Why Media Events are so Valuable to PR Professionals?
Earned media tactics vary in scope - from traditional press releases, to the once-popular flash mobs and pop-up stores, to surveys and influencer seeding. Each tactic can be scaled from big-to-small depending on the size of budget, target audience and key messages.
One tactic PR professionals often shy away from is: EVENTS. By events, I mean, media events geared to bloggers, influencers and journalists. Media events can be challenging and are often seen as: expensive, hard to coordinate, and viewed as having an unmeasurable ROI.
I recently coordinated a media familiarization trip for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Canada in Montreal, which was very successful– here’s what our team did and why it worked!
Objective? What’s the goal?
I started off by identifying the PR challenge we wanted to address. We were not getting our share of media coverage in Quebec due to language barriers in our media materials and our national messaging didn’t resonate with the local market. Understanding this, I wanted to build the local media’s awareness of our brand in their region.
Working with Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ offices in Montreal, we identified a list of key media we wanted to see at our event. We included traditional media (print), bloggers and B2B journalists. I often hear that events never work because of the ‘skeleton newsrooms’ – aka there are not enough staff to go around. However, I find that if you plan in advance and invite guests a month out, you should be fine. We also coupled our “in advance” approach by soft sounding journalists. We gave them a couple of date options and asked them if they would prefer a one or two night trip. We catered to their preferences and tried to accommodate personal requests. After all, we are in the hospitality business.
I also built strict goals for the event. They were three-fold: a) Earned media coverage from the invited parties b) Social media engagement during the events to build local buzz c) Relationship building between the hotels and media, so media relations could continue post event.
Equipped with these goals, I shaped the agenda of the event, communication materials and briefed spokespeople and the hotels on the objectives. Everyone (including the hotel chefs!) was aware of the purpose of the event. I really do feel this was key. Everyone involved should be briefed because anyone planning an event knows that it’s a team effort.
The Hook – how to get media interested
Attendance success depends on your “hook”. Why should the media show up? Do you have something newsworthy to share?
We built out the Quebec media familiarization trip into an IHG 101 affair: an educational one night/ two day event. Media had exposure to a roster of spokespeople and toured around two properties: the InterContinental Montreal and the Holiday Inn Montreal Centreville Downtown. We knew that this couldn’t be our only “hook”! After all, lifestyle journalists are used to being whisked away to exclusive trips in exotic locations. So, we added a twist. All guests who participated in our educational 101 were invited for a half-day spa getaway at a popular Montreal venue, Bota-Bota. This coupling worked in our favour because the InterContinental Montreal had a special promotion with the spa called the Digital Detox promotion. We were essentially giving the media an exclusive opportunity, plus seeding them with brand messaging.
One of the most important aspects of events is to keep the experience authentic. As the host, you want to be personable and transparent. I’ve seen too many PR professionals walk on egg shells around journalists, worried about saying the wrong thing, or coming across too aggressive. Remember, if the journalist is at an event, they want information, but they are also looking to be entertained. Brief yourself on your brand messaging, but also know when to cut the sales pitch and enjoy their company. Also, make sure to enjoy yourself. If they eat, you eat.
Of all the media familiarization trips I have coordinated, this was by far the simplest. I mean, it’s easy hosting guests at hotels. Quelle surprise? Our jammed packed agenda (and make sure you have an agenda) included a property tour, a five course meal at Osco!, and a personal briefing from the Chef. It didn’t stop there! We also had an Absinthe cocktail tasting (plus Absinthe gift), a hardhat tour, breakfast, spokesperson briefing and spa day! We even had gifts for the journalists, plus a USB chalked full of media images and our brand media releases.
We had nine media attend, our original goal was to have seven. The journalists were from Tier A publications such as: Le Journal De Montreal, Metro, Profession Voyages and digital publications such as: Taxi-Brousse, divine.ca, and Le Cahier. In the weeks to follow, the event we had stellar media coverage, such as this feature article in Metro. We also had great commentary throughout the two-day event via our hashtag #IHGàMTL.
Some of the best “results” were not our original objectives. We received great feedback from the journalists on how to better work with them and enhance communication practices in the French region. This information is invaluable as we move forward and develop subsequent brand programs. Second, these journalists have all kept in touch, and let us know about stories they have coming up, so that we can be a part of it. One of our guests visited one of our hotel affiliates in NYC and included a lot of information we provided into that specific article.
When it comes to events, as it relates to marketing and getting your messages out there, I always say, in the end you are only limited by your imagination and persistence. Good luck with all of your future media events.
Questions? Comment or tweet to me @MichelleDias