Note from CEO: The PilmerPR team is made up of talented individuals with expertise in all of the facets of successful PR strategy. With experience going back over a decade, PR specialist Rachelle Peterson wields her extensive knowledge to create and execute outstanding events for our clients. Hot on the heels of a hugely successful collaboration with the Richard W. Erickson Foundation on their summer concert series, Rachelle sat down to share best tips for successful events that attract an audience and get the attention of the media.
Q: Give us a little background about yourself–how did you get your start in PR events?
A: My first experience with introducing PR into events was working for the Shelter for Women and Children in Crisis (now called The Refuge). They wanted me to plan their “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes” event. I was able to get on a couple of morning shows to promote the event, and had some news stations show up to cover the event itself. It was so exciting to see my hard work broadcast to the entire state. Since then, I have worked with some big brands and pulled off some really cool events.
Q: What are the benefits of PR events for clients?
A: PR is all about building and strengthening relationships, and doing events helps foster those relationships.
For example, this summer, PilmerPR was an integral part of The Richard W. Erickson Foundation’s Boomerfest concert. The Erickson Foundation Ranch in Wallsburg, Utah houses an extremely unique history museum with hundreds of classic cars, motorcycles and tractors. We helped fine-tune the messaging and tie the history of the museum into honoring veterans who are living that history. Combining the two platforms in a celebration through music and the outdoors became a unique story that could be communicated to the public, and it got a lot of positive attention.
Q: What are some of your best tips for executing a successful PR event?
A: A lot of things go into making an event happen. Here are some of the things our team has observed can make an event run smoothly:
- Start with a vision. Having a clear vision, and being able to communicate that to your team, your audience and to the media is really important. Create a messaging document with crucial details (who, what, where, when, why and how) outlined and carefully and concisely worded. This helps in creating consistent marketing materials and media pitches.
- Start big and then get smaller. Reach for the sky in how you think about your event at first. What are the big goals? Who are your ideal partners? Then work backwards to plan each and every detail.
- Make sure expectations are clear. Whether you are working with outside partners or internal staff, having crystal clear expectations about what the event is (and what it isn’t) from the beginning is crucial. Set goals with numbers attached, discuss budgets, talk about accessibility, deadlines, and how you will measure success.
- Execute the plan. Follow the plan, and have a backup plan which is communicated so that when, not if, people need to change something, they know how to be flexible (while still following the plan). Successful events take scrappy people who are cool under pressure and ready to make things happen whatever it takes.
Q: What are some mistakes you have seen that clients can learn from for future events?
A: Sometimes brands try to take on more than they should, and wind up overextending themselves. It’s important to be able to follow through with commitments, so make sure there are enough people and enough hours in the day to do that.
Organizations who haven’t dealt with the media before don’t always understand what that entails. If you want the press to cover your event, you have to be available and make that a priority. Media deadlines are quick and unforgiving. You have to bend with the media and always be ready for it.
Also, all of the details matter if you want to maximize the potential of an event. Even small things like signage, directions to the event, decorations, branding where cameras will be and other practical specifics matter. A smooth-running event that is memorable is one that people will return to next time.
Q: This summer, you and the PilmerPR team were heavily involved in three very successful events for the Richard W. Erickson Foundation. What were some of the highlights, and what made these events work so well?
A: The fun thing about the Erickson Foundation is that it really is this hidden gem that no one knows about. The potential is massive. There are 24 buildings full of antique vehicles and history in Wallsburg, UT, all built by just two people.
We started by creating a plan, messaging, redoing the website, working on SEO, and getting better images of the museum to share. The Foundation has been doing this event for 20 years, but wanted to reach a wider audience. Once we got the media involved, it blew up. We were able to double their attendance, massively increase their web traffic, boost their social media followers, reach out to influencers and get dozens of media placements (including KSL TV).
Q: How would you coach a company wanting to explore a PR event?
A: Events are great! We would love to help anyone ready to maximize their events with a solid PR strategy. When someone approaches us wanting to do an event, here are some of the things we talk about upfront:
- The Vision: What is the big picture? Why are you doing this? Who is the target market? What results do you want to see?
- Partners: Events are better with multiple partners. We can cross promote on social media platforms, get more media attention, and use dual audiences to generate awareness. For the last few years, we have worked with Utah-based hygiene company Xlear to put on a holiday-themed charity event. Each year our team searches for a partner that will accept the donations we have available, is willing to work with the media and brings their own brand recognition to the table. Connecting Xlear with these charities helps both organizations boost their brands while doing a lot of good.
- Timing: If you want an event that really makes waves, we need at least two months of planning. The longer the lead time, the better. If you have a year, you can utilize that time to build relationships, contact quarterly media publications, plan ahead for budgeting, generate an email list, and create more buzz.
- Budget: If you attempt to put on an event with a stingy budget, most of the time, you will get a stingy event. As a PR partner, we use that budget to pay for social media promotions, create professional marketing materials, work with influencers, and make a splash with practical effects. Media relations also take a large amount of time, so the hours that go into getting press coverage need to be factored in.
- Creativity: Even though a good budget is important, there are creative ways to get in front of the right audiences without spending your company into the ground. For the Erickson Foundation, we hosted a media day at the museum a few weeks before the first event of the summer. We invited key journalists and a handful of social media influencers to attend the museum for free, hosted a lunch and gave tours of the grounds. We had great results. Thinking outside of the box like this can be the key to generating buzz, if a brand is willing to put in the time and energy to make something like that happen.
Q: What do you like about planning PR events?
A: I love seeing something that matters be shown to a large audience and get recognition for the good work they do. The cool thing about the clients we work with is that they are passionate about their work. Helping them connect the dots between their big goals and their community. I really love being creative and getting those two missions to connect and build upon each other to make a big impact.Share