How To Pull Together A PR Event – Fast

In PR, we often create client events to generate brand visibility. It’s normally not very difficult. But, in January, we were asked to pull together a media event – in this case, a reception and panel discussion – for one client in less than two weeks. One reason for the rush was that the discussion was related to a television show featuring our client, so we wanted to make it happen when the series was still airing.

We sprang into action and pulled off the event with a marquee journalist as moderator, attended by over 35 journalists, and attracting over 100 attendees in a packed venue.
Now, we don’t recommend a 14-day lead time, but the discussion was a wild success, in part because we knew how to accelerate our typical event management template. Here are five best practices for planning an event on a tight turnaround.

Be ready to spend more

With little lead time, most venues and vendors – from caterers to AV suppliers – will charge premium rates. They know you’re desperate; they can smell it. The key is to anticipate this and make sure all stakeholders are aware that a quick-turn event will cost more than is typical. Establish that early on and ensure that you have the necessary cushion to pull it off.

Seek help from your network

This is a good rule of thumb for any undertaking, but when you have less than two weeks and every venue is booked, it pays to have a network for advice and connections. We turned to our digital networks to ask for recommendations. I posted on the NYC Tech PR Facebook group, for instance, which is a great resource for PR professionals and marketers. The venue we chose was ultimately recommended by a friend within that group.

Nail the moderator first

Every thought leadership discussion begins with a strong moderator. With a brand-name moderator or headliner on board, preferably from a relevant media outlet, panelists and attendees will follow. It helps to be aggressive in reaching out to moderators to determine who might be available or interested. In a smaller window, that might mean checking with multiple people in a given day. Whatever gets the job done, without spamming.

Pick up the phone

Also, there are times when emails aren’t enough – and this may be one of them. Rather than waiting for responses, initiate calls, then send email as a follow-up. You’ll need to be as persistent as possible without irritating the people whose help you need.


With our January event, we streamlined our process and vendors to ensure we hit our launch date. That means cutting elements that you might have had otherwise. Forget a save-the-date email, for example; send the full invitations as soon as possible, even if some featured participants aren’t yet confirmed. We ended up ditching a dedicated photographer, opting to use high-quality stills from the videographer we brought on. We also paid extra to have the venue handle security and coat check. With enough time, you can stitch these elements together to lower costs, but with a tight schedule, there would have been too much complexity.

Invite as many relevant media as you can

Our event spoke to a number of media verticals: entertainment (because of the TV show), advertising/marketing, business, and more. So, we were fortunate to be able to invite a wide assortment of media, while keeping the list very targeted within each category. Of course many media already had prior engagements on the calendar, given the late notice, which is a common problem for any last-minute event. With that in mind, we decided to expand our media invite list. Everyone was still relevant, but we broadened our criteria for attendance (their beat could be more comprehensive, included freelancers and contributors, etc.). If you find yourself hosting an event on short notice, inviting more and more media is critical. Keep in mind the drop-off rule: expect a 70% drop-off from your RSVP list. Being extra cautious will help you deliver. See our earlier post for a deeper dive into executing a successful PR event.

Making Consumer And B2B Tech Events Special

A mainstay of a well-rounded public relations campaign is the special event. Be it a blogger showcase for a new technology device or a reception to mark a milestone anniversary, in capable PR agency hands, an event must be special to attract the right media and score coverage. Here are six smart ways to make your next PR event a smashing success.

Have a real raison d’etre. There are many good excuses to throw a party, but make yours meaningful for media. Give them a reason to pick your event over the myriad other invites they receive. This could mean a hot product unveiling, a compelling special guest, a cool location. Make the invitation a standout as well.

Invite media who matter, but don’t be a  snob. We are past the time when the top tier outlets were the only ones who count. Be democratic with your invites –  reach out to industry bloggers, influencers and radio journalists. It can also be a good idea to open the event to a select number of preferred customers and fans. Sometimes what “makes” an event is an enthusiastic crowd that is genuinely enjoying themselves and can speak authentically about the brand.

When feasible, partner with the right media outlet. Working with a credible media partner has many benefits, but mainly it will instantly help to reach the right people, generate buzz within the industry and drive attendance. Use the opportunity to tap into their resources, readers, and social contacts. A word of caution, however; the media partner will likely demand exclusivity, so it’s best considered as a trade-off for the guarantee of coverage.

Make it easy to attend.  Can you “uber” your top guests if necessary? Is the location central and simple to find? Will weather impact (logo umbrellas for everyone!) Be sure to check those details in advance and wherever a guest throws you a stumbling block to attend, solve it for him!

Nail down the logistics. Horror stories abound for those who have left anything to chance. Create a checklist at the beginning and stay on top of it. Assign your team specific responsibilities before, during and after the event. Keep the venue staff and your client well informed about your plans and your progress. And of course there’s an (several) apps for this! Try Party/Event Planner for one.

Review past events to plan properly. Presumably you and your agency brethren are event veterans with many a “post-mortem” to review for possible pitfalls. If you haven’t been appraising your events as you go, start now!

Keys To Successful Media Events

I’m fortunate enough to work with great clients who understand the importance of creating tasteful , “mediable” events. Every quarter my team and I work very hard to put together something special for Verizon Wireless in order to showcase the latest and greatest devices on the market and we always learn something new. Below are my top three “event imperatives.”

Don’t be a media snob, invite everyone. Make sure that you invite industry bloggers, mommy bloggers, influencers and radio. It can also be very worthwhile to open the event to a select number of customers or “super users.”  Remember that media might show up for the free drinks and food but sometimes what “makes” an event is an enthusiastic crowd that is genuinely enjoying themselves.

Or, if feasible, partner with the right media outlet. Working with a credible and well respected media partner has many benefits. (We are big fans of Mashable.) It will instantly help you reach the right people, generate buzz within the industry and bring more attendees to the event. Use the opportunity to tap into their resources and post about the event on their website, Twitter stream and other social media platforms. A word of caution, however:  your media partner will likely demand category exclusivity, so it is a trade-off for the guarantee of coverage.

Nail down the logistics. Often, it’s the little things that rock the house. Create a do-to list at the beginning and stay on top of it. Assign your team specific responsibilities before, during and after the event. Keep the venue staff and your client well informed about your plans and your progress. But most importantly, make sure that you leave yourself plenty of time for everything because even the most experienced event planners stumble upon something unexpected!