How to plan and manage a PR campaign for virtual events
Pivot. If we’ve heard that word once, we’ve heard it a million times. However, this one word perfectly sums up what many event organisers have done over the past few months. With many live events cancelled or postponed, many organisers have had to put aside their original plans and create from scratch – often in a short space of time – a digital alternative. As event PR experts, working with event organisers around the world, we’ve had to, in turn, move quickly to respond to this change. As a result, we’ve created and delivered brand new campaigns to support an increasing list of virtual events. Want to know how? Here’s what we’ve learnt:
- Press preview – help the media to plan how they navigate the event. For example, provide a full schedule of sessions in advance so they can decide which ones to attend and report from.
- Have you ever registered for a digital event 1 or 2 months out? Thought not. The tendency with virtual events is for last minute registration, therefore your early PR activity should focus on the content rather than highlighting a need to register.
- Carve up the content – identify strong education sessions, speakers and other activity to drip feed to the media. A gradual teasing of content will heighten demand and create noise in what is a very crowded marketplace.
- Involve media in the planning stages and secure their engagement early on – liaise with them to determine what type of content they’d like to see. Would they like to deliver one of the sessions perhaps?
- What’s in it for me? A question many journalists will be asking on behalf of their readers. Focus on how the content is relevant to your audience in the current climate – for example how can your education sessions provide practical help? What appealed to the target audience last year, may not work this year – many people’s priorities have since shifted.
- KISS – keep it simple stupid! This links to the above point. Ensure your content is clear, easy to understand and in an accessible format (no fancy pdfs please). The media, now more than ever, are seriously under resourced and don’t have time to dig around in a press release to discover the what, where and when of your event.
- Acknowledge and pay respect to your live event. Yes, it may not be taking place right now, but if you’re planning to host a live event in the future, include the date in your comms. Better still, find a way of reflecting the ethos of your live event in your virtual event – for example, through content from the host city.
- It’s a competitive climate out there with a packed schedule of virtual events. People need a compelling reason to sign up and log on. Work out what makes yours different and put this front and centre of your PR output. For example, how are you doing things differently in the look or the content?
- In the early days of virtual events, things were simpler. Now there’s a greater expectation for heightened production values and super slick content. Harness the skills of your technology experts and produce a video trailer for your event. You can then link to this video preview content in your PR copy which will, in turn, generate those valuable click throughs to your site upon publication.
- Your speakers are a potential mine of content. Do they have videos, reports, images they can share for you to use in your comms? Encourage them to do their own PR, reaching out to their own media contacts and connecting on social channels to promote their involvement with your event.
- PR activity shouldn’t stop once the event ends. The work continues afterwards – is the content archived and available for people to revisit? Bear in mind the tight timing on this one – once the event ends, the media will quickly focus on the next news item or major event.
- Once the event has finished, this is a good opportunity to reach outside your main target media, perhaps to marketing, design or national media, and tell your story. What were the challenges of turning a live event into a virtual one? What did you do differently? What worked well? What does this mean for your business?
Running a virtual or live event? We’re event PR and exhibition PR experts and are happy to have a virtual chat – we promise it’ll be 30 minutes well spent.