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Every brand, from time to time, will find it necessary to host a press and/or marketing event. For those of you who are new to event hosting, the situation can cause a case of nerves. It doesn’t have to. As with most things, planning your event in advance will save you time, anxiety, money and result in a successful experience and memorable occasion for your brand’s customers and/or audience.
Press and marketing events are a way to officially unveil news about a brand. The occasion alerts the press and existing and potential customers about a new or improved product or service. Sometimes events are held to introduce the public to new management, address a newsworthy occasion and, occasionally, handle a crisis situation.
Perhaps the most important part of hosting a press or marketing event is the development stage. This is where most of the hard work comes in. Whether you are an event manager or someone who’s been tasked with organizing the event, you need to sit down with your company executives and address the following issues.
Defining the reason and the goal of the event will affect your choice of venue, your guest list, theme, logistics and other steps you need to take. Below are some occasions that call for a press or marketing event.
The guest list will be determined by the rationale for the event. If the event is to inform the press about a new product launch, you obviously will want to build your list based on local and/or national press contacts, media and trade publications. Decide if you want an invitation-only event or one open to the general public.
If you are an event manager at your company, chances are you have a budget in place for special events. If not, sit down with management and create a budget. Be certain to track spending and anticipate revenues (if any) you expect from the event.
Pick a date that’s convenient for your management and your venue. You want to ensure your guests have the date marked in their diaries well in advance. Before selecting the date, do a little research. Check to make certain it does not conflict with major and national holidays. Check with resources such as Eventbrite or Evensi to see that your date does not conflict with one chosen by another group. Both of these resources are discussed in detail later.
Today sending an electronic invitation is commonplace. For an event open to the general public you can also get word out by advertising the event on your website, distributing information on it in stores, by postcard or by use of social media. One note: You might want to go the old-fashioned route and have a paper invitation sent out. Its rarity value alone should get it attention.
In addition, consider using event management software. Tools such as Symphony, for one example, are available and can track most planning details for your event including registrations and even press badges.
A great location will enhance your event and leave your guest with a “wow” factor, something that’s important when launching a product or when marking a milestone.
Start by first selecting an event location that is convenient for your guests. You’ll greatly increase your chances of a well-attended event when you find a venue that is easy to reach. Fortunately, London is one of the greatest cities in the world and chock-full of great venues. There are also valuable resources, including location agents who can help you make an appropriate choice.
Hiring a location agent is an investment worth making. London, a world centre, is such a large and diverse city that choosing a venue can be a bit overwhelming. Event spaces are available that range from townhouses like NoHo, Knightsbridge, Bishopsgate, Whitehall to historic sites, hotels and even museums such as the Natural History Museum. Your choice of venue should reflect your purpose for the event. The announcement of a new cutting-edge technology might be appropriate in a setting that evokes science. Likewise, a fashion event may be suited to a space representative of a style or theme. Depending on the size of your guest list and reason for the event, a location agent can suggest spaces that accommodate your guests, enhance your theme and are easy to reach.
You should discuss with the location agent or the venue itself any other requirements you may have such as resources for handling and facilitating any media presentations (photo shows, music, video, microphones, podiums and so on). Ask if the site provides an onsite photographer. You should also clarify whether the location can provide refreshments or if you have to contract with a caterer on your own.
Today most press kits are available on a brand’s website. Often they are under the “about” tab on the menu but can often appear under “press” or “media centre.” Your online press kit should include your history. Remember that reporters love a good story. Make yours compelling by presenting your company’s information as a narrative. Make sure to include good thumbnail facts on your customers, years in business, product development and CVs of major players. Provide contact information, product samples, and links to videos and/or interviews with company officers, logos and even testimonials from satisfied clients.
Your audience at the event should not come away empty-handed. Brochures or other materials can be branded with your logo and contain a recap of the day’s event for your guests. List speakers and contact information. Instead of providing print materials for your guests, you may want to recap the event on a flash drive branded with your organization’s logo.
Think about giving your guests a promotional gift. This can be a product sample or an item like a coffee mug, key chain, pen or notepad. Of course you want to have these items branded with your logo.
When it comes to getting word out about your event, marketing works hand-in-hand with a press kit. Marketing should be done prior, during and after the event. What you want to do is create a buzz about your occasion. Use the marketing resources listed below.
Think about devoting a special page to the event with background materials. If you don’t devote a page to the event, you can use sources such as EventBrite, which can feature a dedicated location for event information or Evensi, a search engine that locates events geographically and by special interests and synchronizes with Facebook.
Blog about the event and/or the rationale and advantages of attending the event. Point out how attending the event adds value to your brand.
Make the most of SEO using brand name, location of event, product name and event structured data markup.
It goes without saying that social media is an excellent way to promote your event. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter even Pinterest are now part and parcel of marketing campaigns. You’ll benefit from doing an advanced search on any of these social media outlets to target potential customers and clients who follow brands similar to yours so you can send them updates on your event.
Prior to the event, create a hashtag for the event on Twitter. A hashtag creates a level of immediacy, importance and anticipation surrounding the event. You can respond to tweets in real time and even feature a countdown to the event. You can also leak information on special guests and the schedule. Tweet often to hook your audience. Create an air of exclusivity. Everyone wants to belong to something “special” so build a buzz for your event.
If your brand has a product that is highly visual, think about showcasing it on a visual form of social media such as Instagram / Pinterest.
During the event, consider a live feed on Facebook or YouTube via Google Hangouts, provide a link to your website.
After the event, don’t neglect feedback from your guests. Follow press reviews and feature short surveys on Facebook and Twitter as well as your website.
Keeping up with social media is time intensive to say the least. Think about using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite, which features a social media dashboard to track and manage all things concerning social media.
Don’t neglect local word of mouth. Get the story out in the area where your brand is located, where your customers are located and places near the venue. These options are tried and true and can also help market your event.
Get your event listed on local bulletins boards. This is particularly helpful with events open to the general public and site specific.
Use your links to trade associations and ask them to list the event on their websites.
If your brand has brick-and-mortar locations have flyers, posters and postcards available for customers to take with them.
Don’t ignore the human touch for your event. You will need staff and/or volunteers to be on site for your press or marketing event. Respect them. Make a checklist so all staff who will be helping at the location know exactly what each is supposed to do and when they are needed. Discuss appropriate attire if necessary because they represent your brand.
Give each staff member a contact list of event organizers for reference.
Plan for an emergency and have a clear outline for dealing with one in terms of evacuation, providing medical care and contacting local police and fire authorities.
Have a run-through with your staff and volunteers either the day of the event or a designated time prior to it. This is like a rehearsal for a play. Keep in mind that you are telling a story connected with your brand and your staff is part of that story. Why would you go on stage without rehearsing?
Be responsible. Acquaint yourself of liability rules concerning the use of alcohol at your event. Check any local ordinances regarding possible restrictions on your event. Obtain liability insurance if necessary or licenses if required.
Confirm arrangements regarding cleaning up after the event. Determine what your responsibilities are and what the responsibilities of the venue are.
After the event, conduct a recap with your staff and management. Discuss what went well and what could work better next time. With communication and, most importantly, planning you’ll help to ensure that your brand’s event runs smoothly.