Attending a live event can be an uplifting experience. Taking a break from the day-to-day routine - and connecting with like-minded people - can leave you fizzing with inspiration and ideas for your business.
But with so much valuable content being shared, it can also leave you feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering if there is anything you’ve missed. With that in mind, here is a review of the highlights of Soulful PR Live 2017 on July 13 and 14.
You may also find this post useful if you couldn’t make it along this year and/or are considering coming along to a future event. If you’re an event organiser yourself you might also find this an interesting behind-the-scenes account of our sales and marketing strategy.
Having spent 16 years writing and editing for national newspapers and magazines, I know how hard it can be to attract journalists’ attention. The idea behind Soulful PR Live is to get you in a room for the day with a bunch of top national journalists so you can find out what they’re looking for in a story, how to put a great pitch/press release together, where to find journalists’ contact details and everything else you need to know to secure high-profile media coverage. It goes without saying that it’s also a great opportunity to make valuable media connections and introduce journalists to your products and services.
The annual event features eight national journalists and eighty guests (mainly small business owners) although, given the success of 2017, it looks we may need to go bigger next year. Ten delegates opted for a VIP ticket which included a two-hour mastermind with the speakers, including 20 minutes to talk specifically about their own business and get feedback from the journalists.
Based on feedback from last year’s event, we introduced a second day of training this year, which gave a small group of delegates a chance to reflect on their learning from Day 1 and get support with planning a PR strategy for their own business or brand. This proved really popular.
For the second year running the event has been held at The Trampery, a co-working space in trendy Shoreditch, East London. We used the ballroom, a versatile space that includes a 12-metre long art installation by acclaimed London designers, Bad Marriage.
This year’s speakers were: Keir Mudie (reporter, Sunday Mirror/People), Andrea Thompson (features director, Marie Claire magazine), Maya Wolfe-Robinson (opinion editor, the Guardian), Anoosh Chakelian (senior writer, New Statesman), Catherine Carr (Reporter, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour), Adrian Butler (producer, Good Morning Britain), Abigail Radnor (features editor, Guardian Weekend), Lynn Enright (news & content editor, The Pool), Sara Tasker (Instagram Pro & Expert) and Nicola Snell (founder, Press Loft).
The marketing strategy
Tickets ranged from £210 + VAT for an earlybird ticket for Day 1 only to £610 + VAT for a last minute VIP ticket. They went on sale on April 15 and sold out a month before the event.
To create ‘buzz’ about the event, before the tickets went on sale, we shared our ideas for the event artwork in my Facebook group and invited members to give their feedback.
The event was mainly marketed by email with regular updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I also talked about the event on the Soulful PR Podcast which definitely led to ticket sales.
In the run up to the event, I created 12 blog posts aimed at helping guests to get the most out of the event. You can read them here:
Want to attend a conference but don’t have the budget? Here’s how…
Seven reasons to attend live conferences and workshops
11 reasons to attend Soulful PR Live 2017
Which UK marketing and PR conferences should you attend in 2017?
How to prepare for a conference or workshop
8 common concerns about attending Soulful PR Live
5 reasons to blog about attending a live event
How to write a blog post about an event you’ve attended
How to use social media to stand out at a live event
7 non-sucky networking tips for live events
How to benefit from a conference (even if you can’t attend in person)
Five things you should do after a conference or workshop
I also created a dedicated Facebook Community, Twitter list and held a pre-event briefing call, using the video conferencing software Zoom to allow guests to ‘meet’ one another ahead of the event.
I encouraged guests to create preview content ahead of the event, which led to a staggering 16 pieces of content, which you can read here.
How to take better smartphone photos at events by Antonina Mamzenko
Four reasons why I’m attending Soulful PR Live by Helen Packham
How to dress for a conference or workshop by Dara Ford
Why I’ve decided to attend a PR conference by Adanna Bankole
How to overcome the fear of talking to journalists at Live Events by Samantha Kirton
How to prepare for an important conference by Cathy Wassell
Why I’m glad I didn’t resell my ticket for Soulful PR Live by Raphaelle Cox
Keeping your energy high at live events – five top tips by Raphaelle Cox
4 questions to ask before spending money on your business by Debbie Clarke
4 reasons why I wear vintage fashion to business events by Kate Beavis
A ten-day email ‘countdown’ sequence helped create excitement ahead of the event (and make sure all our guests were completely clear about where they needed to be, when). Including shareable images like the example below encouraged guests to start using the event hashtag - #SPRLive17 - well ahead of the event.
So it was no surprise to hear we were trending on Twitter by lunchtime on Day 1.
I set myself the challenge of creating the ‘best workbook ever’ for this event and I hope I succeeded. As well as the standard programme information, I included a glossary of key terms e.g. press release, pitch, newswire, lead times etc, suggested questions for speakers and sample pitches and press releases. I also included information - and examples - of the different types of media content journalists talked about during the day e.g. news story, feature, opinion.
Session 1: PR Primer with Janet Murray
I kicked off the first day of the event with a 30 minute PR Primer with the aim of bringing everyone up to speed with the basics, including how journalists find content, what they’re looking for in a story and how to set out a pitch. I decided to do this, based on feedback from last year’s delegates - some of whom were completely new to PR and said they’d have found this useful.
Session 2: How to get coverage in a national newspaper with Keir Mudie, Sunday Mirror/People
Keir endeared himself to everyone by admitting he was ‘really nervous’ the moment he took the mic. He also explained how news is gathered on a daily newspaper (including the times of the morning meetings where stories are decided) and shared some inspiring examples of small business owners who had used their expertise and experience to get national coverage. Keir also urged small business owners not to be dismissive of local newspaper coverage and reassured them that journalists like him definitely want to hear from them.
Session 3: Finding your voice: how to pitch and write articles for the national press with Maya Wolfe-Robinson, the Guardian and Anoosh Chakelian, the New Statesman
In this session Maya debunked the idea that big name publications are only interested in commissioning opinion articles from established writers, saying: “We’ve got Polly Toynbee. We want you!” Both Maya and Anoosh also explained how topical new stories can used as a hook/peg for opinion articles and gave specific advice on the best ways (and times) to pitch ideas. Tip: do NOT write and send a pre-written article - send a short email pitch instead. Maya also talked about how to write an effective opinion article, reinforcing my often repeated advice about avoiding complicated language and using a conversational style (think ‘email to a friend’ and you should have it about right).
Session 4: Online matters: how to get featured in high-profile online publications with Lynn Enright, The Pool
Lynn opened her talk by sharing a video which explains The Pool and its readership. One of the most useful takeaways from this session was how important it is research the publications/programmes you’d like to be featured it in so you can offer them ideas that are a really good fit. Researching online publications can be more difficult than print, but Lynn suggested checking out the different sections of the publication and looking out for regular series e.g. ‘life honestly’ ‘today I’m channelling’ and ‘parenting honestly’.
Session 5: Standing out in a competitive space: how to get featured in high-profile magazines and weekend supplements with Andrea Thompson, Marie Claire magazine and Abigail Radnor, Guardian Weekend magazine
Andrea and Abigail are both editors on high-profile publications that receive far more pitches than there is space to fill. Both shared valuable information on how far ahead content is commissioned and examples of stories that are a perfect fit for their publication. Abigail reminded business owners of the importance of looking outwards not inwards i.e. instead of pitching ideas about something you are doing that is interesting, consider how this might be part of a bigger trend. This might mean finding others who are doing similar things - or even highlighting your competitors’ work - but this is much more likely to get journalists’ attention.
Session 6: How to get more national TV and radio coverage with Catherine Carr, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Adrian Butler, ITV’s Good Morning Britain
Both Adrian and Catherine shared valuable information on how stories are gathered, lead times (how far journalists work ahead) on the shows they work on and the best ways to pitch to the shows they work on. Adrian also talked about what makes a great TV or radio guest (‘light and heat’ apparently) and how to increase your chances of being invited onto a popular radio/TV show. Catherine urged small business owners who are keen to raise their media profile to start with local BBC radio stations, pointing out they are often looking for experts to review the papers, give expert comment and make regular guest appearances on popular shows. As stories - and staff - are often shared between local and national programmes this can be a great way to get noticed
“We [journalists] are in the business of stories.” This soundbite, from Marie Claire’s Andrea Thompson, said it all for me and seemed an apt way to kick off Day 2 of the event. We spent the first hour of the day exploring the three main ways small business owners can help journalists - products, expertise and experience - and exploring some stories from our own lives and how they might be used to get media coverage.
Next we looked at how to research a publication/programme and practised ‘flatplanning’ (i.e. writing down what you see on every page) a publication as a quick way of scouting out opportunities for media coverage.
Our first lunchtime speaker was Nicola Snell, founder of Pressloft, who shared some really useful information on how to work with bloggers and influencers, including how to find bloggers and influencers to work with, how much to expect to pay and how to measure your return on investment. You can see her slides here.
Next up was Instagram pro and coach Sara Tasker who shared how she has built an incredible audience online (171k followers on Instagram) and how she has turned this into a number of income streams in her business. Sara also shared her top tips on promoting your business on Instagram.
The last part of the day was devoted to pitching skills. After making a shortlist of 3-5 publications/programmes they plan to ‘crack’ in the next few months, every delegate wrote a short pitch, some of which were shared in the group (and afterwards in the FB group).
While there are always things to improve, overall it was an incredible, value-packed event. The speakers provided immense value and guests benefited from spending a couple of days with like-minded business owners who share their visions and values. With the support of my team, I put my heart and soul into creating an unforgettable experience at Soulful PR Live, so it was touching to see relationships being formed that will last for years to come.
A number of guests have already published post-event content, including:
What happens when a conference is organised by women? by Kat Quinzel.
12 takeaways from attending Soulful PR Live 2017 by Samantha Kirton
5 mistakes to avoid when pitching to world-class journalists by Helen Packham
9 journalist tips on how to get PR for your business by Cathy Wassell
Why it's important to never ever give up by Michelle Purse
5 reasons why you're not achieving PR coverage by Paula Hutchings
What I learned from a day with journalists by Raphaelle Cox.
Is media coverage relevant for your business? by Adanna Bankole
7 tips to take away from Soulful PR Live 2017 by JournoLink
Want to attend Soulful PR Live 2018? Register your details here and you'll be the first to hear when tickets go on sale.