Creating buzz is one of the many goals of any event, but nowadays it’s more far-reaching than just the attendees. In fact, the intended audience of most social events, product launches, expositions and exhibitions is actually much larger than those physically there. We’re talking about that big bold mystery known as media attention.
Press coverage boosts enthusiasm, promotes awareness and public support and allows you to frame your message. Since press coverage can be so critical to the big picture, we’ve gathered a step-by-step guide with some of the best industry secrets and techniques that will help assure a great media response—from beginning to middle to end.
1. Maintain a Media List
As plans for an event advance, a targeted media list must be developed that is tailored specifically for the project. In most cases, planners will work closely with public relations professionals and/or select and pull contacts from their own databases.
Tips: Network and maintain friendly relationships with reporters and engage with press on social media to establish a personal connection. Add those names and update a master media database quarterly.
Trade Secrets: Melissa Maynard, editor- in-chief of Factio Magazine, a fashion and beauty publication, recommends taking time to search out appropriate media outlets. “It is not just about the relationships you have built with the media outlets, it is also key to know your audience,” she says. “In other words, be selective and only reach out to media outlets that share your event’s audience.”
2. Draft a Well-Written Press Release
Next, create a press release to be sent to the contacts selected from the targeted media list. This tool is essentially a notification that includes pertinent event information that can be used to create coverage. Important elements include event date, time, location, notable attendees, as well as general company information at the bottom of the document.
Tips: Send out as soon as possible (ideally two months out to accommodate long-lead media), and then again closer to the event.
Trade Secrets: Maynard suggests a press release should be “straight to the point.” She adds, “I always look for something that will bring interest to our readers where they can experience this event through our sites.”
3. Work on a Tip Sheet
The tip sheet is a compilation of the main points a reporter should have access to and be aware of during the event. It serves as a review or guide, providing press members with an onsite road map. It is especially important to relay current information with updates that were not originally included in the press release.
Tips: Email this prior to the event and provide printed copies at the press check-in area; include all pertinent social media handles/ hashtags and images of notable attendees.
Trade Secrets: “My biggest pet peeve is checking into an event and being presented with a gigantic media packet that I’m expected to lug around all night,” says Marcus Riley, multimedia content producer at NBC 5 Chicago. “It’s always much better to get a one sheet with some of the pertinent details I may need that evening, or even better, a thumb drive with the detailed info.”
4. Give Photographers a Desired Shot List
In order to obtain the best coverage of an event, a shot list should be prepared ahead of time for the house photographer. This tool will minimize less-than-desirable content tremendously. House images should be the best images—not only for the client and planner portfolios, but also for press distribution.
Tips: Be as specific as possible and include in your list pre-event room shots, brand/sponsor presence, activations, presentation cues, sea of heads, grip and grins, etc. Format with checkboxes and request it be returned marked up.
Trade Secrets: Megan Richards Martin, owner of Page One Public Relations, says, “I always create a sheet with the PR images that will be needed and send to the client to review/add in the images they need for internal purposes before handing off to the photographer.”
1. Schedule a Staff Briefing
Meet with your front-of-house personnel approximately one hour before arrivals begin to ensure the team can identify, acknowledge and route important editors, photographers, reporters and other notable people. A mug shot page of key invitees’ headshots will help this process.
Tips: Identify each player’s role and responsibility, make sure key players have radios and be prepared to mobilize by assigning spotters and escorts to help with traffic control.
Trade Secrets: “Make sure it’s really clear who the point people are for each component,” says Richards Martin. “It’s important to call out both fixed and mobile positions in order to facilitate the best communications possible between event spokespeople and press.”
2. Schedule a Press Hour
A press hour can be a very efficient tool for more detailed coverage. Typically held prior to an opening or event, this time gives media the opportunity to obtain better access to the content before crowds arrive and allows a more comfortable environment to secure images and interviews.
Tips: Make sure there is added value that is different from the general event.
Trade Secrets: Richards Martin says, “I really like bringing reporters into the fold before the general event; some of the pre-event buzz can really lead to a good story.”
3. Have a Dedicated Press Check-in
A press check-in must be held separately from guest check-in. Preferred treatment is a key element for good press coverage, especially since most reporters tend to be in and out quite quickly.
Tips: Identify the area with tall signage that is above eye level and distribute credentials that identify press access.
Trade Secrets: “Seeing a full force at checkin immediately sets the right tone,” says Isaiah Freeman-Schub, national marketing director for Modern Luxury. “It’s important that there are enough iPad-ready representatives, as opposed to a few overwhelmed agents.”
4. Arrange for Photo Ops
Whether it’s a step and repeat, press riser or press pit, there should be designated areas to rally photographers while providing ample space with unobstructed sightlines.
Tips: Make sure to identify these areas on tip sheets and shot lists.
Trade Secrets: “If there are interviews or photo ops, there should be a pecking order of who gets access and/or prime placement on a red carpet,” Riley says. “An outlet with actual equipment shouldn’t be jostling with someone conducting an interview on an iPhone.”
5. Host a Media Room/Lounge
This is a great way to accommodate journalists and all their needs. A media lounge promotes live coverage, streaming and updating in real time. It should include computers, printers, free Wi-Fi access and charging stations, as well as refreshments and sponsor giveaways.
Tips: Tag the room with brand handles and event hashtag(s) to unify social buzz and magnify digital impressions.
Trade Secrets: “A press room is best with tons of representatives to answer any questions,” Richards Martin says.
1. Have a Post-Event Recap at the Ready
Keep the connection going by providing media outlets with post-event support, such as a kit containing house photos, footage and event write-ups. Include key information such as photo captions, names and must-mentions, as well as some more in-depth information in case the reporter missed anything.
Tips: Draft post-event emails ahead of time so you can send immediately after.
Trade Secrets: “Make information easily accessible; chasing is not conducive to strong coverage,” says Richards Martin, who further advises to “create a press page [or application] that reporters can visit post-event to collect bios, contact information and even download images.” Freeman-Schub adds, “Providing house images eliminates the expenditure on the publications’ side that is required when hiring photographers.”