Lend me your ears

Organisers of successful events rely on attracting the right journalists and key industry players to drive awareness. Ed Drayton discovers the best ways to get key media to buy into your messages

Generating the right buzz around an event is integral to its success, and the right PR is key to doing this. Organisers need to reach several distinct audiences – those attending the event, potential exhibitors and sponsors, plus journalists and other market influencers who might attend and provide much-needed coverage. These key media people are the ones the market listens to, and having the right journalists not only raises the profile of the event, it also ensures that the speakers and exhibitors are given the proper opportunity to be heard and receive media attention.

“From an organisational point of view, it is essential to get relevant journalists and analysts along to an event,” says Sarah Mulder director of Clarke Mulder Purdie, a business-to-business corporate communications agency which runs the press office at three big IT trade shows. “We work with the leading journalists in the sector to make sure they know about and schedule in the events we work on through a combination of individually targeted e-mails and phone calls.

“We also make it our job to know what is interesting at the event in the way of new announcements, case studies or technology so that we can provide a level of value-added service to both journalists and exhibitors in answering questions and directing journalists as per particular areas of interest.”

Having the right media at an event also serves to underline a company’s decision to be there, believes Louise Findlay-Wilson, managing director of Energy PR, which handles the entire easyFairs portfolio of UK trade shows. “Their presence reaffirms that the show is working at the heart of the sector,” says Findlay-Wilson. “A strong media turnout also encourages exhibitors to use the show as a place to make major announcements or launch new products and services, which in turn makes the show a more memorable event for the visitor, and one which everyone fixes in their annual calendar.”

But to attract the right media you need to make the events work for them. “The events industry relies heavily on getting the right journalists and key industry players to events to drive awareness,” says Gary Berman, media director of integrated marketing agency Momentum. “However, actually getting the right ones to attend can be a problem as these types of people tend to get invited to a lot of different events so you need to make sure that your event stands out as being engaging, credible, relevant and cool. A great event is all about the planning and paying attention to detail. If you’re delivering a fantastic event it will do the work for you both in terms of PR and in terms of getting the right people there.”

Software solutions
Danny Briere, chief executive of mBLAST, which provides software solutions for event organisers and the PR firms which represent them, believes there are three key reasons why organisers fail to get the right people to their events. “First, they are not properly identifying which influencers are relevant to reaching the potential attendees, exhibitors and other members of the media, and then being able to contact these influencers and have them receive information on the event.

“Second, they are not publicising the event across a wide array of online publications, event sites and other locations where the market is searching for solutions to their problems.

“Finally, they are not creating a compelling reason for why this event is different from all the others in the market. Successful PR campaigns allow for stories and articles to tell a compelling story that positions the event against all others in the market.”

Consistent delivery
But even if you get your key journalists there you need to get them to buy into your messages. “The messages must be credible; they must be reflected in everything else – the show’s features, exhibitors, seminar slots and initiatives,” says Findlay-Wilson. “The messages must be consistently delivered throughout the campaign – and then at the event itself the actual show experience must live up to the message.”

However, she is keen to point out that you can’t manipulate journalists. “They hate it and you end up alienating them. As with the messaging, you must be consistent, credible, live up to your promises and be as helpful as possible.”

Ali Gunning, of Inspirit Brands, believes it’s all about getting the invite right in the first place and making sure journalists know what the event is all about and why they should come. “Essentially it’s about finding out what they want to get from the occasion and working with them to achieve this.

“Also, if they are just there to get a feel for the brand or networking you don’t want them to feel pressurised by the PR asking them lots of questions about what they are writing during the event.” 

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