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CVS Goes Tobacco Free

  
  
  

When it seems like a new pharmacy is popping up on every corner, it can be hard for chains to distinguish themselves as the better option. CVS made a bold move in February when they announced their plan to rid shelves of tobacco products at all of their 7,700 retail pharmacies across the country. The “Quit With Us” campaign has been in full swing for 6 months and is close to reaching their goal of ridding all tobacco products from stores by October. In almost every CVS location across the country, packs of cigarettes and cigars behind the counter have been replaced with nicotine gum and signs advertising a smoke-free life.

CVS executives viewed the banishment of tobacco as getting rid of a product that doesn’t represent an image they want to project. In a statement, CVS Chief Executive Larry Merlo said, “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.” CVS wants to be known for promoting health and wellness and thought that selling cigarettes in an era where 81% of adults are smoke free contradicted that vision.  

Executing a well designed PR and social media campaign around the decision has garnered the company a ton of positive press and support. The inclusive campaign, urging smokers to “quit with us,” includes pamphlets on smoking tips in every CVS store, resources in store and online to help the quitting process, and an interactive social media campaign.

The campaign, using the hashtag #OneGoodReason, focuses on the health benefits and advantages to quitting a tobacco habit. The company encourages social media users to post with the hashtag to share their personal stories about how tobacco use has affected their lives and occasionally features tweets on the corporate feed. The “One Good Reason” section of their website features success stories, tips for quitting, and “help me quit now” links.

Positive health benefits of the “Quit With Us” campaign aside; CVS factored profitability into their strategy. CVS executives predict that the decision to stop selling tobacco will cost the company roughly $2 billion in annual revenue, around 1.5% of total sales. However, the company believes they will be able to leverage the positive press that comes with their smoke-free image to win more profitable deals with hospitals and health insurers.

Which Social Media Platform is Right for Your Organization – A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

  
  
  

In my last blog post I stated that I was going to spend some time looking at several of the most popular social media platforms and break down just who is using them, how they are being used, and how a company should or could use them. I’ll also add my own color commentary on pros and cons and final thoughts on each platform. 

I started with a beginner’s guide to LinkedIn last month, and this time I’m going to focus on Twitter.

The basics: Twitter is a social networking and microblogging platform used to convey messages, links, and images in no more than 140 characters.

Demographics: The most up-to-date demographic information comes from Pew Research. It shows that as of January 2014, 74 percent of online adults use social media. Of that 74 percent, 19 percent use Twitter.  

 Screen Shot 2014 09 12 at 1.57.15 PM resized 600

Access: Twitter can be accessed directly through twitter.com, via a third party social media aggregator such as TweetDeck or Sprinklr, or through its mobile app. Interestingly, a Compete study from 2013 shows that sixty percent of Twitter’s users engage with the service via a mobile device.

How it’s being used:  From its own description, “Twitter helps you create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.” Twitter is used both by individuals and companies. In fact, a July 2013 study found that 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies have active Twitter accounts. 

Twitter’s platform is designed to allow users to informally share information and interact with a host of audiences. For businesses, some of the key audiences on Twitter include customers, prospective customers, media and bloggers, industry analysts, and current or potential corporate or technology partners.   

One thing to really keep in mind with Twitter is that it’s built for engagement – meaning you should be having conversations with people. Don’t just consistently push your own company news and never venture from that. Follow users who make up the audiences that are important to your organization, retweet the news others put out, and respond to the people who tweet at you.

Analytics: Twitter recently launched a new analytics tool; my coworker Kathryn was kind enough to write all about it already. Her post provides some thoughtful perspective.

Pros: Twitter is a great platform for sharing your organization’s news with the masses, even news that might be considered a lower priority. While I still obviously work with reporters every day and share client news with them, not everything is press release or pitch worthy. Twitter allows you to share even the smallest news items with your audience.  

Cons: Unless you’re paying constant attention to the newsfeed it’s easy to miss something that others put out, or for your audience to miss your news. There are a lot of people using Twitter and sometimes it can be difficult to be heard over all the noise. Effectively running a social media account like Twitter can take a significant amount of time and isn’t something that should only be looked at by your most junior staff member every few days.  

Final thoughts: Twitter is another social media platform that I would encourage almost all companies join and participate in. With the proper strategy and plan in place it can be an incredibly effective tool for reaching your audience and sharing your news. However, Twitter moves fast and a lot of misinformation is spread. Whether you are a company or an individual, always check the facts of what you’re putting out – whether it’s your own original content or a retweet. 

The Apple Brand Phenomenon

  
  
  

Whether you like Apple products or you’re anti-Apple, catching the latest reveal of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch was unavoidable. It’s been front and center of almost every media outlet at one point or another. And if you’re paying even closer attention to Android vs. Apple news, you may have even seen some counterpoint articles like this Phandroid post (“Apple is 3 Years Late to the Android Party, But Does It Matter?”) and this now-popular graphic:

iphone6 resized 600

To answer the Phandroid article’s question—no. The new Apple products will likely be a huge success, regardless of whether the technology is innovative or does anything  better than older Android devices. It doesn’t matter that the reaction to Apple’s launch has been all over the map or that the new phone’s price tag is a whopping $649-$849. The truth is that these new Apple products are predicted to smash all sales records. That’s the power of a brand. 

Apple did something right from the start—it had the right leader, knew who it wanted to be, and engaged in marketing and advertising efforts that helped them gain a dedicated following. 

First, Apple had the perfect face to go with its name. Steve Jobs was “the man.” He LOVED Apple and he made everyone else love it, too.  He was passionate and confident about Apple technology, design and innovation, and that created an emotional connection with people. 

Second, Apple’s early products lived up to the hype and didn’t promise more than they could deliver, establishing trust for the brand. Yes, sometimes innovation was key, but mostly Apple focused on functionality and design. For example, when the iPod came out, MP3 players were already in production, for sure. The iPod wasn’t advertised and marketed as the most innovative way to listen to music, but rather the coolest—focusing on design and producing ads that resonated mostly with avid music listeners, not technologists. 

Third, Apple was able to build a strong community of loyal followers. Apple marketed itself well, appealing to peoples’ emotions. They were transparent, blogging, taking to social media and communicating with consumers. People felt and still feel comfortable and loyal to Apple. 

Despite the fact it was written in 2011, this excerpt from a Forbes article helps hit the nail on the head when it comes to the Apple brand:

“Apple’s mission statement doesn’t really talk about what it does; it talks about what it believes in. It reads: ‘Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.’”

So, not only can we expect Apple’s loyal following to purchase the new products, but interestingly, some people like Timothy Stenovec of The Huffington Post think “The New iPhone May Finally Persuade Die-Hard Android Users to Quit.”  Check out this excerpt:

“Android owners also aren't as loyal to Android products as Apple customers are to Apple's products: According to a survey from 451 Research/Yankee Group, before the bigger screens were announced, 16 percent of Android users in the U.S. said they intended to switch to Apple. (Only 5 percent of Apple customers said they intend to switch to Android.)

Last time Apple increased the screen size of its phone -- in 2012, with the iPhone 5 -- 24 percent of the people who bought it in the first quarter of the following year were Android owners, according to survey data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), a Chicago-based market research firm.”

So, if you can believe everything you read (I’d recommend reading from many sources before getting sucked into public opinion J), it looks like the power of a brand like Apple isn’t quite as much a phenomenon as it is the outcome of a brilliant and strategic marketing plan. And, if you take the time to really think about what you want your company’s identity to be and execute on the right message, you just might be able to follow in Apple’s shoes.  

Blog Measurement 101: 3 basic metrics

  
  
  

Once you have a solid blog strategy in place, the next thing to consider, before you even write a word, is measurement. Blogging without measurement, is as pointless as blogging without a goal in mind. However, lots of businesses and bloggers get bogged down by the amount of data available and find it difficult to get an accurate measure of success – myself included. Even Google guru Avinash Kaushik remarked that “we have more web metrics and data than there are stars in the universe.” 

But no matter what your goals, at the very base level, there are three metrics that can provide valuable insight:  

 

  • Visitors - Visitors are the reason blogs exist. This is the simple measurement of how many people are seeing your content during any given period of time. Look at this number for your overall blog as well as for each post to see traffic-wise which posts and topics are doing best. Watch how this number trends over time and think about blog promotion and traffic generating strategies (future advice coming on this) if you feel it needs a boost. 
  • Subscribers - Regular readers are the lifeblood of any blog. How many people have converted from readers to subscribers? This is a very telling number. It shows that your content is interesting, but more importantly, it shows a level of trustworthiness. 
  • Sources- Monitoring where your traffic comes from can provide a wealth of information. But, to me the most important insight is how readers are finding your blog. The first thing you’ll want to look for is an even balance of search traffic, referral traffic and direct traffic. Then you’ll dive deeper into each category: 
    • Search Traffic: Evaluating search traffic will provide insight into what terms readers are using to find you. Are they the keywords you’re striving for or do you need to do a little SEO work to reset the balance?    
    • Referral Traffic: This information can help evaluate which partnerships are worth continuing to develop and which are  underperforming – and can sometimes highlight a referral you didn’t even know about. Additionally, you can take a look at which social channels are working the best for you in this area. 
    • Direct Traffic: Direct visits are hard to interpret because their origin is a mystery. It could be people who have bookmarked your site and visit regularly or someone who has seen an ad or campaign and decided not to click a link but visit directly. However, both of these scenarios are unlikely. What is most likely is that they are coming from untagged (or mis-tagged) links in emails, social media posts that use link shorteners, instant message clients, or mobile apps that read as direct traffic instead of providing more accurate source information. While this information isn’t necessarily helpful on it’s own, seeing a rise in direct traffic could signify a link-tagging issue in a campaign that needs to be fixed. 

These top three numbers should be tracked over time and success can be measured (for the most part) by upward trends. One pitfall here, that I have to warn against is comparison. You know that age-old quote: Comparison is the theif of joy? Well, that applies in the blogosphere too. It’s impossible to compare one company’s blog metrics to another’s since there are SO many different variables. But, instead be patient and track these numbers numbers over time. They can be used to see what is working and what isn’t and then determine how you can increase them. 

One final thing to consider is tools. There are a variety of paid services out there that provide all kinds of metrics tracking as well as other blogging and content marketing bonus features. But, Google Analytics is a free tool that provides great insight about user behavior, traffic and social behavior on your site. It’s easy to set up and use and is usually a good starter tool before you decide to spend money on a larger solution.   

Getting Your Message Out Without Saying Anything

  
  
  

hand over mouth resized 600

When trying to get a message out, what you don’t say is often just as powerful as what you do say. This struck me as I read a CNN report this morning on the tragedy involving Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. A Dutch investigation concluded the airline was felled by “external causes” and “high energy objects.” Read between the lines and it becomes apparent that it was a missile, or missiles, that brought the plane down. But nowhere in the report is that explicitly stated.

It would have been easy for the investigators to fall into a trap and offer color commentary that went beyond the facts of the case, but they refrained. As a result, the report achieves its primary goal of clearly and concisely presenting the investigative team’s findings on the cause of the disaster. The main message – here’s what happened – is presented front-and-center, not buried by other messages that may not be relevant to the purposes of the report.

Company spokespeople often find themselves teetering over similar traps (though hopefully while discussing far less severe and devastating situations). During interviews, they may be lured into saying things they shouldn’t, or that might dilute the messages the organization is trying to get across.

If you’re a company spokesperson, and you find yourself doing this, I’d like to provide one piece of advice: stop talking. This isn’t an easy thing to do. During interviews, one wants to talk – after all, isn’t that the point? No one likes dead air.

But many executives have gotten themselves into trouble by saying too much. A little inside information here, a little preview of things to come there, and a little off-the-cuff commentary to spice up the conversation in between. Before you know it, you’ve given away too much information about your upcoming product pipeline (robbing any future news of its power) or said something you don’t want to see in print (hint: always assume there’s no such thing as “off-the-record”). At the same time, you’ve taken away from the primary message that you wanted to use the interview for in the first place.

Fortunately, there are some tricks to avoid this situation. My colleague Jennifer laid many of them out nicely in her post, Six Tips for Nailing Your Media Interview. I’d like to expand a bit on what she wrote with a few additional points: 

When you’ve made your point, close your mouth. It’s not my intent to sound harsh; I mean this literally. All you need to say is what you want to say, not what you think the reporter might want to hear. Most of the time, what you want to say are simply the things you want people to know about you, your product, or company. There may not even be that many; three or four items, in some cases. Don’t feel the need to expand beyond that, even if you sense the reporter would like you to. When you’re done talking, you’re done – it’s your interview, and you can control the flow however you wish.

Don’t bash the competition, regardless of how tempting it might be. Your biggest competitors may someday be your closest partners; why risk a potentially beneficial relationship somewhere down the road just to get a shot in? Besides, if your product or service is exemplary, it should be able to stand on its own attributes. Focus on those, not what the competition is doing. Don’t give them free press.

Be friendly, open, and helpful – but not too friendly, open, and helpful. Reporters are not your buddies, even if you’ve spoken with them many times. Don’t feel like you need to overly share information with them, no matter how well the interview’s going. At the same time, try not to be standoffish or provide overly canned responses. Be yourself, and try to be informative, without straying from the points you want to get across in the story.

Spokespeople typically love to talk, and that’s great, up to a point. After all, as PR consultants, we want you to talk. But we also want you to be careful about what you say. Following these simple guidelines will help in that regard, and ideally lead to a fantastic story that touches on all of the things you want it to.

The Pre-Interview Checklist

 

 

 

September Networking Events

  
  
  

Back-to-school, back to networking. DC has a plethora of networking events this month to connect with the DCTech community and get you Fall off to a good start.

Here are the events that are on my radar:

MoCo TechBreakfast
8:00AM - 11:00AM, Tuesday, September 2
800 King Farm Boulevard, Lower Level Conference Center

Startup Grind Washington, DC Hosts Chip Paucek (2U, HookedOnPhonics)
6:00PM - 9:00PM, Tuesday, September 2
1776, 1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC

NoVA TechBreakfast
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, September 3
AOL - 22000 AOL Way, Dulles, VA

Tech Cocktail's DC Mixer and Startup Showcase
6:00PM - 8:30PM, Tuesday, September 9
Crystal Tech Fund, 2231 Crystal Drive, 10th Floor ArlingtonVA 22202 

Columbia TechBreakfast
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, September 10

Loyola Columbia - 8890 McGaw Rd #130, Columbia, MD

Big Idea CONNECTprenuer
7:00AM - 11:00AM, Thursday, September 11
Tysons Corner Marriott, 8028 Leesburg Pike, Tysons Corner, VA 22182

DC Tech BreakfastDC Tech Breakfast
8:00AM – 11:00AM, Wednesday, September 17
Washington, DC Economic Partnership - 1495 F Street, NW, WashingtonDC

DC Tech Meetup: Summer Drinks Edition
7:00PM - 9:00PM, Thursday, September 18
MLK Library, 901 G St NW, WashingtonDC

Tech Cocktail's DC Sessions featuring SmartThings' Maria Thomas and nvite's Martin Ringlein
6:00PM - 8:30PM, Tuesday, September 23
Crystal Tech Fund, 2231 Crystal Drive, 10th Floor ArlingtonVA 22202 

What did I miss? Where will you be networking this month?

What's in a Name?

  
  
  

Have you seen that Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow? No? That’s alright, no one else did either.

When the movie came out earlier this year, Warner Brothers had high hopes for a big box office success. Instead they ended up with an unfortunate flop. Despite a production budget of $179 million, Edge of Tomorrow only brought in $99 million in domestic box office sales. Though the movie did better internationally, it still didn’t come close to reaching projected goals. 

You may be wondering what the problem was with the movie – especially given its A-list cast and top notch special effects. According to Warner Brothers, it was all in the marketing and generic nondescript name. Perhaps that’s why the company made the decision to change the name of the movie not once, but twice. That’s right, this movie has had 3 titles.

The first name originated from the Japanese novel that served as the inspiration for the film. That title, “All You Need is Kill,” was changed to “Edge of Tomorrow” prior to the premier.

On October 7th, the movie will be released on DVD and Blue Ray as “Live. Die. Repeat.” which, other than being a bit more memorable, has the added benefit of being relevant to the plot.

 edge resized 600

(unfortunately tis cover looks like it's for a movie starting Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, and their co-stari "EdgeOfTomorrow")

So here’s the question: can a name change save the movie? History shows that rebranding strategies could go either way.

Before Old Spice went through the rebranding process, the company had nothing that really excited customers. Their product was seen as old, tired, and boring. After committing to a rebranding campaign that kicked off with former NFL player Isaiah Mustafa shirtless on a horse, things turned around. The following 186 related commercials revived the 70-year-old brand, giving customers something to get excited about again. They didn’t change their logo, they didn’t change their product, but by encouraging engagement and excitement for Old Spice, they changed the experience and “boring” stigma associated it.

In 2012, JC Penny also attempted a rebranding strategy, their 3rd rebrand attempt in 3 years – which led to unfortunate results. The company introduced “fair and square pricing,” a new no-frills system attempting to rid customers of promotions and sales, replacing them with “every day prices.” The new method also included “best prices” on the first and third Friday of every month. Needless to say, shoppers weren’t impressed with “best prices.” Instead they found it hard to understand, difficult to compare, and a lower value resulting in a 20% loss for JC Penny that quarter. 

So, what’s the difference between Old Spice and JC Penny? Old Spice changed not only their brand, but went all in on a total brand re-vamp strategy that their target audience would understand and enjoy. Without positive, substantive change, it’s far more likely that a rebranding strategy will have little to no impact on a promotion. It may even cause some backlash, as it already has on the blogosphere.

Granted, these examples come from retail markets so the results could end up completely different. I’ll be interested to follow up on the progress of  “Live. Die. Repeat.” to see how sales go with the new name. 

Twitter Launches New Analytics Tool

  
  
  

There was a time in my PR life when I actually had to go through a client’s Twitter feed and manually count how many Retweets and favorites a Tweet received.

Luckily those days have been gone for a while now, thanks to add-on tools – but now things are about to get even easier for us metrics-loving PR folks. Recently, Twitter rolled out an enhanced Tweet activity dashboard to provide measurable insights into how organic Tweets perform. While the tool was released July 11, it was previously only available to Twitter advertisers, Twitter Card publishers, and verified users. But as of yesterday, the analytics dashboard is now available for all Twitter users.

The new dashboard includes data like total impressions and total engagements, including Retweets, replies, favorites, follows, link clicks and embedded media clicks. The dashboard aggregates that data for the past month, showing users how they’ve been doing compared to previous months. The system also allows users to export Tweet performance metrics into a CSV file, which will include both organic and promoted data. This will allow users to compare how their organic Tweets stack up to those that have been promoted.

Here are a few ways to use the dashboard to improve your brands content strategy and drive the highest engagement and impressions:

  • Pay attention to when you Tweet. Note which time of day and day of the week yields the highest engagement and impressions.
  • Analyze the frequency of your Tweets. Use your new insights to determine your Tweet cadence.
  • Identify what Tweet mechanics work, and which aren’t as effective. Keep an eye on elements like different calls to action, the inclusion of rich media and copy length.

In addition to the data included in the new Tweet activity dashboard, Twitter recently analyzed organic Tweets and the reach of those Tweets for 200 active brand advertisers. The data identifies a few insights and best practices for brands when developing a content strategy on Twitter. The advertisers Twitter looked at spanned multiple verticals and ranged from Fortune 500 companies to small business.

The results were insightful. First, Twitter saw that brands that Tweet two-to-three times per day can typically reach an audience size that’s equal to 30% of their follower base during a given week. This indicates that consistency is a key factor when it comes to maximizing your reach on Twitter.

According to the study, when brands pair consistent Tweeting with engaging content, there’s potential for even higher organic reach. In fact, Wheat Thins (@WheatThins) achieved organic reach equal to 95% of their follower base by Tweeting 2x a day per week, while Trident (@TridentGum) saw organic reach that was 5x greater than their follower base by Tweeting 3x per day.

Of the 200 brands, those that drove the highest organic reach utilized one or more of these tactics when it was relevant to their marketing goals:

  • Leverage real-time cultural moments like live sports events, awards shows or trending conversations.
  • Mention influencer usernames with large followings or high-volume hashtags in Tweets.
  • Include auto-expanded photos or videos paired with short, conversational copy.

So before jumping to posting a Tweet when you come across anything remotely relevant, take a few minutes to check out your analytics and see which posts are resonating the best with your followers and maximizing your business presence. Remember – its often quality, not quantity.

The Power of the Press Release

  
  
  

As PR professionals, it’s important to make sure that the recommendations we are making to our clients are with merit.  In my position, I often get the question “Is putting a press release out over the wire worth all of that money?” We all know that press releases are valuable for gaining exposure through inbound links and increasing SEO, but how about from a press perspective? My job is to help our clients achieve many goals, one of which is getting journalists and press to cover these press releases. So, are press actually reading them and are the worth the price? newspaper 400x276 resized 600

I think the vague answer to this question is, it depends. It depends on the client, the announcement, the goal for the announcement, and the overall strategy for the news outside of the press release (marketing, social media, etc.).  

But, to help us gain some first-hand insight as to what information journalists are looking for and how they want to receive that information, Business Wire released the results of its 2014 Media Survey.  They survey polled more than 300 journalists in North America from different industries (publishing/media, technology, government, healthcare, food/beverage, health/fitness, etc.) and numerous types of journalists (bloggers, editors, freelancers, producers, etc.).  And, here were some of the notable findings:

  • Almost 90% of responding journalists referenced a press release in the previous week, with 62% using one in the past 24 hours
  • The most sought after type of story information in a press release included: breaking news (77%), supporting facts (70%), interesting story angle (66%), quotable sources (52%), company background (50%), trending industry topics (49%) and supporting multimedia (29%)
  • 64% of journalists prefer to receive news via email pitch and 28% prefer to receive it via press release
  • Hardly any (.7%) of reporters want you to call them with news
  • Almost 71% of reporters surveyed use a press release from a newswire service at least once per week

There seems to be a relatively favorable response supporting the value of the press release specifically for journalists.  As a communications professional, more interesting to me is that the survey found journalists still prefer for me to send them our news via email pitch and press release.  I’ve had success with this personally, and often times we recommend our clients put a release over the wire and then we email both a tailored pitch along with the press release text to targeted reporters.   And, according to this study that strategy is holding strong.  And, although it might seem that social media could be an effective way to communicate news to the public, reporters don’t look to their social feeds to get the news or details for their reporting, according to the study.  

Ultimately, and despite the fact that this is clearly a survey sponsored by a newswire service, I think viewing reports like this is an important part of what should be an ongoing analysis of your PR strategy. It’s important with such an evolving media landscape to make sure you are regularly and continually looking at trends in journalism to ensure your clients’ news is being distributed as effectively and favorably as possible. Something important to keep in mind, however, is that no matter what general survey results report, it is best to form personal relationships with the journalists that matter to your clients and learn how they, individually, prefer to interact with you to get the best results and establish yourself and your client as a valuable and trusted resource.
 

  Do-It-Yourself Media Relations CTA Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Tips for Planning a Successful Event

  
  
  

describe the imageI recently attended an industry conference and was so impressed by how smoothly it ran,how delicious the food was, and the general joy wafting from the attendees.

The event was so well done, that I started thinking about what tips I would give a client hosting an event to replicate the experience. As a PR professional, I regularly attend events for networking purposes and to support clients and some are hits and others unfortunately, misses. While it’s easy to lament about what went wrong at past events, I seldom hear about the success stories. 

So what makes an event so great?

Let’s start with the pre-planning: 

Define the target audience. The number one priority 

should be to clearly demarcate who the target audience is. All other decisions will fall into place in terms of format, content, location, etc. A structured approach towards the audience will assure the focus stays on achieving specific goals and will prevent the scope from become too broad or watered down.

Have a clear business purpose. If target audience is priority number one, then your business purpose is a very close number two. Be clear on why you are holding the event in the first place, because every decision after that should support your main goal. Is it lead generation? Is it to create awareness of your company or a particular product? Is it to become an industry thought leader? Or do you simply want to make money (which is okay too)?  Whatever it is, make sure the team is aware of the purpose, so that everyone remains focused. 

Know your limitations. While the goal is to throw a successful event, you need to be aware of what can realistically be achieved – especially given factors like budget, timing, etc. This is where creativity and a supportive team will come in handy to really know what is possible. If you have grand ideas for speakers but don’t have the connections or clout to secure them, you may have to think of other ways to draw the audience in. A big event will need several months of planning or if the budget is small, you may have to shoulder much of the workload. 

Now that we’ve defined our objectives, it’s time to plan:

SMART Goals. Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound.  Many of these relate to the above pre-planning tips but it’s important to be mindful of them throughout the planning process.

S – Specific. Use action verbs to describe the 5 W’s of the event: who, what, when, where, and why.

M – Measurable. Goals need to be measurable – it will help report the success to sponsors and vendors later.

A – Achievable. Be realistic. It’s easy to think big, but plan for what your resources and time allow.

R – Relevant. Why are you planning the event in the first place? Stay focused.

T – Time-bound. Set mini goals throughout the planning process to help keep you and your team stay on track with time. 

Check the calendar. Be mindful of other industry events that have already been scheduled as well as holidays or popular vacation times when attendance could be low. Try to think of things that may be obscure, like elections days or times when schools would be closed – which can effect overall turnout.

Promote. The event cannot be a success without an audience – so start promtion early. Once the date and location have been set, put teasers out to the target audience. Send updates through social media and email campaigns as the agenda is set and keynote speakers are secured. If an amazing chef will be on hand, spread the word. Ask sponsors and speakers to help promote through their channels as well. You may need to spend a little money to garner awareness through advertising to ensure your target audience is reached. 

Back-up plan. Be ready to fill in the gaps. Although planning ahead is a great formula for success, it is never enough. Something unexpected always comes up.  Imagine the event, step by step, and make a 2-column list: what could go wrong in one column, and your contingency plan in the second. Be prepared for the unexpected. Maybe the sound system fails or maybe your keynote presenter bails. Can you cope and move on?

Once the event is over, the work is not yet complete: 

Evaluate success. After the event is all said and done, you will need to assess the return on investment (ROI), which takes us back to the SMART Goals. If you clearly defined your goals in the beginning, it will be easier to evaluate the data to provide hard numbers on success.

You might also want to ask for critiques from attendees. It’s great feedback for the sponsors, especially if there are favorable responses, but even negative will help with future event planning.

While there is quite a bit of work in planning a successful event, it can be done. Really thinking through the tough questions and creating an in-depth plan from the beginning will save you time and energy as the event starts to take shape.

  PR 101 for Startups Webinar

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