Public relations used to be a simple act of sending a press release to a newspaper or television reporter and hoping they show up to cover your event. Maybe you would also send some conference swag or free tickets to sweeten the offer. As traditional media and journalism has evolved into the digital age and competition for coverage has increased, PR tactics have also had to change. Media outlets are not just newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and television stations. They are also online publications, blogs, podcasts, streaming platforms like Facebook Live and more. Many companies actually use events as a public relations tactic for organizational announcements.
But how do you grab attention when the event is the big news? It’s time to think outside the box. Unconventional ideas are your best bet to cut through the competition. But as always, when thinking creatively, don’t stray from your overall brand identity or your marketing strategy. Authenticity is important when trying to elevate your message. Here are some unconventional thought starters for you to consider.
Media outlets are looking for unique content to feed the never-ending news cycle. Providing informative and authentic content that addresses an issue, answers a question, or provides knowledge is extremely valuable and can elevate the benefits of your event at the same time.
For example, ask your keynote speaker to record a podcast with a well-known industry podcast host. Or record one yourself and offer it for upload to industry blogs and online publications. Write a guest blog on one of the topics your event will cover and make the content available to industry blogs and online publications.
Visual content is always impactful. Many online publications contain a section for event recaps and images. Send high-resolution images of smiling, happy attendees and a recap highlighting all of the benefits they experienced at the event. This is a great way to increase your press coverage after your event is over and to build awareness for your next event.
Lastly, pop-up events are an interactive way to build buzz for your event and to create a photo opportunity for local media. The movie industry does this really well by offering red carpet premiere parties before the movie opens. How can you create a red carpet moment for your event?
Contests and giveaways are a fun way to create buzz without spending a lot of money or time planning a large PR stunt. Leverage your social media accounts or your event app to push out notifications regarding your contest. For giveaways, ask entrants to do something in order to enter, such as taking a selfie at your event location, sharing your event hashtag on their social media accounts, or answering a survey question.
Contests can also have the benefit of crowd-sourcing ideas and feedback. One fun example of unconventional use of a contest for PR is the “Do Us a Flavor” competition by Frito-Lay in which the brand called for new flavor ideas from the general public. Then, the company chose the top flavors and sold them in stores. Shoppers voted on which flavor was best.
Could you do the same with your event theme, name, or venue? The NTEN conference asks the public to vote on speaker abstract proposals every year. This helps the organizers garner coverage before their event and has the added benefit of ensuring that attendees will receive the experience they desire at the conference.
PR stunts are a tried and true yet still unconventional way to build buzz. The difficulty is finding that one idea that will grab attention yet still be cost-effective and authentic to your brand. Flash mobs just don’t cut it any longer.
Think about the message you are trying to convey and to who. Are you trying to appeal to a Gen Y generation with innovative technology or Fortune 500 executives with new research? Where does your target audience get their news and information? What activity or visual would be impactful for that group of people?
Small (but Potentially Effective) Details
Sometimes it’s the small things that mean the most. Plan for small, inexpensive, yet out-of-the-ordinary touches to your event. For example, place scented candles, fragrant soaps, and decorative towels in each venue bathroom. Create a Quiet Room for attendees to get away from the bustle of the event for a few minutes. Offer a donut wall. Plan a surprise outing. All of these ideas are unexpected and creates an excitement that attracts attention to your event. More small ideas can be found in our recent blog post – How to Create Wow Moments at Your Next Event.
Another small but potentially impactful way to grab attention is to choose an unconventional venue. You do not have to use the traditional hotel or conference center setting. Find a new and non-traditional venue option that will set your event apart from the crowd. Look for co-working spaces, microbreweries, wineries, museums, libraries, or art galleries. This unconventional choice can make a great story for a local business or economic development reporter. Learn more about choosing a venue.
These are just a few ideas for trying something unexpected or unique in order to create a public relations story for your event. The 24-hour news cycle is hungering for something creative, innovative and bold. Go for it!