April 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April 1998 Current Issue
April 1998 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics


Pitching Your Event

For conventions and trade shows trying to draw a crowd of people who will have to pay for the event, marketing is crucial. But the costs for radio, TV and print ads even public service announcements require sizeable budgets.

The forgotten sibling, publicity, is a great way to get the word out for free. With a little planning and organization, you can get local and trade journals to do some of your marketing for you. The key is targeting the media that will best reach your audience. Here's how to get good PR.


First, develop a publicity plan that outlines your goals, identifies audiences and their specific needs, and describes the messages to be communicated. The goals may be as simple as six media exposures in the two months before the meeting; your audiences may be current and potential customers or members, further identified by demographics.

The second step of choosing the correct media outlets comes easily: Match your organization's demographics with journals that reach your audience, and match your meeting site with local papers and radio and TV stations.


The next element is developing relationships with key writers and editors in the destination and your industry. Keep the list up to date, with contacts at newspapers, television and radio stations, magazines, wire services and Internet news sources. Don't forget the business and lifestyle reporters.

The basic outlet for spreading your information is the press release a short, factual document that relates general news about the event and the organization. News releases may be used in the following circumstances:

  • To announce the meeting, including when and where it will take place and who will be participating
  • To publicize participants or speakers when the roster is finalized (if someone well-known is the keynote, generate a separate release)
  • To distribute details, including topics on the agenda and the purpose of the meetings
  • To describe newsworthy moments and accomplishments after the meeting is over
  • Follow-up calls are valuable if you can offer additional information. Reporters are flooded with releases, so call only if you have something new, not just to see if they got your release. Always include contacts and phone numbers on each release; the press will call you if they need more information or clarification.

    You can also pitch feature story ideas to the media. Coverage of the Super Bowl is a good example of how valuable these stories are. For weeks before the kickoff, the world is saturated with items about the players, coaches and those who play behind-the-scenes roles. This human-interest focus draws fans to the game.

    This same focus can be used to publicize your events. Look for the unusual. Many associations pitch the charitable events held during their conventions. They also get coverage from local and trade journals by sending out releases on members' accomplishments.

    Television and radio shows and daily newspapers reach a huge number of people, therefore they need to appeal to a broader audience. A release announcing your meeting may not get you coverage, so accompany it with a general news hook. Here are two approaches to try.

  • Look at the event from a national perspective. Does it showcase a new trend in your industry?
  • Look at the story from a local angle. Is a hometown member receiving an award? How are local companies benefiting from new products introduced at your meeting? How are local companies benefiting from the fact that the event is being held in their town?
  • Have a press kit available for all media representatives, made up of releases on your industry and speakers, plus your meeting brochure. Include facts and figures about the meeting, along with reproducible visuals (photographs, charts and graphs).


    Remember, the press needs you as much as you need the press. If your organization has a newsletter or other special publications, include your press contacts on the distribution list. Regular exposure through positive, proactive interaction with the media validates your meeting as a resource and positions your organization as one of the experts in the field.

    Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting planner in Atlanta.

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