Nobody ever asked: “If the perfect event takes place but no-one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” Attendees may be the bane of every event organiser’s existence but guests are, of course, integral to the experience. An unlimited budget, the perfect space and a guest list to die for may be the stuff of dreams for the consummate professional. The client, however, cares only about results. Bottom line, they want to see sales figures increase and the flamboyant carnival of an activity needs to yield some return on investment.
Bringing in a PR professional can help bring focus to event, highlighting what will catch the attention of a group and what is simply the organiser’s indulgence. Perhaps most importantly, a canny communication expert’s first order or business will be creating a large media impact through their press connection. A solid package of newspaper clippings and magazine coverage is often the tangible exposure that clients desire.
From creating a lasting legacy to delivering brand consistency Mix reveals what a PR maven’s skills can bring to every aspect of business events.
Allan Tan, director, technology practice,
Hill + Knowlton Strategies
BRINGING FOCUS TO AN EVENT
Unlike event planning, the role of a PR starts before the event and continues on long after the guests have left and the stories written. When it comes to campaigns, PR is about generating interest, excitement and public awareness. It’s also about ensuring positive media attendance and coverage of the campaign.
Marketing events are activities designed around a specific message or goal. An effective public relations strategy can ensure that the key focus and brand messages, are not lost in the magic of pomp and circumstances of the event.
The role of PR – and the PR agency – is to ensure top of mind recall of the product or brand messages among key audiences, even after the launch of a specific campaign. One of the key tenets of effective PR is the positive enhancement of a product or organisation’s reputation following their investments in a campaign. It is essential that we create a conducive environment that encourages influencers and key audiences to generate positive word-of-mouth for our clients – and yes, word-of-mouth is arguably still the most valuable form for generating influence.
The best executed events typically see an alignment of PR and marketing with both components working together to craft a single message that targets multiple audiences but is aligned towards the same goal – create buy-in to the message.
I’ve had the privilege of participating in a number of events and campaigns where marketing and PR work hand-in-hand to craft a unified message. In the best executed campaigns, marketing sets the end objectives while PR develops messages. The success of such collaborations depends in part on establishing common goals and mutual agreements on shared responsibilities and individual assignments.
Here are a few points to remember that all PR professionals follow when it comes to supporting an event:
• Have a PR plan that outlines the strategies and channels – traditional and social media, direct marketing and web updates – for communication, key messages for each target audience and a schedule of deliverables with deadlines and responsibilities.
• Create tailored messages for each channel because audiences have different preferences for engagement. Include a “Save the Date” campaign. Issue an interesting media advisory to encourage media attendance. Use social media where possible.
• Have a detailed schedule that clearly defines roles and responsibilities so everyone is on the same page. Be sure to have a section for tracking progress and put comments to record for future.
• Know your target audience and pitch appropriately. Most online media have free event calendars – use them.
• Journalists are busy people so pitch early to secure their attendance.
• It is all about the story so give the media a reason to attend.
• Post-event, follow-up with a call or email to say thank you, and inquire if you can help them with their story.
THE PR PROFESSIONAL
Lara Jefferies, managing director, Plug PR
ENSURE THE AUDIENCE UNDERSTAND
For a successful event, PR should be involved right from the beginning when the event is in its planning stages. Many companies make the mistake of seeing PR solely as a driver of people or media to an event. As a result, PR is looped into event planning as an afterthought. This is problematic for more than one reason. While PR is essential in delivering media and consumer turnout, its value is far beyond the “bums on seats” factor. A good PR agency will always have one thing on its mind: the audience.
This can be the very thing that gets forgotten by those who are busy planning the logistics of the event. A good PR agency will also always ask the following questions: What do we want the audience to take away from the event? How will we deliver that message? How do we make it stick with them? Do some parts of the audience, such as VIP’s or media need a different experience or treatment? How will the event production support that experience? The best events are those that ask these questions at the beginning and build an event structure around its answers.
Moreover, the closer your PR team is involved with the event’s creative direction, the better they will be able to represent your vision and deliver your messages – even in the face of a crisis. In August this year, an incoming super typhoon disrupted the planning of a large-scale 500-person event in Hong Kong for our client, US cosmetic brand Mary Kay. The night before Mary Kay’s “One Woman Can” Asia Pacific Finale event at Sky 100 on the 100th floor of ICC building in Kowloon, the decision was taken to relocate the event – less than 24 hours before its schedule start – to a completely new venue. The event production company, Tuff Consult, worked wonders, not only sourcing a brand new venue but also in re-working the custom-made decor to fit the new space. As PR had been a part of the planning and creative direction from the start, we were able to clearly communicate the events’ key messages and deliver the event story seamlessly – without the typhoon taking centre stage.
The audience fully immersed themselves in the Mary Kay brand experience and left with a clear understanding of the new “One Woman Can” campaign, created to launch the modelling career of one woman in Asia Pacific. The trade and consumer media also covered the event resulting in widespread coverage across broadcast, print and online media around the region.
Having a succinct and clearly defined PR strategy for an event will ensure the audience instantly understands the story you want to tell.
THE INHOUSE COMMUNICATOR
Saw Wei Wei, director of communications, Kerry Hotel, Beijing
AN EYE FOR DETAIL
Sometimes it’s the smallest details that matter – ensuring correct spelling, grammar, alignment and usage of local terms for a professional event. From something as simple as the spelling of food tags, menus and signage, through to more personal touches such as logo colours and company names, everything you present is important. A communications professional is usually well trained to spot spelling mistakes and we tend to have the eye sharper than anyone else. We are also very aware of the importance of a company’s corporate identity. For example, the logo size or colour should be consistent and accurate. We must also ensure not that we do not upset local traditions or taboos. For example, Chinese do not like the number four.
Those with a PR background are usually experienced at contributing creative ideas from a branding and image building perspective. For example, we regularly hold cocktail mixing class at our hotel’s bar. This allows guests to sample our drinks and provides an interactive experience. More importantly, though, it gives us the opportunity to highlight our friendly staff service and give guests something more memorable than just a night at the bar. We usually enhance the whole experience by preparing collaterals such as recipe cards, personalised cocktail shakers and, of course, a photo in a personalised frame.
Professional communicators are also more attuned to marketing and advertising strategies as we do that daily in our everyday tasks. We can work with event organisers or meeting planners and suggest ideas in presenting their brands to guests. In the hotel, we can offer customised gifts or turn down services like a bathrobe or bedroom slippers embroidered with a guest’s name so that after a long meeting, guests can go back to their rooms and be wowed by a simple gesture that makes them feel at home.
The PR and Communications department also supervises the photography of any events. Whether it is staging for a photo-op, styling food or simply the feasibility of capturing good photos during an on-going event, we ensure that it’s all well prepared in advance. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words – and we truly understand how important it is to have a single good photo than writing a few paragraphs of description.
THE EVENT SPECIALIST
James Rees, executive director, Conferences & Events, Excel London
Build a legacy by promoting success
Excel opened in the year 2000, so has been hosting events for 13 years. On a monthly and weekly basis we host major activities but the 2012 London Olympic Games will certainly be the largest in our history.
For an event of such global importance, we knew that we had to demonstrate excellence in venue management. Excel is a world-class venue, but the Olympics gave us the opportunity to demonstrate world-class delivery to millions of people in a short space of time, in a location of London that many of those visitors perhaps had not visited. Our aspiration, and our owner’s (Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre, or ADNEC), is to build on that positive experience.
Excel’s ICC development features the UK’s largest auditorium and London’s biggest banqueting hall. Before it opened in May 2010, a lot of organisers would not have considered London for their big congresses because there was not a facility big enough to cope with it. So we are still out there marketing the fact that this relatively new facility exists. Our involvement with the Olympics and the fact that we were able to deliver on that grand scale gives all organisers comfort and confidence.
As well as events, we are also looking to reinvest in the facility so what we do and what we have gets better and better. We will also be linked into the new Crossrail, where there will be a brand new station attached to the centre that will give direct access to Heathrow and also direct access through to northern parts of London, to Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street, Bond Street, and Paddington.
Excel’s location is interesting but the whole of London is moving east and the facility seems to be getting closer to the centre of London by the year. Moving forward, Excel is now at the centre of re-development of the Olympic Park, and nearby two new developments are nearing completion.
The Asian Business Port (ABP) is a huge business park designed to encourage Asian businesses to locate their European headquarters to London. Similarly, a new technology park is being built across the dock waters by a company called Chelsfield and a number of businesses, including Samsung, will soon be appearing there.