The hours and days immediately following a public relations event offer a great opportunity to assess event effectiveness and identify what worked and what could be improved. There are some basic must-haves that clients should expect when a PR team plans and executes any publicity event.
Must-haves of the effective PR event
Plan the timeline down to the last detail.
The team should have calendarized every aspect of the event from the moment the idea is confirmed. This begins with the date selection itself – avoiding proximity to holidays and seasonal happenings, for example. A good PR team will check event calendars on a number of different sites so as not to compete with any other similar goings-on. It’s also recommended to query potential attendees to see what time is optimum. Recently we held a symposium in Washington DC that began at 4PM. That time worked well for the attendees, which we knew because we surveyed many of them in advance, but it probably wouldn’t work for all audiences! From there, it’s important to time the dissemination of attendee invitations, press releases, media alerts and post-event pitches with precision.
Have a structured and detailed run-of-show.
Ideally, the PR team is using the original plan developed for the event as a way to structure a comprehensive run-of-show to serve as the roadmap for a successful execution. We find it very effective to build the run-of-show collaboratively with other teams and vendors on a Google doc or other cloud-based program. The document will include all pre-event tasks, times and project owners up through each element of the event itself, the full script, and post-event work. There are some templates for an ROS that offer a good place to start.
Develop clear KPIs.
As with any PR initiative, it’s imperative for the team and any event-planning company, venue or other vendors to establish KPIs that include: total event attendees, media coverage, donations or number of sales leads depending on the type of event. We typically seek feedback on the event and use that intel to provide an all-encompassing POV of its successes and failures. For example, how many attendees signed up to receive content? If it’s an annual occurrence, how did this year compare to previous years? The most effective measurement tool is often a post-event survey sent to attendees to determine satisfaction with a number of different elements including the venue, time of day, and speakers or entertainment.
Plan a traditional and digital media outreach.
The importance of a strategic media outreach plan cannot be stressed enough. For public events, this usually begins with creating and deploying calendar listings for print, online and broadcast media. If the event includes boldfaced names, there may be opportunities to pitch them for interviews ahead of time. Nearer to the day itself, the PR team will send press releases, and finally, to encourage day-of coverage, a media alert with aggressive follow-up. It is often after the event that the real PR push comes. Once we receive images, video or the highlights from a newsworthy speech or panel discussion, we package and pitch to relevant press for media coverage that can continue for weeks afterward.
Have a full event run-through.
Especially for more complicated events involving multiple speakers, video presentations and movement from one space to another, we recommend a dry run in the days (or hours) preceding it. Using the run-of-show and script as a guide, we invite appropriate vendors (such as A/V, lighting and music) as well as each speaker to go through the entire run-of-show. It’s also very helpful to have someone less closely related to the project to offer an objective opinion on the proceedings and make some helpful tweaks.
Encourage social sharing.
If nothing from an event is shared on social media, did it even happen? Today’s PR pros are tweeting, posting to Facebook and LinkedIn, uploading video to YouTube and slides to Slideshare before an event has even ended. It pays off handsomely to develop a sound social media plan that includes pre-event posts, live tweeting and post-event images and quotes calling attention to the highlights.
Look for an honest assessment to help team members plan future events. The report should assess all vendor performance, collateral, staffing levels and processes to build on success and improve any problem situations. Any effective post-event memo must include recommendations based on key learnings. These should cover every category, from initial invitations to thank-you notes. The more detail the team provides, the better. For example, we were told after a recent event that a speaker’s presentation would be have been more compelling with better use of visuals. So rather than stop there, the report went on to include examples of the type of visuals the team envisioned. Every recommendation should provide a level of detail that can easily be worked into planning for the next event. Bonus tip: We find it helpful to designate one team member to take notes during the event so everyone isn’t relying solely on memory. Tuck it into an app like Evernote for real efficiency.