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How to pull off a successful pr event

How To Pull Off a Successful PR Event

As public relations (PR) covers all the relationships an organisation has with its various stakeholders (‘publics’), PR events can take many forms — from product launches and exhibitions to team-building events, training courses, sales presentations and annual general meetings.

As with all planning, the devil is in the detail and PR professionals must have an eye for every aspect of activity ¬’ as well as the bigger picture — if they are to pull off a really successful event. As with most things in the marketing sphere, presentation is key and first impressions really count.

The big 6 questions Planning a PR event — particularly one with a large audience — may seem daunting but, in reality, it’s not rocket science. Anyone can do it and the first step is to break the project down into manageable parts. To do this, I recommend looking at the 6 big questions ¬of why, who, what, where, when and how. If you can write a couple of lines in answer to these key questions on one side of A4 paper, you’re more than halfway towards a successful PR event. Let’s look at them in turn.

Why? Now, this is really the crux of the matter. Why do you need to talk to one of your ‘publics’? What is the real objective for your organisation in staging this PR event? Is your objective important enough to justify the costs involved? Of course, this question will be closely linked to…

Who? Which particular people are you wanting to address, either internally, externally or both? What is the audience’s view of your organisation and what issues are of interest to them? You need to identify the people who matter to your aims and ensure that you don’t waste valuable resources by targeting the wrong people. Each event will have limited spaces, so you want those attending to be the people who really matter in terms of achieving your objectives. Once you know your audience, find out which media they use and trust, as this will be useful in planning your promotion of the event.

What? What kind of event will work? This depends mostly on the profile of your audience. Are they mostly men or women? How busy are they and how far are they willing to travel? Would a sporting theme or other hospitality angle be a good hook for them to attend? Of course, the size of your budget will be an important factor in deciding what kind of event you put on. There may be revenue opportunities such as sponsorship, but there will certainly be considerable expenses such as printing, advertising, insurance, speakers, security, food, drink and accommodation.

Where? The kind of venue will be largely determined by the answers to your ‘What?’ question, but the exact location of the venue can vary enormously. Yes, the sales conference needs to be in a large and swanky hotel, but should that be in Birmingham or is the message important enough to warrant a trip to Barcelona?

When? The best time to hold your event is an obvious, but often neglected, consideration. Of course, you should pick a season that suits the kind of event you’re holding ¬’ only die-hard golfers will take to the greens in November — but you must also think about other demands on your audience. Ensure your event doesn’t clash with any industry exhibitions or awards ceremonies, for example.

How? Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of planning your event. This question covers all the logistics on the day. It’s a good idea to form a planning team, as colleagues can help you to brainstorm the minutiae of the event. For your guests to come away with a positive impression of your organisation, you need to ensure that they have a hassle-free time. That means that you need to plan every aspect of the event, from parking and refreshments to toilet facilities and hotel rooms. And if you can be creative in the extra touches — for example, giving the delegates the day’s presentations on custom-printed USB sticks to avoid the need to take notes ¬’ you’ll make a lasting impression.

When implementing your plan, never underestimate the importance of good communication with your team. This team may, for each event, include people outside of your organisation — for example, the hospitality staff at your venue. Make sure that everyone understands what is happening when and where, not forgetting why! If you’re inviting VIPs, for example, ensure that everyone knows who they are and just how they should be treated.

If you want to hone your planning skills over time, you must have a full, post-event debrief with your team to understand what worked and what didn’t. This should cover both the objectives and the logistics. In terms of your event’s aims, try to get feedback from delegates on how useful the event was to them and how it changed their perceptions. When it comes to the logistics, every venue and event will throw up its own problems, of course, but, over time, knowing what didn’t work will give you the experience to avoid the common pitfalls and make your next event even better.

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