Chances are your next event won’t grab the entire nation’s attention like the Super Bowl, and your next meeting won’t influence worldwide commerce like the Consumer Electronics Show, but even the smallest meeting or event can be worthy of print, radio and TV media attention . Most organizations are using social media to reach out to their members, industry peers and the millions of faceless Twitter followers who may have an interest in their message. But it’s important to create awareness of your event within the community where it will take place, and reaching a geographical market can’t be done on Facebook. Why is it important to reach the destination’s population and how do you get the attention of the local news media? How can the CVB (convention and visitors bureau) help make it happen?
Announcements in the media about your meetings and events can produce very real benefits for your organization, both tangible and intangible. Among the benefits you can’t hold in your hand but which have tremendous PR value are:
- creating awareness, enthusiasm and public support for your organization and its endeavors,
- increasing good will toward your attendees during their visit,
- bringing attention to a cause or social responsibility program,
- strengthening your organization’s brand, and
- bolstering pride within your organization.
Dan Ellison is Chief Administrative Officer of the United States Police & Fire Championships, and is responsible for producing the event which is held annually in San Diego, drawing more than 4,000 law enforcement officers and firefighters from around the country. Dan stresses the media’s role in building and supporting a positive perception of first responders in the San Diego community. “Related human interest stories about the games in the San Diego Union Tribune, clips on the nightly news broadcasts, and mentioning the Championships in radio public service announcements (PSAs) all help create citizen enthusiasm for the fund raising efforts by the San Diego police and fire departments which benefit local at-risk youth,” explains Dan. “And, since media helps publicize that the police and fire departments are involved in neighborhood social responsibility projects, people have a positive perception of us as an important part of the community.”
But creating community awareness is only part of the rewards of positive media attention. Good press, PSAs or live TV coverage can actually increase your revenue in these four ways:
Conserving hard marketing dollars
Free media announcements/news coverage means less paid advertising and direct mail marketing is required, thus providing savings that can be directed toward the enhancement of other elements of your meeting or event – or just increasing the bottom line.
Ellison says that media attention of the Championship games has resulted in financial support from Verizon, Kaiser Permanente and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others; companies that sell to local consumers are eager to be associated with “do good” events as part of their own social responsibility programs and to benefit from one-off positive perception.
If you are encouraging local registration for your meeting, free publicity from the media captures the public’s attention and is perceived as an endorsement from an unbiased third party. A related human interest story makes readers, viewers and listeners want to know more; the announcement of a renowned speaker makes people want to see and hear them in person. Does your event include a local community service day? Media announcements will probably increase the number of volunteers.
Increasing ticket sales
If ticket purchase is required for attendance, a simple PSA or the printing of your event’s schedule and location in the paper works wonders in increasing sales. This could include a sporting event such as the U.S. Police and Fire Championship games mentioned above, an educational workshop, or a gala fund-raising benefit that is open to the public. The more “impressions” the public receives, the more likely they are to participate.
Now you know the importance of securing news coverage, but what makes a media-worthy story? There are many potential “hooks” that may pique the media’s interest and get you that news or video clip – you just need to think about every component of your meeting or event that might be of public interest. Here are a few possibilities:
- The focus or theme of your meeting is novel, groundbreaking, topical, or tied to current events
- You have engaged noteworthy speakers
- Celebrity guests will be in attendance
- You are staging an event or activity in an unusual venue, or that will provide great visuals
- The event includes a social responsibility project that will benefit the community
- You have record breaking attendance in the destination
- The public is invited to attend part or all of the meeting/event
- The local chapter of the national organization holding the meeting/event is involved
- There are compelling human interest stories about the attendees
Taking Care of the Media
Having a good story may not be enough. There are further steps you can take to encourage media coverage. Designate one person on your staff to be the media liaison; this will make it easier to adhere to your strategy plan without anything falling through the cracks. Always offer a complimentary event pass, including the social functions, to media reps; provide a designated media room with Wi-Fi access, computers and printers, charging stations for mobile phones, and semi-private areas for phone calls or one-on-one meetings. In a nutshell, treat the invited media as you would any special guest. Dan Ellison advises, “Dedicate time and effort to the media and you’ll be rewarded.”
Partnering with the CVB
The first and most import step in acquiring media coverage for your meeting or event is reaching out to the host destination’s CVB for assistance. All CVBs are happy to provide a list of local media contacts for your use, help you write press releases that will capture the media’s attention and distribute press releases on your behalf – at no charge. More time-consuming involvement with newspaper, radio and TV contacts, such as arranging interviews, personally calling reporters with event reminders or including CVB marketing departments in your PR efforts with the media may carry a fee.
Dan Ellison acknowledges that the efforts of Steve Schell, vice president of sales at the San Diego Sports Commission, which works in partnership with the San Diego Tourism Authority (formerly the San Diego CVB), are invaluable. “Steve and his crew provide a great resource. They help us write attention-grabbing news releases, point us in the right direction for media-attractive ICW venues, and are instrumental in helping us establish personal media contacts. During our event, they call the media with specific information about an upcoming activity and stay on top of the reporters to get them to the scene. Sometimes getting our ‘feel good’ stories covered requires a little extra help when there are ‘hot topic’ stories out there that can occupy the press and broadcasters.”
CVBs are happy to help, and the existence of a media outreach program can even be an influencer in site selection. “If a CVB is not really engaged with their local media reps it’s hard to get the job done,” Schell explains. “And, to be engaged, the CVB should have a strategy and plan of action for working with the media. Meeting and event site selectors should ask if a plan exists to get media coverage, and CVBs need to add that component if it’s not already in place.”
To contact CVBs and learn about the media assistance they offer, go to empowerMINT.com, the virtual national sales office for over 130 destinations.