By Shelley Frosdick, PR Director, PHA Media

Press events are an excellent way to raise awareness of a brand or service amongst consumers and key members of the press. If executed well, an event provides an incentive for journalists to leave their desks and interact directly with the brand, which in turn provides a level of exposure and engagement that money can’t buy.

Hosting PR events is a common part of agency life and with all eyes on the brand, it is crucial that they are done properly. Enticing the right attendees is only part of the challenge – other key components crucial to the success of an event include encouraging social media engagement and post-event follow up.

Here are my top ten tips for making your consumer PR event a standout success, delivering a return on investment that will be seen long after the event has passed.

1)SET YOUR OBJECTIVES AND GOALS: It is crucial that you think clearly about what you want to achieve from an event before you begin planning. Is it to alert press of a new product launch, to raise awareness of a campaign? You need to have a clear understanding of the desired outcome in order to deliver a successful event.

2)WHO DO YOU WANT TO REACH? Think carefully about your audience. If it is not clear-cut, for example a beauty product launch for beauty press, you should think openly about who you want to target. Which publications does the event lend itself to and are you targeting the right people? When it comes to generating widespread interest, it is also worth considering bloggers, vloggers and celebrities to create an online and offline buzz around the event.

3)WOW FACTOR: Journalists tend to be inundated with invitations to events, so for this reason, it is crucial to identify what it is that you are offering which will give journalists a valid reason to attend. Whether it is a live demonstration of a treatment, an unveiling of a new clothing collection or a performance by the hottest new talent act in town, all successful events must contain a component which entices journalists to attend above other events. Don’t underestimate the importance of the invitation – be creative to make them stand out, and personalise them to appeal to individual journalists- you don’t have to be conventional.

4)TIMING: There are certain times of the year which should be avoided as journalists in the consumer and lifestyle sector are likely to have other commitments. Avoid key dates such as big award ceremonies and the Fashion Weeks as these are likely to dictate editorial agendas and could detract attention away from your event.

5)THEME: It is important to have a ‘vision’ for your event so that you can ensure all marketing material – invitations, follow-up press material and collateral on the day, is in sync. This helps to create a streamlined and professional impression from the get-go. A good theme has the potential to make your brand stand-out and enhance its USPs but it must be relevant to the brand and well thought through.

6)VENUE: Based on your theme and time, you should decide on an appropriate venue. If you are showcasing products, choose somewhere with lots of light which will make for strong images; for an evening event, look to more party-style venues. The location must also be easy to reach for the attendees; the closer to the newspaper and magazine houses the better as this will minimise cancellations on the day.

To ensure the event runs smoothly, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the layout of the venue and create a floor plan. Have a vision of how you want the space to look and communicate this clearly to staff prior to the event.

7)BUDGET AND PREPARATION: Have you allocated a realistic budget? Remember, venue, invitations, props, couriers, caterers and marketing material, all need to be considered. If you are hoping to have celebrities at your event, you will normally need to factor in an appropriate budget for appearance fees.

Hiring a professional photographer is key as most publications will want strong images to accompany their story. With this in mind, the venue will need to be branded in a way to make the key messages and logos stand out in images – vinyls and posters are a great way of doing this.

8)SOCIAL MEDIA: The immediacy and accessibility of social channels such as Twitter and Instagram make them great vehicles for generating engagement and spreading the word about your event. Establishing a relevant and snappy hashtag can create online conversations, and occasionally hashtags can become a Twitter trend. Sharing strong visuals is also a good way of encouraging people to share and re-post content, so it is important to make sure that there are ample photo opportunities at your event.

9)MEDIA MANAGEMENT: If celebrities are attending your event, it is a good idea to send a photocall notice to the picture desks directly. Include the date, time, venue and names of any celebrities who are confirmed to attend. On the night, have the press got what they need from you to report on your product or event? Have they spoken to the right people? Remember to make a note of every press request so you can follow up in the morning.

10)FOLLOW UP: It is crucial to follow-up with journalists after the event – either by email, over the phone, or in person if possible – don’t forget to credit your brand and ensure the messaging is reiterated. To assist with this, it is also a thoughtful touch to provide a goody bag at the end of the event which the guests can take home. This shows your appreciation for their attendance, and can include an informative press release as well as nice treats, which will ensure your client’s product is remembered long after the event.