women’s Voices for the Earth, signed off on my idea to spoof Justin Timberlake’s “Dick in a Box” video in order to draw attention to toxic chemicals in menstrual products that could harm women’s health. Our “Detox the Box” campaign targeted Procter & Gamble, and the video we produced shattered the organization’s records for social media engagement and number of views on youtube (more than 74,000). Since the client was a national membership organization, “events” were mostly virtual and the call to action was to convince women to contact P&G and ask them to remove harmful chemicals from their products.
Remember, your next PR event doesn’t have to require a hotel ballroom—make it digital.
Are you targeting busy moms who can’t get away? Or perhaps entrepreneurs in need of your services but who lack predictable schedules? Tailor your event to meet your audience’s needs and know that may mean going beyond the four walls mentality to bring your event to more people, perhaps even hosting it exclusively online.
A digital PR event might be anything from a live Q&A with your company’s CEO or an uber-successful franchisee or perhaps its a guerilla marketing stunt captured by cameras while attendees tune in live. Remember Red Bull’s space jump? That event was created solely for the purpose of capturing media and customer attention. Red Bull had a large net to cast since the product is available nationwide, so they needed to do something that would capture a large target audience as well as members of the media.
Needing only a screen and internet access—two things nearly all consumers have these days—this virtual event launched Red Bull to the coveted top-of-mind consumer headspace. Six months after the event Red Bull reported a sales increase of over 7%.
You don’t need Red Bull’s budget or to drop a human from the sky to communicate your message to your desired audience. When it comes to your business’ events, creativity and gumption can take your brand or cause a long way. What events have worked well for you in the past, or perhaps fell flat? I’d love to hear about your experience via Twitter @caitlincopple or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.