Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April
Back to Basics
BY MARTHA JO DENDINGER,
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.
FINDING THE TARGET
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.
DEALING WITH THE FOURTH ESTATE
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 participatingTo 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 meetingsTo 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
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'
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
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).
KEEPING IN TOUCH
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
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