Do events really provide a good opportunity for PR?

With the world back up and running post-covid (albeit in a type of ‘new normal’ that none of us could have scripted), we’re getting more and more requests from clients for advice around events, whether that is their own events or industry events. The time has come for the 2023 PR plans!  

We’re also seeing senior execs from our US-based client firms beginning to make more trips to Europe, and these visits coming with a somewhat automatic assumption that this equals a great opportunity for PR. 

Don’t get us wrong, we’re all about squeezing every drop of PR opportunity from any corporate ‘happening’, but there are a few home truths we want to share. 

  1. An event (either a client’s own, or attendance of an industry event) doesn’t necessarily equal a great PR opportunity. 
  2. These days, the fact an (even a very senior) exec is ‘in town’ doesn’t make it any more likely a journalist will meet them than if they were on Zoom in the US. 

Why? Because successful PR is all about quality. 

Using your PR team’s time (and your budget) trying to persuade a long list of journalists to attend your panel discussion or travel to your organisation’s annual user conference will be low ROI. Journalists have less time, resource and inclination to travel than they did, say, five years ago.  

Ditto on ‘press releasing’ your event. This will only result some very low tier (low impact) coverage. If you’re after that kind of low calibre volume coverage, use a press newswire. 

The keys to turn an event into a PR success 

So how can we make events and in person visits useful for PR? Well, if successful PR is about quality, then quality comes from delivering value, and more specifically ‘shared value.’ In other words, not just what’s in it for your organisation, but what a journalist is going to get out of this interaction. 

For example, what actual news value can the journalist expect in return for taking time away from their desk to come and attend an event? What value will your speakers, event topics and content provide for a journalist’s readers? 

So, start with the content. What content have you got? What could you do with it? For example, customers available to provide success stories are the most obvious win, along with genuinely newsworthy news announcements, and new, ground-breaking points of view from a senior exec. And don’t forget your content needs to be locally-relevant. If you don’t have any of these then you might want to consider how much PR budget you allocate to supporting the event. 

Another crucial factor in event-PR success is to include PR in the event planning from the start. One of our clients recently did this to great effect – they held an in-person event to mark the opening of their new London office. Normally hearing ‘PR-ing the opening of an office’ would make a PR person very nervous (it’s akin to PR-ing the opening of an envelope!), but in this case the client wanted to use the event as a platform to gather and create great content that we could use to fuel our PR program over the next 3 – 6 months. Perfect!   

I’ll finish with one final point. While I’ve been at pains to highlight that an event doesn’t automatically equal great PR, if your organisation is hosting its own event, for PR purposes please remember that size is not everything! We don’t need you to have Madonna as the keynote speaker, nor for the drinks party to be on an exclusive island in Ibiza. It’s not about size and scale, nor flashing lights and the sparkle. It’s about quality. 

Let us help you create the most relevant, timely, insightful, attention-grabbing content (in whatever format) we can, and the opportunities and coverage will follow. Get in touch here! 

Featured image by Luis Quintero.