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.

How To Make An Impact At A Business Conference

Love them or hate them, conferences and trade shows are key venues for any business to generate public relations, marketing, and sales returns. If you’ve ever attended a major tech trade show, you know they can be a blur of handshakes, branded swag, business cards, and mediocre meals. How to make the most of a time and dollar investment in a trade show or conference? Our own Chris Harihar offers some sage advice on navigating the world of B2B conferences.

7 ways to make an impact at a business conference

Choose wisely

There’s a business conference for every conceivable vertical, niche, and sector; and they come in various sizes and cities around the world. Since the ideal lead time for earning a speaking opportunity is six to nine months, and sponsorships take planning for maximum benefit, a PR team must incorporate a conference strategy in its annual planning. Is the goal to generate awareness, leads, and sales? To build an executive profile? To grow relationships with influencers, media, and colleagues? A sales-oriented trade show like Cloud Expo in New York may work for many goals, while a more ideas- driven one like Fortune Live Media may align better with thought leadership objectives. A consistent presence at carefully selected conferences year round can produce good ROI, as well as support PR goals.

For maximum impact, over-prepare

A B2B company can set itself up for success with some logistical planning and research. The first step is to work with organizers to earn speaking and event opportunities at the most advantageous times. The team should study the layout and the schedule well ahead of time, as well as the attendee and exhibitor lists to scope out a plan to be in front of the right people. A good PR team will get a list of attending media to plot their outreach and set up briefings. Some even create a “facebook”-type schedule with head shots of key contacts to maximize networking opportunities. Armed with advance intelligence, a company can create its own minute-by-minute schedule to avoid wasting the considerable time and money invested in the conference.

Bring the news

If a company has news to share — an acquisition, new product launch, or growth milestone, the conference backdrop can add sex appeal and offer the benefit of a captive audience of media and insiders. Experienced PR professionals often coordinate an announcement with a major conference appearance to maximize interest and visibility. Yet with so much noise at trade events, it’s hard to draw attention to your brand. The trick is to pay close attention to timing; even a company’s big news can get lost in a wave of similar announcements. At last month’s Microsoft Ignite, there were so many announcements that Microsoft had to issue a media a 27-page booklet for attendees. Consider making an announcement the day before the conference through a media exclusive slated for breakfast the morning of the first day. Or, sponsor a mealtime slot for breaking news — a time-honored trick that helps turn out press hungry for stories as well as lunch.

Bring PR to the show

Having a PR team member on-site for media relations support at a key conference isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. PR can continuously rove the event floor to wrangle relevant media and influencers to engage. While the sales team is working at the booth or in private meetings, the PR team can take the offensive as your advocates. There are often video assets developed by conference coordinators on-site to promote the event through digital and social channels. PR teams can chase down those opportunities as part of a plan of attack well in advance of the conference.

Get creative to stand out

It’s not enough to simply sponsor, exhibit, or speak at a conference these days. To maximize the value of the investment, think outside of the programmed opportunities. Rather than putting big dollars into a larger booth, consider using some of that budget to host an off-site dinner or cocktail hour, to which the PR team can invite press, clients, and prospects. This helps a brand separate itself from the crowd and earn a captive audience. B2B tech conferences can often get monotonous. An offsite happening allows a company to shake things up a bit, keeping it top-of-mind among the right audiences.

Be social

It’s remarkable how many brands still don’t optimize their event presence through social media. In advance of a conference, brands should consider paid and organic content strategies to gain more ownership of the event’s hashtag. For example, while Facebook isn’t a huge lead-gen source for B2B businesses, creating content for Facebook Live can be repurposed well after the conference ends. These videos can be easily shared with media who may not have attended but want more information about key announcements or trends. See our earlier post for tips on how social media drives B2B PR. But note that when the conference ends, the work does not.

Follow through

If a good one is available, the company should use the event video of the thought leader’s speech or panel appearance by posting on its owned media and amplifying on social channels like LinkedIn. An executive appearance can bolster the individual’s reputation, building a resume for other earned conference engagements. Additionally, the PR team may develop the speech into a white paper or byline. PR will nurture all the new media and influencer connections it made, just as sales will follow up on its leads. When a company has mastered the trade show experience from preparation to follow-through, it can build a consistent brand presence on big thought leadership stages year-round.

Tuesday Tips: Picture-Perfect Photo Ops

by guest blogger Sodelba Alfaro

How many times have you coordinated a photo op for a client only to end up with unusable images? Poorly lit, out of focus, or, the PR pro’s worst nightmare, photos that don’t include your client or their event signage! Below are some tips to ensure none of that happens when you’re in charge of the photography.

Focus your photographer
Establish a relationship with a professional photographer and provide meticulous instructions for each client photo shoot. Of course, it’s advisable to be onsite for oversight as well. Press credentials ensure your photographer gets in.

Prepare a “shot” list
With your client, determine the story you are trying to tell with the photos, the audience, the media etc. List the poses and pictures you need and go over the list with the photographer and other key attendees at the event.

Light well
The word photography derives its meaning from the Greek words to “draw light” and for a photographer, lighting is everything. If your event is outside, you will be blessed with Natural sunlight but many events take place indoors. When coordinating an indoors photo op, make sure to pick a room with high ceilings and plenty of space for the most favorable lighting.

Does everyone have their permission slips?
Bring the necessary forms with you when coordinating a photo op to prevent shooting delays or worse, the inability to use some of the photos you’ve painstakingly obtained! Release forms provide for participants to give their permission to appear in photos.

And, action!
Even with great lighting, photos can be boring without direction. Make sure you coordinate action shots which illustrate guests “doing” and not just standing around. If there is a speaker, make sure the photographer shoots him/her addressing the crowd. With a question and answer session, make sure the photographer shoots guests addressing the speaker. Action shots make media notice so make sure your photographer knows to make these shots.

Use a camera phone in a pinch
Did you end up at event without a professional photographer? Don’t worry, use your iPhone or Android device to shoot some photos. Make sure to clean your lens, steady your hands, and increase the resolution for a perfect phone shot.

Brand your visuals
A good PR photo op becomes a photo flop if the client’s brand is nowhere in sight. When coordinating photo ops, maximize your client’s exposure with shots of visible branding — step and repeats, banners, and even staffers in branded garb are good examples of visual branding.
What are your tips for a great photo op?