Even though your event may not grab the attention of national media outlets, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the attention of the local media and utilize that coverage to gain attendees and prestige for your event.
Gaining the attention of local media takes time, determination and a plan. If there is a person in your organization who has experience with PR matters, put this person in charge of gaining the media’s attention. He or she will understand basic steps taken in contacting media and will have the experience to know how to best follow up.
Make a List of Media
The first step you’ll want to take is making a list of local media outlets you want to reach. This might include everything from local newspapers, to radio stations to television stations in the area. You’ll also want to contact organizations related to your industry and ask for a blurb in their next newsletter and to keep in touch with free weekly newspapers.
Free weeklies are typically delivered to every household in a given delivery area, meaning you can reach a wide range of people. As an added benefit, many of these free weeklies are looking for interesting articles to run, so if you can send them an article of interest, they may just splash it onto their pages.
Write a Press Release and Send it Out
Several months before your event, you’ll want to write a press release and send it out to local media. The release should focus on a news-worthy aspect of your event. Do you have a celebrity speaker lined up? Perhaps you are going to reveal ground-breaking research at the event. Try to look at the press release through the eyes of a reporter. Is this something you’d want to report on?
The release should read somewhat like an article. You’ll want to cover:
It is also a good idea to include a few quotes. This achieves a couple of things. First, it shows the person reading the release that the press release is article worthy and has all the elements of a good article. Second, if the publication needs something to run quickly, a reporter can pull together a quick article based on the facts and quotes you’ve provided.
The follow-up is even more important than the initial press release. First, look at each individual outlet you want to approach.
- Choose a topic that fits in with their typical style of article and readership.
- Create a 2-3 sentence pitch for that article.
- Figure out which editor is in charge of the types of article you are pitching. If your focus is on the celebrity keynote, you may be contacting the lifestyles editor, for example. You want a specific person to contact.
- Phone the editor. If you get through to the person, pitch the article idea and ask how you can help them with the story. If you get voice mail, leave your name and the short pitch and a number they can phone you at. Follow-up again in a week or so.
If you don’t hear back right away, don’t give up. Reporters, especially at small local media outlets, are extremely busy. Follow-up again with email, phone a second time, and keep trying until you’re out of time. While you don’t want to be seen as a stalker, it is acceptable to phone every week or two and every few days as you get closer to the event. Just be polite and professional.
Arrange Interviews and Press Conference
Those media outlets that agree to an interview should have private, prearranged interviews with the conference director, celebrity speaker (you’ll need to coordinate this with the celebrity’s PR people) or another leader in the group. Line these up before the conference begins or at the time the media outlet requests.
You’ll also want to schedule a press conference and send an invitation to any media in the area. This often works best if you have some type of social cause you can tie into the press conference. For example, if you plan to have a fundraising gala on the night the event starts and all proceeds will go to local literacy efforts, you would make the press conference about this event.
Of course, there are other worthy topics you can cover at a press conference, but it will need to have a local angle to get media in the area truly interested.
Work closely with your conference planning team to figure out the best angle to pitch to the media. Media coverage can lend credibility to your event and bring in registrants who otherwise might not have heard of your event.
Topic you might be interested in: What Makes for an Engaging Topic