Sometimes in public relations, our version of the “F-word” is actually an “E-word”…events! Why is it that so many confident PR superstars who otherwise flawlessly write, tweet and dazzle editors each day seem to shake in their boots at the phrase “event coordination?” Why is it so daunting to plan a party for our clients when we already know their audience so well, and we talk to their target media every day?
This topic is especially of interest to me, as I’m a self-proclaimed party planner, and become nothing less than giddy at the idea of confetti cannons and cupcake towers. However, we all know that PR events are a different beast than simply having our friends over for beers and bean bag toss (but don’t count those things out for client events either – we’ve planned our share of down-and-dirty events at Hollywood PR). Not only must we get the invite list, venue, décor and spokespersons right, we often need to ensure the media – with their already-packed schedules – attend. Oh, and in the meantime, we have a full plate of other client work to attend to.
There’s no sugar-coating it, events can be a big undertaking, but they can also be a dazzling representation of our clients’ products, culture or messaging. By approaching each event with a few guidelines, I can assure you there will be reason to celebrate:
Set Expectations and a Budget
Work with your client to set specific expectations. This includes everything from the “look” of the event, to the estimated attendance, to the results. It’s also very important at this stage to set a strict budget, and assign numbers to each line item. If a client has champagne tastes on a wine cooler budget, it’s our responsibility to find a balance of “making it work on a shoe-string” by offering alternative options to meet the goals.
It Takes a Village
This can’t be a party of one. Pull your team together and assign roles. Who will secure the vendors and work with them throughout the process? Who will be in charge of inviting guests and the media? If everyone is given a job at the on-set, there shouldn’t be confusion later.
Keep your checklists as close to you as the bachelorette holds onto that final rose. You will need a vendor list, complete with addresses, emails and cell phone numbers. You will need a tasks list, with associated deadlines. And you will need a guest and media attendance list. These lists are your bible.
Set Yourself Apart
Ask yourself: “What would tear me away from the office (or my bed on a Sunday morning, or binge watching Game of Thrones)?” Brainstorm ways of making this event unique to others. Look at Pinterest for inspiration. Find an unconventional venue, like an old theater or art gallery, rather than the typical boardroom. Get customized décor and props on Etsy. Think outside the box.
Something Will Go Wrong
Even when you do everything right, something will go wrong. You need to know this ahead of time. The caterer gets lost and shows up late. An on-site demo malfunctions. Breaking news halts TV crews from stopping by. The first tornado in 100 years touches down on Brooklyn the day of your event, and the entire New York City transportation system is suspended (true story of mine!). You’re not being judged by the things you cannot control, you’re being assessed by how you handle the pressure and come up with a quick solution.
The event is over, but your work has just begun. You will need to follow-up with attendees providing information and imagery to keep the event top of mind. You also need to connect with those who were interested in the event but couldn’t attend. Debrief with your client, and make sure all goals were met. Keep on it; don’t lose steam now!
And when it’s all said and done, the most important tip, however, might just be to reward yourself. You did it! You no longer have to shake in your new Muck boots (shameless client plug, #sorrynotsorry). Be proud of your work; put keepsakes from your event in your own personal scrapbook. Post your celebration on Instagram; let everyone know you conquered this. And finally, rest up – your next client event is right around the corner.
– Courtney Curzi