Guidance for PR pros to build on successful events

A postmortem is a wise idea, but why rely on hindsight alone? Try these real-time approaches to ensure that every effort surpasses its predecessor.

It’s said that past is prologue, but that doesn’t preclude improving on success.

The hours and days immediately following a public relations event offer a great opportunity to identify what worked and what could be improved.

Clients should expect certain fundamentals when a PR team plans and executes any publicity event.

Here are seven important steps for getting it right:

1. Plan the timeline down to the last detail.

The team should schedule every aspect of the event from the moment the idea is confirmed. This begins with date selection—avoiding proximity to holidays and seasonal happenings, for example.

A good PR team will check event calendars on different sites so as not to compete with any other similar goings-on. It’s also recommended to ask potential attendees what time is ideal. From there, time the dissemination of attendee invitations, press releases, media alerts and post-event pitches with precision.

2. Have a structured, detailed rundown.

Ideally, the PR team is using the original event plan to structure a comprehensive rundown. Collaborate with other teams and vendors through a Google doc or other cloud-based program. The document will include all pre-event tasks, times and project owners up through each element of the event, the full script and post-event work.

Some templates for a rundown offer a good place to start.

3. Identify your key performance indicators (KPIs).

As with any PR initiative, you must establish KPIs such as total event attendees, media coverage, donations or number of sales leads, depending on the type of event. Seek feedback on the event for an overview of its successes and failures.

For example, how many attendees signed up to receive content? If it’s an annual occurrence, how did this year compare against previous years? Conduct a post-event survey of attendees to determine satisfaction with various elements, including the venue, time of day, and speakers or entertainment.

4. Plan traditional and digital media outreach.

For public events, this usually begins with creating and deploying calendar listings for print, online and broadcast media. If the event includes boldfaced names, there may be opportunities to pitch them for interviews ahead of time. Nearer to the day itself, the PR team will send press releases and, finally, encourage live coverage, including a media alert with aggressive follow-up.

It is often after the event that the real PR push comes. Once we receive images, video or the highlights from a newsworthy speech or panel discussion, we package and pitch to relevant outlets for media coverage that can continue for weeks afterward.

5. Have a full run-through.

Especially for complex events involving multiple speakers, video presentations and movement from one space to another, we recommend a dry run in the days (or hours) preceding it. Using the script/rundown as a guide, invite appropriate vendors (such as A/V, lighting and music) as well as each speaker to run through the show. It’s helpful to have a knowledgeable third party offer an objective opinion and suggest tweaks.

6. Encourage social sharing.

If nothing from an event is shared on social media, did it even happen? Today’s PR pros are tweeting, posting to Facebook and LinkedIn, and uploading video to YouTube and slides to Slideshare before an event has ended. It pays off handsomely to develop a sound social media plan that includes pre-event posts, live tweeting and post-event images and quotes calling attention to the highlights.

7. Write a thorough post-event report.

Look for an honest assessment to help team members plan future events. The report should assess vendor performance, collateral, staffing levels and processes to build on success and remedy any problems.

Any effective post-event memo must include recommendations based on what you’ve learned. These should cover every category, from initial invitations to thank-you notes. The more detail the team provides, the better.

For example, we were told after a recent event that a speaker’s presentation would have been more compelling with better use of visuals. Rather than stop there, the report included examples of the type of visuals the team envisioned. Every recommendation should provide a level of detail that can be worked into planning the next event.

Bonus tip : We designate one team member to take notes during the event so everyone isn’t relying solely on memory. Tuck it into an app, such as Evernote, for real efficiency.

A version of this post first appeared on the Crenshaw Communications PR Fish Bowl blog.

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