With The Great British Bake Off creating a cookery craze, let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts for cooking up a PR event storm…
Careful planning and an eye for detail are essential throughout the event-planning process: everyone loves a classic Victoria Sponge and it seems easy to bake, but baking failures are a common occurrence—it’s all too easy to create two crispy pancakes joined by a buttery mess. If you don’t want to be responsible for creating the soggy sponge of the events world, follow this simple recipe.
Preparation: 2 months (dependent on venue booking)
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours
Makes: Press coverage
1. Before you start baking, consult your client to find out the exact function of the event. Ask questions to clarify their expectations and set realistic outcomes.
2. Chop up the jobs, organise them in a shared spread sheet and share with your event team.
3. Book an appropriate venue. Cover all bases: How many people will there be? Where are your invitees coming from? What’s the delivery procedure? Do you need a kitchen? Internet connection? Projector? Is there a lift? Will your collateral fit in the lift? Etc., etc. The minutiae are all important: it only takes a broken lift and a 10th floor venue to reap disaster.
4. Preheat the oven by ringing targeted journalists. Find a relevant hook for each invitee, making it easy for them to confirm their attendance. There’s no point in blanket emailing—have you seen how many emails these people receive?
5. Send out carefully worded follow-up emails straight after calls. Remember: at all stages, update the spread sheet.
6. Prepare concise press packs. Less is more.
7. Source appropriate gifts. These are invaluable little perks for journalists, and for PRs they can make the difference between attendance and non-attendance. You might have the most incredible client/product to share but sometimes it’s the free chocolate that seals the deal on and ensures all-important networking time. For our latest event we chose Hotel Chocolat as they are affiliated with our client’s company.
8. Refreshments. Don’t choose something boring: coffee might fix your caffeine-craving but it’s neither a talking point nor a journalist hook. We chose gourmet cheesecakes and quirky fruit juices to add a little extra interest to our event.
9. Book couriers and taxis. Stress the need for promptness. If you have a set-up window of 30 minutes, you can’t afford for them to be 10 minutes late. Equally, if they’re early, you won’t be there to collect and your deliveries might be turned away. Your couriers may think you’re loopy but it’s worth being tough on this one.
10. Send paper invitations a few days before the event and one more reminder email on the day. Whilst you don’t want to bombard people, reminders are crucial.
After all the preparation, it’s time to cook. When the day arrives the key is calmness.
1. Prepare a clipboard with all the crucial details from courier references to guest lists.
2. Be perfectly punctual—you need to be there to ensure the courier collects your collateral from the office and then a member of the team needs to be at the venue before your deliveries, the deliveries must be on time and set up must run to time so that the event can launch at the advertised time.
3. Be perfectly presentable—it will set your client at ease to see you looking calm and under control. This is not the day for bleary eyes or a wardrobe malfunction.
4. Regardless of the pressure, always maintain a calm exterior and friendly demeanour to staff, colleagues, clients and journalists alike. These are the people who will make the event a success and you need them all onside.
5. Remember to introduce everyone fully. If your client is present, explain clearly who they are and what they do. Then make sure that they know who they’re talking to and what publication they’re from so that the conversation can be tailored appropriately. If you already know that a journalist is interested in a particular angle, steer the conversation so everyone reaches the desired outcome.
6. Record who is there and who said what. This is crucial information for effective follow-up.
7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Occasionally the tumble weed starts to drift. Be tenacious: get on the phone and prompt any stragglers. The likelihood is that they’ve forgotten. If you’ve picked a good venue, they’ll still be able to pop along even if only for a crucial ten minute chat.
1. Once baking is complete stay focussed and follow-up promptly. Feedback to your client with a follow-up plan.
2. Put the plan into action, re-connecting with journalists by building on the recorded conversations.
3. Feed back to your client as you secure coverage.
Finally, the old anecdote rings true: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen…
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