Sep 23, 2010

Murphy’s Law says that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” – and it was apparently written with event planning in mind.

You can spend months planning an event that you are sure will absolutely entice and amaze not just your attendees but the media as well. You can plan, coordinate and pitch your little heart out, but how do you avoid the worst case scenerio:  if on the day of the event there are no cameras and no reporters?

Yes, things can go terribly wrong when planning and executing publicity events, but don’t get discouraged – there are ways to avoid publicity disasters. All it takes is a little pre-planning and organization (and a metric ton of persistence).

Below are five reasons why media might not cover your event and what you can do about it to gain more coverage  in the future:

1. “I’m sorry but there has been breaking news…” Some things just can’t be helped. People commit crimes, celebrities go to rehab (repeatedly) and accidents happen. There are going to be other local, national and/or world events taking place at the exact same time as yours. Therefore, step number one for any event is to choose your day and time wisely. Check the calendar for religious dates, sporting events, world history and anniversaries of events in your local market that took place on that date last year. In other words, don’t create competition from the start.

2. “I don’t understand the point of the event.” If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish with your event, neither will a reporter. Do you want to inform, introduce, educate or entertain? Make sure that everything – from your invitations to your pitches to your keynote speakers and the final event – work together to accomplish this goal. Another tip is to look at who your event benefits. Community relations and cause-based events can create a huge boost in coverage. Connect with local schools, community organizations and even celebrities, or have the proceeds from your event benefit a charity or non-profit. Not only will this have a positive impact on your reputation and image, but it adds another angle for the reporter.

3. “We didn’t know about it.” News rooms are busy places. Phones are ringing off the hook, mail and papers are piling up on desks, emails are coming through and reporters are rapidly trying to meet deadlines and source material – and your information lands somewhere in that mix. What are you doing to grab their attention? This is where your imagination can run wild with inventive invitations, creative teasers and outrageous stunts to stand out. In the end, however, nothing is more important than good old-fashioned communication.

Don’t underestimate the power of picking up the telephone. Many times a simple call on the morning of your event to tell them about the visuals they can film will get cameras out there. Don’t assume they saw your printed or electronic media – just call! And of course, reach out to them through social media. A reporter who never responds to calls or emails may reply to a tweet or a Facebook post. The more you connect, the less likely they are to stand you up on the day of the event.

4. “We know about it, but it just doesn’t seem like a fit.”The number one rule in PR pitching (and looking good in photographs): Know Your Angles. PR pros know that no matter how good you are at pitching, it is difficult to convince a sports reporter to write a fashion piece. The same goes for events. Of course some events are great because you can cross pitch. For example when rbb client FELD brings Disney On Ice to town, immediately we announce the dates and send out calendar listing to long lead publications. We then begin to plan our media events looking for stories for parenting, education, community, entertainment and other sections. We look at whether we can plan an event to involve the tour chef and create opportunities for cooking segments or angles for food reporters. There are more opportunities than you would imagine to reach your target audience.

Let’s say you’re throwing an extremely niche event that does not lend itself to cross pitching. Now your research becomes even more important. Before you send an invitation to a reporter or call to pitch, be sure you know what subjects they cover. Read their previous work, follow their tweets – basically, build your relationships. The more you get to know the reporter and the more times you send them information they find relevant and important, the more you will find them coming to you and asking when your next event is.

5. “What else can you offer me?” This is where being prepared pays off. The more material you can offer, the more likely it is that the outlet will send someone to cover your event. Interview opportunities, b-roll footage (when appropriate), high-resolution photos and even tip sheets that tie into your event can make or break your coverage. Reporters are short on time so when asked to pitch a story the more comprehensive your info is, the better your shot at success.

Finally, think about offering them a more exclusive opportunity. Ask yourself: “Is this an event for the media to attend or just cover? If your answer is “just cover,” you might want to re-think your strategy. Inviting the media to attend your event and creating specific ways for them to participate can help get your affair noticed. Asking a local news celebrity to MC an event, judge a competition or become a part of your activities can only help grow what may have been a flat-out “no” or a small blurb into a full size feature. Be strategic on who you ask to participate and you can draw in bigger crowds and more attendees, and spark even more coverage!


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