The Role Of Public Relations In Special Events

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…
-William Shakespeare

This monologue from Shakespeare’s As You Like It offers the perfect metaphor illustrating that each moment and event in our lives follows a prescribed script. For a public relations professional, this is more than a metaphor; it is a way of life- or at least it should be.

In the world of public relations, a planned event is the stage where a business must perform. All players must understand that the performance is what will either produce a star or an understudy. Events provide an opportunity to highlight a company’s image, integrity, and reputation. Each actor needs to know their job, be on point, and hit their marks.

Personally, I tend to take on the role of the director when working on an event. I take this job seriously because it is my job to ensure each attendee achieves the organization’s goals and objectives. This often means managing, controlling, and influencing multiple aspects of the event. It requires coordination with all key players and open lines of communication. I have found that preparation and organization is critical for success.

As a public relations specialist, it is my job to establish and maintain relationships with our target audience, the media, and stakeholders. In preparing for an event, it is my responsibility to design and meticulously maintain communication campaigns through:

  • writing press releases
  • creating content for our website via blogs and feature articles
  • working with the press
  • arranging interviews
  • writing speeches
  • acting as a spokesperson
  • preparing others for press conferences and interviews
  • facilitating internal communications

I recently worked on an event that brought together several public relations specialists from both corporate and non-profit organizations in a joint effort to raise funds. To make the event successful we needed to work together to effectively pinpoint the right resources, find individuals with the right skills, drive attendance, ensure media coverage, and foresee potential problems. Failure in any one of these areas would have resulted in an opening night disaster.

So how did we do all of this?

We began by doing a skills analysis for each member of the event committee. This allowed us to assign tasks accordingly. We looked at the following:

  • Skills learned through past experience and education (knowledge-based skills).
  • Skills you bring with you to any job (transferable or portable skills).
  • Personal traits (the things that make you who you are).

We then assigned a leader to coordinate all aspects of the work that needed to be done and created subcommittees.

The leaders were responsible for making sure each committee performed the duties assigned in a manner that would best represent all those involved. The leader was detailed oriented and was tasked with making sure the event not only ran smoothly, but also with ensuring overall success. This person was a direct liaison with the event coordinator and would be assisting in managing details like: choosing the event location, arranging the schedule, selecting speakers and entertainment, choosing vendors, selecting menus, procuring accommodations, creating and distributing marketing materials (invitations, flyers, advertisements), and arranging transportation for attendees.

In addition, this leader needed to have strong communication with the entire team so that nothing fell through the cracks. Often in the midst of planning and preparation, some members of the team are inadvertently left out. The reason this is important is because media outlets work on their schedule, not yours. There is always a chance that they may call and ask to speak to whoever is available at the time. You may not be there, so don’t forget to send a quick email out to your team about the release and be sure to provide them with details so they can answer questions. Nothing frustrates a reporter more than calling about a press release and talking to someone who can’t answer basic questions.

In most events, my job would include all of these tasks that we were able to divide among us. The committees included:

Print Materials and Branding (invitations, banners, programs, etc.)

Everything for the event including invitations, logos, venue, speakers, decorations, posters, gifts, and special guests conveys meaning, so make sure to capitalize here. At the end of the event you want to make sure that attendees have received a total brand experience that’s consistent and powerful – and most of all, memorable.

Media Relations (press releases, social media, interviews etc.)

You have a window for sending out your press release. You don’t want to send it out too early and then it gets forgotten or buried and you don’t want to send it out too late when other stories may have already been assigned and they simply can’t fit your event in. Generally, 2-3 days before your event is enough of an advance notice. However, most media outlets have guidelines on their websites to let you know their procedures for press releases. Remember deadlines: everyone has them, especially newspapers and T.V. stations. The goal is to build strong ties with important media outlets so that you are aware of their limitations and policies for coverage.

Manage all social media for the event. Create an event page and ensure that the information is updated often. Be sure to include any news related to the event including special guests, vendors, and speakers.

It is your job to create the buzz that will be further generated as invitations are sent out.

Attendance (mailing invitations, following up, etc.)

You need your attendees and potential attendees to buy into the “buzz” surrounding the event. One way is to encourage participants to discuss your event on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. You can provide pre-made statuses that your attendees can interact with and re-post. Another way to encourage attendees to discuss your event on social media is to create an incentive. The attendee with the most re- tweets or likes about your event might win free tickets to the event or win a giveaway. Encouraging participants to talk about your event creates free and effective advertising to a wide market.

A second way to drive event attendance sounds simple, but can also drive attendees away: the email invitation. Too many emails can send your address into the spam folder. Too few can lead to attendees forgetting about your event.

I follow a rule of three:

  • The initial invite
  • Reminder to anyone who hasn’t committed two weeks before the event
  • Reminder 48 – 24 hours before the event.

The third way to drive attendance to your event is to explain what the attendees will miss if they don’t attend. Define the importance and relevance of your event so attendees will feel they can’t miss it. Stress the importance of networking opportunities at your event and stress this to potential attendees.

Remember, people always want to know what is in it for them!

Make sure you know who is coming to your event by following up. In the case of social media, many will click attending, but will fail to show. These simple tips will help keep your event relevant and attendees talking about it which will drive more attendees.

As you can see, public relations is a crucial piece to the success of any event. It requires a full understanding of all stakeholders, strong organizational and communications skills, and a strong desire for success. Once the stage is set and the players know their role, your event will get a standing ovation at curtain call.

Contact ParadoxLabs today to learn more about our marketing services.

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