Whether you’ve been in business for two months or 20 years, you know that marketing needs to be part of your plans. Take note though: In your haste to post your latest event on Instagram or to follow up on all the referrals you’re getting from past clients (which I’m going to assume you get), don’t overlook a key piece to any marketing plan: public relations.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in one event after another during season--heck, that’s the fun part of being in this industry, right? But in order to ensure you are consistently busy year after year, your company's public image needs to be top-notch.
After more than a decade on the editorial side of multiple media companies and now working as the one pitching those outlets, here are my top five tips for creating a solid PR strategy:
1. Clearly outline your PR goals.
What do you want to accomplish with your PR strategy? It might sound like a simple question to which your gut reaction is, “To get my company name in the media, of course,” but to that I reply with, “To what end?”
Do you want more clients or just brand awareness? Do you want to be recognized as a thought leader or trendsetter among other event professionals? Do you want back links to your website to help boost your search rankings?
Each of these can be accomplished with a good PR strategy, but you first need to know what your goals are so you can better home in on the right publications to be pitching with what content.
Just as with all marketing: it’s all about getting the right message (aka “the pitch”) to the right audience (aka “the publication”) at the right time (aka “when it’s newsworthy”).
2. Choose relevant outlets.
If your above-mentioned goal is to get clients, then you need to be pitching publications and media outlets your target clientele is already reading. If you plan weddings, this could be wedding blogs, Style Me Pretty, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, etc.
For corporate clientele, you will want to focus on business, tech or finance publications based on whatever sector you specialize in.
In all cases, the key is getting in front of the prospect in the places where they spend their time, which might not be the publications you personally read.
If you’ve decided you want to be a thought leader or increase your brand awareness among peers, then event industry publications are your go-tos.
Even in this industry though, there is still a vast array of niche media for trade shows, weddings, corporate events, incentive planning and conferences.
Find the media outlet that best suits your goals, look up the masthead (i.e., the list of all the editorial staff), pick the most relevant editor to contact and move on to Step 3.
3. Tailor your pitches to the outlet you are contacting.
Editors and writers are bombarded with press releases constantly, which means they usually only spend enough time reading the first paragraph--if they open the email at all. Make your pitch stand out by crafting one that is customized to the magazine, website or radio/TV network you are pitching.
Clearly explain why what you are offering (industry insights, tips, news, etc.) is relevant to that specific outlet’s audience. Editors don’t care why anyone would want to know about this; they want to know why their readers want to know about it.
Editors agree that there is nothing better than having a story fall in your lap. The more detailed you can be about why their specific audience will care about the topic you want them to write about, the higher they'll probably do just that.
4. Be timely, but not aggressive, with your follow-ups.
As I mentioned earlier, reporters and editors can get umpteen pitches in a given day or week. Not hearing back on a pitch for a few days doesn’t mean it’s a pass, but could simply be that they are busy. This means you may need to follow up on your pitch to bring it back to the top of their inbox.
If your story is timely, resending your email three days later in the same chain as the original is acceptable by most standards. If it’s an evergreen story, meaning it could run anytime and still be relevant, then wait at least a week before you email again.
Your goal is to build a relationship with the media contact, not bombard them with ideas or email to the point that they say “no” simply to cut down on the emails or phone calls they get.
5. Never miss a deadline.
In those instances when you get a bite on your pitch, getting the writer or editor all the information they request in a timely manner should be your top priority. Always ask when their deadline is and get the story and any accompanying photos and photo credits to them before that deadline.
As full as your inbox might get during event season, there is nothing that will kill your chances of future editorial like missing a reporter’s deadline.
D. Channing Muller is the principal and founder of DCM Communications, a marketing consulting agency based in Chattanooga, Tenn. She works primarily with event professionals and small-business owners to grow and scale their businesses through one-on-one and group coaching. She has more than 15 years of experience in the communications industry and 12 years in events, serving in top roles in marketing, magazine and web editorial, advertising, and business development for a variety of media, software and PR companies in the United States and internationally.