Journalists weigh in on what works and doesn’t at media events
If you’ve worked in PR for a least a few years, you’ve likely, in some way, been involved with hosting or planning a media event.
Whether it’s a new product launch, holiday gift guide feature or professional panel, there’s one thing that media want, and that’s interesting content to share with their audience.
Jeffrey Eisenband from sports and lifestyle website The Post Game, as well as a digital editorial assistant from Shape Magazine and senior reporter at US Weekly, weigh in on what makes a media event appealing to them and how to get them there.
What type of event should you have?
There are a number of event structures out there, from a standard press conference to more immersive and hands-on events. It depends on the brand you are working with to decide what works best for them, but all three journalists interviewed agreed experiential events were the most appealing to them. Experiential meaning there is some kind of interaction between the media and the brand above and beyond what you’d find at a press conference.
The senior reporter from US Weekly mentioned that you have to keep it interesting for an event to catch her eye. She described emails from PR professionals as sometimes “never ending,” so a run of the mill media day might not catch her eye.
Although his favorite, Eisenband explained that an experiential event has to make sense for the brand and be something that his readers can one day experience as well. Giving media a once in a lifetime experience with a celebrity or through a trip might be fun for them, but it doesn’t give their reader a true sense of the brand in real life.
He added that an event has to be worthwhile where he can get something beyond what’s in the press release. “The event can’t leave me wondering, did I really have to be here?”
Where should your event take place?
This should be a no-brainer to most, but if you want to draw as many media members as possible, events need to take place in an area easily accessible to the majority of them. The venue itself can also help incentivize media to come if helps add to their story. A good example would be hosting an event where a product is actually made so the media can not only try out the product, but see what actually goes into creating it.
What day and time should the event be held?
When it comes to the day and time to hold a media event, it can vary from outlet to outlet due to different meetings, deadlines and issue closing dates. These are all things to be aware of before you get too far into your planning. The consensus among those interviewed is to hold events from Tuesday-Thursday. Timing, however, can depend on what the outlets in question cover.
Eisenband explained that in the sports vertical, newsrooms are busy posting stories from the previous night’s events, so it’s unlikely that they’d want to attend something in the morning. On the other hand, the digital editorial assistant at Shape explained that the afternoon is the busiest time for them, so mornings and evenings work best.
Sometimes it just won’t be possible to get a reporter to physically come out to an event, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get coverage. You can still always offer phone interviews with spokespeople and get them media materials and samples of the product (if it’s a product launch) in a timely fashion.
What spokespeople should attend on behalf of the brand?
Having a good spokesperson, whether that be a celebrity, athlete, expert or executive is key in the development of a story. Of course this is going to vary depending on the sector and the type of media you’re targeting, but you need to make sure someone is on hand to explain each facet of the story you are trying to tell.
Of the journalists I spoke with, on average, three quarters of the stories they wrote based on PR pitches used a spokesperson. This speaks volumes to having the right people on hand at an event to talk about your brand. From the business outlets who want to hear from the CEO to the entertainment outlets looking for comment from a celebrity, every media person in the room needs to have a certain voice or channel to tell your story through.
When putting together your next media event, remember that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach that will work for every scenario. Being cognizant of every detail, no matter how large or small, will contribute to the success or failure of your event.
Brock Thatcher is a Senior Account Manager at TVC Group in New York, specializing in broadcast and digital media relations. He has worked with many industry-leading brands in the sports, spirits and technology sectors. When he's not working with media, you can find him on Twitter sharing pointless facts and opinions about sports.
Photo: News conference via Shutterstock