Posted: September 30, 2014, 9:07 a.m.
by Katie Foster Howard.
In my public relations career, I have gravitated more toward internships in nonprofit event planning than those in corporate media relations. While working at an arts advocacy organization, a radio station and two film festivals, I have planned, executed and evaluated many successful events and have seen how important they are to maintaining a brand’s image.
Corporate event planning is simultaneously one of the most important and most overlooked public relations tactics. Events give a brand the opportunity to engage its consumers in all five senses, which develops a strong connection to that particular brand. However, event planning is often overlooked because events are assumed to be complicated, time consuming, expensive and stress-inducing, which sometimes is absolutely true.
Still, event planning can be the most fulfilling work you do as a PR professional. Thus, here are a few tips, tricks and lessons I have learned as an event planning intern.
Think quantity and quality. Huge, elaborate events are most often the cornerstone of a brand. For example, the Sidewalk Film Festival is held during one weekend in Birmingham, Alabama. However, Sidewalk supplements its main event with frequent smaller events throughout the year, like panel discussions, small screenings and workshops within the community. These smaller events will not only keep your brand active, but will also provide a more intimate setting for consumers to get to know your brand.
Walk through the event as a participant. Three of the most-asked questions during events: “Where can I get something to eat?”; “Where can I throw this away?”; “Where is the nearest bathroom?” During your planning process, anticipate these problems by pretending to be someone who knows nothing about the event.
Build an event planning toolkit. I don’t mean a metaphorical toolkit of event planning strategies. I’m talking hammers, duct tape and bandages. After walking through your event as a participant, walk through your event as if everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Pack accordingly.
Arrive in sweats, work in style. Setting up for an event requires unloading, lifting and sweating — none of which should be done in heels or a suit coat. Prepare to set up in comfortable clothes and footwear, and change into appropriate event attire at the venue.
Check one, check two. Inevitably, something involving technology will go wrong during your event, but at least you can say you’ve checked it twice.
Always write out speeches. You think you’ll naturally be engaging and charming on stage. Disclaimer: You won’t. If you have to make a speech at your event, at least write up an outline of the points you need to make. Be sure not to forget important people and sponsors who need to be thanked.
Treat everyone as a valued member of your team. From volunteers to sponsors, every person on your team is a vital part of making your event a success. Be sure to treat them as such. In some instances, this can be as simple as a handwritten thank-you note.
Evaluate your event. Make sure to invite your event attendees to fill out a survey about their experience. This is the best way to gauge the success of your event, as well as predict problems and solutions for future event planning.
Keep the end goal in sight. During event planning and production, there will be times when you want to rip out your hair. You feel like you’re throwing money at something that breeds stress, eats time, and may or may not be successful. Do not let that mentality win. At the end of the day, you are crafting an experience that allows people to truly connect with your brand.