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In a series of interviews for our event marketing series, I got to sit down with Alex Burrola of FSB Core Strategies, one of California’s top rated PR firms. Curious how PR played a role in event marketing, we asked Alex how he merges his veteran PR background with the events he’s assigned to either manage or collaborate on.
Shireen: How Does PR factor into event marketing? People usually see them as two different industries, but you’re saying they overlap?
Alex: Putting on an event can, of itself, be a stressful and all-encompassing undertaking. Add to that the need to market the event as an exercise in public relations, and you’ve got a full scale operation on your hands. It’s not an impossible task, however. From front to back, successful public relations strategies can be employed to make your event stand out from every other affair vying for your audience’s attention and make them remember it as something not to be missed next year.
Shireen: What key questions do you ask yourself when planning an event?
Alex: Ask, whom are you inviting? Young, tech and media savy types, who will be more responsive and used to being forwarded an email with simple event details? Or are they more traditional, in the model of senior executive level leaders who are accustomed to formal mailed invitations or phone calls made to their office and scheduler? Is there a fundraising aspect, or is it purely a social gathering? Dinner and an open bar, or hors d’oeuvres and coffee?
Evaluating the who, where, what and why of your event will help craft your pre-event strategy, everything from should you send traditional invitations via the U.S. mail or electronically blast out an Evite. Even a Facebook page or an pre-established Twitter hashtag can harness the power of social media to create a buzz weeks before your event even takes place and can help to set the tone and atmosphere beforehand.
Shireen: Is PR on pause while the event is in swing, or are you still on call?
Alex: While your event is going on, there are plenty of opportunities to wow and make an impression on your guests. Step and repeats make great places for a photo op, with your logo or other image well placed in the background for best exposure. Hand out gift or goodie bags branded with your cause or even simply with the date and name of the event.
If media is a part of your event, make sure they know or are introduced around to the key people in attendance. No reporter or photographer wants to find out after the fact that they missed out on a quote or snapshot of a VIP because the host failed to do introductions. Have a list of such people mentally handy and make sure “handlers” or hosts are on hand to guide the VIPs, be they reporters and bloggers or big donors or opinion leaders around the room. Whether it’s a casual gathering or carefully choreographed and scripted affair, there’s always an agenda and having a plan like this in place to make sure the right people are connected is too valuable a tool to be overlooked.
Shireen: What’s your post event strategy?
Alex: Once the event is done, the chairs are stacked and the tables have been cleared, it’s time to start executing your post-event strategy. Yes, it’s important to put all those pictures on Facebook (avoid tagging, some people don’t want to be tagged) and tweet out the link to the photos. It’s also important to create a verbal wrap-up or summary of the event, who was there, what was accomplished, and why. It makes great companion material for the photos on your blog or website. And, even though it’s nearly a lost art, nothing matches the impression that’s made when your attendees and other who were a part of making your event a success receive a hand-written “thank you” note. A simple but effective and memorable way to cap off what has hopefully been a masterfully executed event, from start to finish.