You’ve been working with your committee for months. The conference planning is well on its way and now it’s five months from the first day of the big event. It's time to formulate a clear, defined public relations strategy that'll help your conference achieve optimum results in the media.
Review. Review the past year’s conference in terms of PR activity. Use an analytical eye to determine what angles or pitches worked and resulted in positive coverage.
Research. It is always profitable to see what other organizations have done in the past to promote their big events. Look at their campaigns and zero in on how those conferences best used PR.
Define your audiences. Who are you trying to reach and what do you need to communicate to them? Defining your key audiences, segmentation, is a critical part of ensuring your plan will be effective. It’s important to also have consensus among leadership and your Board as to who these audiences are and how they are defined.
Create key messages. Consider your overall business objectives and use these as a basis for developing your key media messages. Make sure that what you say and how you say it reflects what you're trying to achieve. Your messages will form the backbone of your communication activity.
Choose tactics and channels. How will you communicate to your audiences and what channels will you utilize? To get your mix of tactics and channels right, do research on your individual audiences through personal development to determine a) the most effective tactics to grab their attention, and b) what channels they engage with most to target them where they are.
Establish a news release calendar to plan out the news releases you intend to issue throughout the year. You may need to revise this calendar as you move through the year, but it'll give you some initial structure to adhere to and help you stay focused on generating news.
Media outreach in the form of pitching reporters and placing articles is still the essence of PR, and the foundation for any PR program is a solid media list. Your list should contain the contact details of the publications and journalists that pertain to your industry and be organized according to how valuable each is in terms of reaching your target audience. Once you've created a list, schedule time on your calendar for media outreach. Contact each reporter individually to introduce yourself and to arrange informal meetings where you can discuss the outlook for your company and industry.
Create an online community. Start by picking the social media platforms where your target audience members are. Your community should have a common name across all platforms, relating to your event. In the lead-up to the event, don’t just use social media as a marketing tool, share information relating to your conference topic as well. This will communicate to your audience you are interested in the topic and have a wealth of information to share. If your event is annual, ensure to maintain your social media platforms year round, with a larger presence in the months leading up to the event.
Create a hashtag. Hashtags bring together like-minded people on Twitter. You should create one for your event, and use it in the lead-up, as well as throughout the event. Make sure it is simple and directly relates to the event. Before and during your event, publicize your hashtag to encourage as many people as possible to follow the stream. Use it constantly while tweeting throughout the event.
Evaluate. After the conference, immediately assess what worked and what didn’t.
Planning your PR strategy now will not only help generate new ideas and opportunities for you and your business to shine, it'll give you peace of mind in your day-to-day operations. While PR plans are always subject to change, planning ahead will enable you to stick to your overall goals and maintain your focus.