Publicity pros stress the importance of creating exclusive content, targeting select press, and taking the long view when it comes to relationships.
It’s not just the number of reporters and photographers at an event, but their influence and reach that counts, publicity pros say.
Photo: Hechler Photography
By Alesandra Dubin
1. Make it as easy as possible for press
Writers, reporters, and photo editors are busy—sometimes frenzied—people. Giving them all the tools they need to cover your event, and delivering information and files in a clear and complete manner right off the bat, will be more likely to result in coverage. “Try to get the MMS link and send to photo editors in advance with captions, key guest names, key info, and must-mentions so they have it in advance of event, and usually it will take top priority the day following event for coverage,” says Chet Mehta of the PR-dept.
Further, make their visit to the event comfortable and convenient. “My number one rule for events is no line,” says EMC Bowery owner Ben Russo. “Anyone I invited should be inside or have absolutely no trouble getting in, because I targeted the right media, the press-worthy celebs, and the correct influencers. Why would I want any of them waiting in line? Do you think Matt Donnelly with In Style waits in line?”
2. Know that more press doesn’t necessarily mean better or wider coverage
While it might stand to reason that the presence of more media outlets means more coverage, pros caution that a blanket approach alone is too simple. “Try to invite outlets and reporters who have columns that usually get syndicated and picked up on other outlets,” advises Mehta. “And always try to have house photographer images syndicated on a major wire.”
Russo adds, “Not all publicity is good publicity. Sometimes only telling the right influencers will get you more. It will create that must-have buzz that you are looking for.”
3. Give them something to photograph
Much has been made lately about making the case for decor spending as a means to proliferate an event’s message far beyond its walls: Decor, props, activities, and interactions can all be catalysts for social sharing with viral potential. That premise goes not just for guests, but for media too: The more the interesting the opportunities for photographers to capture, the more likely their shots are to spread widely.
“Step-and-repeat photos are nice for those fashion shots, but having interesting visuals for celebrities to pose with at the event gets the most love in entertainment media outlets,” says Rogers & Cowan group manager Page Jeter. “Cute, kitschy, and funny snaps of guests with giant props, colorful toys, or overstuffed animals, for example, tend to run everywhere. There are lots of ways to get publicity around these types of photos—traditional media as well as social media. It’s like a Miley Cyrus concert, at your event.”
4. Create exclusive content for key outlets
“Today every mom-and-pop shop has an event, and the competition is fierce when it comes to quality press coverage. If you want to attract quality press, you need exclusive pictures and exclusive content,” Russo says. ”It’s no longer the It girl [whose presence alone] will attract quality press—because that It girl goes out all the time. Any good publicist will create exclusive content for their press—create that ‘wow’ moment.”
5. Arrange a photographer escort
Jeter says, “Event photographers are often left on their own to roam, and I have found that if you assign a member of your team as escort, you will benefit in a number of ways. Four eyes are always better than two, and often, photographers need help in identifying who should be photographed. It is also super important to get those celebrity group shots, as entertainment outlets typically prefer candid photos of celebrities grouped together at events.”
6. Propose pre-event coverage
Post-event coverage with photos may be your top priority. But if you start working for pre-event mentions ahead of the game, you can extend the life of the event in all directions—and help boost ticket sales, donations, attendance, and buzz. “Generate as much pre-press that is meaningful to the campaign as possible, to help push ticket sales or attendance to the event itself or to create buzz or awareness in general heading into the event,” Mehta says.
7. Let the event details speak for themselves
Event reporters and photographers can sniff out whether an event is worthy of their coverage with only a few details—so make the event’s key details count. First, “pick a quality venue. If the venue is outdated or otherwise not desirable, it won’t pull the buzz media in that is critical for an event,” Russo says, adding that securing a celebrity host is crucial.
Beyond that, make sure to include relevant guests on the list. “Who doesn’t want an A-lister at their event? But also invite lower-tier talent that may be having a moment in pop culture,” Jeter says. “These B- and C-tier celebrities can get as much publicity for your event by attending as the big names do, if they are relevant and in the news. They also are usually more willing to participate in photos and interviews, enhancing your publicity opportunities. Don’t forget the little guys.”
8. Take the long view when developing relationships
You may be eager for press coverage for a given event, but try to consider it as just one of many along what will ideally be a long, sincere, and mutual relationship with a given press contact. So target each pitch carefully for the representative’s specific outlet—and then don’t push beyond what’s reasonable.
“To attract an exclusive group of journalists, you need to also have a reputation of constantly delivering quality content. It’s a give-and-take world, and your reputation must precede you,” Russo says.