If you’re running an event or workshop, getting featured in magazines, newspapers and on radio or TV can be a great way to get people to come along.
But if you don’t have any experience of the media, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Here’s some practical tips to get you going.
1.Start before you plan your event
There's no nice way of saying this, so I'll just blurt: if your event is boring, journalists won’t want to cover it.
That’s why the best time to think about PR is before you start choosing venues, booking speakers or organising catering. And the more unusual your event is, the more likely you are to get media coverage.
This is why I had no trouble getting media coverage for the group ultramarathon fundraiser I organised last year. (Have you ever heard of a ‘group ultramarathon?’ Exactly).
The first women’s marathon in the UK got great media coverage for exactly the same reasons - it was both new and a ‘first.’
So the question you need to ask yourself is: ‘What could we do at our event that’s never been done before?’
As these examples show, contrasts and collisions (i.e. putting two unlikely things together) naturally attract media interest - which will make it much easier for you to get PR.
N.B. If you’re reading this and you’ve already started planning your event...don’t panic. Just ask yourself what you could do (or even say) at your event that is new or unusual.
2.Begin with why
Press coverage may be free, but your time isn’t, so you need to get clear about your objectives.
Do you just want bums on seats or do you want to attract a particular kind of person to your event? If so, who?
Getting clear on this is crucial as if you don’t get clear on why you want press coverage, you could waste time targeting the wrong publications and programmes.
3.Identify the ‘who’
Once you’re clear on your objectives, think about who you want to reach and find out what they read, watch and listen to.
The more specific you are about your target audience (you might find you have several) e.g. ‘working mums with jobs in the financial sector’ or ‘women who run online businesses’, you’ll find it much easier to decide which publications or programmes you should be targeting.
And if you’re wondering how to find out what the people you want to reach read, watch and listen to...just ask. Creating an online survey or questionnaire using a tool like Survey Monkey or Wufoo can take minutes and a small sample (between 10 and 50 is ideal) can give you enough information to create a shortlist of target publications.
4.Ditch the ego
You may like the idea of coverage in a national newspaper, but if your ideal client reads some obscure industry title, you could be wasting your time.
And don’t assume national coverage is better than being featured in the regional or trade press. If you’re looking to target people in a specific area or industry, placing a story in a local newspaper or industry title can be far more effective than a double page spread in a national.
5.Don’t pitch stories about your event (unless it really is unusual)
Instead, think of content you can offer that will help you get a mention for your event.
(If you’re confused about how/why this works read: Want more press coverage? Stop talking about your business).
Here are some ideas:
Pitch an opinion article on a topic that relates to your business/event, as in this example.
Pitch a ‘how to’ article that relates to your event/campaign, as John Paul Flintoff did in this piece on how to silence negative thinking.
Pitch stories to journalists about the things your speakers will say at your event: as in this example.
Commission some research (this can be a simple as sending out a questionnaire in Survey Monkey) and launch it around the time of your event.
Launch a campaign like personal trainer and fitness business owner Jacqueline Hooton, whose #AWomansWord campaign landed her coverage on the BBC.
N.B. Read this if you need practical tips and ideas on how to pitch your ideas to journalists.
Whatever you decide, just bear in my mind that (unless there is something reaaaaally unusual about it (think 'silent choir recital' or 'beer festival for teetotallers'), the fact you are holding an event is not a story. But something you're doing - or something someone is saying there - might be.