“It’s not just about the event.” That statement should be the mantra for any corporate event. If your company has ever run an affair, you probably know the drill. You sweat through hours and hours of preparation and planning, absorbed to the level of even matching your company’s logo with the color of the cocktail napkins and balloons. The goal, of course, is to create the perfect occasion.
There’s just one problem. All that effort can be for nothing if the media does not show up to cover your event. Even worse is that your company has lost a valuable opportunity for exposure.
If done correctly, corporate events are an excellent way to generate substantial attention for your company. However, staging the perfect event isn’t enough if you want to leverage buzz and momentum to create publicity for your company. To do that, you need to embrace a different mindset. You need to start thinking like a media person.
The media thrives on what’s new and different. You need to ask yourself: “What will present my company in a positive light, and at the same time attract media interest?”
Take a company’s anniversary as an example. Now anniversaries by themselves are not necessarily worthy of coverage, as far as the media is concerned. There’s no intrinsic news value. You need to ask yourself, “How can I turn a ho-hum occasion into something newsworthy?”
Better Packages, a Shelton manufacturer, was celebrating the production of its one millionth machine. The milestone was turned into a media-worthy event by partnering with a brand-name client of the customer, and inviting politicians and local celebrities, including a star player from the UConn women’s championship basketball team. The festive atmosphere was capped off by the mayor of Shelton proclaiming a special day in honor of the company.
To add to the occasion, a vintage Better Packages machine was arranged to be donated to the Smithsonian Institute. The result of these efforts was a celebration that got widespread local media and trade coverage and that eventually resulted in a feature on a national TV program.
We all remember the maelstrom that coincided with Krispy Kremes emergence in the region in August of 2002. Mason Inc., an agency in Bethany, wanted to do something more than a simple groundbreaking at the new Newington location. Fran Onofrio, executive vice president of Mason Inc., recalled bringing in fresh donuts from the nearest Krispy Kreme location 100 miles away to add to the excitement.
However, they didn’t simply bring in donuts. A convoy was assembled that included Newington police officers, the Newington fire company, and a decorated PT Cruiser to escort an armored vehicle loaded with donuts. To play off the association of cops with donuts, a police officer opened the donut-filled car and took the first bite. A photo of the officer taking the first bite made it onto the Associated Press (AP) wire and subsequently appeared in photos all across the country. It was truly “the bite seen around the world.” In return for the police department’s cooperation, Krispy Kreme made a donation to a police charity.
These examples illustrate the golden rule of staging newsworthy events. Create compelling reasons for the media to attend and make the whole process as easy as possible for them.
Anson Smith, public relations coordinator for Housatonic Community College of Bridgeport, says when planning any event ask yourself, “Why should a TV station send a camera crew out? Why should a radio station be interested?”
To be sure he gets across the media value of an event, Smith uses descriptive language in the college’s press releases and even goes so far as to write “Good photo opportunity, good footage opportunity, good actuality opportunity or any combination thereof” on the top of a release if there are good print, TV or radio opportunities.
Here is a checklist of items to do to increase the likelihood that the media will cover your event:
- Create a newsworthy event. That means strong visuals if you want TV coverage or strong sound features for radio. And it means making your event significant in terms of news you’re announcing or news you’re creating.
- Be smart about the timing of the event. Stage your event at times reporters are likely to attend. Broadcast and print outlets tend to run leaner operations on weekends and after deadlines so you’ll want to hold your event between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a Monday through Thursday. Fridays are typically bad days because Saturday newspapers have slim coverage. If you have excellent visuals, consider holding an evening event at 5 p.m. or 10 p.m.to get live local coverage.
- Create a media advisory and a press release. A media advisory is a one-page document that is the equivalent of an invitation. It lays out the who, what, when, where and why of your event in an easy-to-read, one-page format. A press release adds some flesh to your advisory providing background to the event and facts and figures the re-porters can use in writing their stories.
Distribute your advisory and release. Send your press release and advisory about two to three weeks before your event. Typically email or fax are the easiest and best ways to distribute it. For your local newspaper, send it to the person who covers your issue or industry. If it’s a very small paper without defined beat reporters, send it to the editor. At radio stations, send it to the news director and at television stations, send it to the assignment editor. Be sure your local AP bureau gets your material and that it gets on the AP daybook – a list of activities for the day that goes to all AP members.
- Follow up with the media. In these days of information overload, it’s not enough to just send out your materials and expect the media to show up. You need to personally call everyone two weeks before your event as well as the day before.
- Arrange interviews. Arrange for the media to interview your spokesperson or newsmaker before or after the event. Local talk shows are also an option.
- Create effective press materials. This should be a folder of easy-to-read information including your press release, biographies of key company executives and speakers, a fact sheet about your company or cause and any relevant articles that have been written about your company or cause.
- Have a press check-in area. Have an area for the media to check-in so you’ll know which press attended your event. This is where the press can get your event materials. Be sure you have everything they need to do their job from electrical power for laptops and cameras, to an area to file a story if the event is an all-day one.
Following these steps should not only increase the chances of media coverage, but should enable the media to write a compelling story about your event. It then will become a truly memorable occasion.Wendy Marx is the owner of Marx Communications, a Trumbull-based public relations and marketing communications agency.This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Business Times. The publication can be found at www.ctbusinesstimes.com.