As the former editor of Special Events Magazine, Liese Gardner knows what works and what doesn't when approaching the media with a story idea. Four years ago, she launched the firm Mecca to help special event clients position, market and build their business through integrated marketing and public relations campaigns.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Why should an event professional bother trying to get press coverage — doesn't good work speak for itself?
LIESE GARDNER: Yes, good work speaks for itself. But by getting press, you allow that work to speak even louder! Press works because our culture is very influenced by the media. Plus, in today's competitive market, relying on word-of-mouth isn't enough to help a business grow. Growth requires a well-thought-out and -executed public relations and marketing plan. Press is one piece in a larger puzzle — a tool that, when balanced with targeted marketing, keeps your name consistently in front of your desired clientele.
Q: What is the difference between getting coverage in the trade press, such as Special Events, and the consumer or public press?
A: It's more difficult to get press in consumer publications. First, you are competing with many, many other companies for the editor's attention, so you need a great story angle. Second, unfortunately, the media right now is fixated on any event with, by or for a celebrity or any planner who has done work with a celebrity currently in the news. So, unless there is a celebrity involved …
Trade press is wonderful because the magazines are targeted for a specific reader. Plus, some of these magazines are read by potential clients such as hotels, corporations, planners, etc. Although still competitive, it's a little easier to get into these types of publications, especially if you research the magazine's editorial focus and send in a story idea that directly speaks to that publication's readership.
Q: Readers sometimes complain that articles written about them leave out important aspects of their event or their company. Is there a way around this?
A: While we'd love to be able to control what is written about us, that isn't the way the press works. Once the interview is done, the story is in the generally capable hands of an editor. However, if something is very important, make sure you tell the writer during the interview. The editor may still have to cut it — usually because of space limitations — but you can rest assured that it was necessary to do so.
Q: How does one go about determining what is newsworthy to the media?
A: Read the publication. Watch the TV show. Listen to the radio program. Check out the Web site. Is your news appropriate for this publication, show or site? Is the story current? Is it part of a trend? Can it be of help to the readers, listeners or viewers? Is it something you'd like to read or see?
Q: What mistakes do you see event professionals make most often when attempting to get press coverage?
A: The first mistake is to wait for the press to come to you. Be proactive and send in strong story ideas accompanied by professional photos. The second mistake is not sending information in early enough. While trade magazines can cover events after the fact, daily papers, TV and radio are more immediate. Let these media know of the event at least two weeks in advance, and, if possible, invite key players.
Q: What are the advantages of hiring a public relations professional versus doing it yourself?
A: More than ever, it's important to explore other forms of marketing and to assess every aspect of your company image, what it says and whom it attracts. Getting one article in one magazine is possible to do on your own, but it's not enough to generate buzz about your company. Most people running an event firm don't have the time to do all that is necessary to continually fuel a successful public relations campaign. A professional public relations agency works on your behalf to create and implement an ongoing, creative and comprehensive campaign that will consistently get your company name and image in front of the markets, media and clients that will help your business grow.
Liese Gardner can be reached at Mecca at 818/205-9071 or via e-mail at [email protected].