Events can be a fickle beast. Out in the field and far removed from the comforts and resources of the office, an inexperienced public relations professional can quickly find him or herself overwhelmed and caught off-guard by schedule changes, late, no-show or wandering media and, if outdoors, the whims of mother nature.
The Crossroads team is no stranger to events and the unique challenges they pose. From the Susan G. Komen 3-Day to March of Dimes March for Babies to Lee National Denim Day, our cause marketing clients host a number of fundraising events that require intense coordination and dogged promotion. In addition, our SONIC Drive-In client hosts multiple local and national events each year, my personal favorite being the Dr Pepper SONIC Games.
The national finals of the 19th annual Dr Pepper SONIC Games took place recently in San Antonio. Each year, SONIC hosts the competition to crown its best drive-in from more than 2,500 competitors and reward the hardworking crewmembers who serve as the face of the brand every day. At the conclusion of the two-day event, I found myself reflecting on some event tricks of the trade that time and colleagues have bestowed upon me:
- Captain Ed Murphy of Murphy’s Law fame was most certainly a PR-type in a past life.
- Printing anything and everything you could possibly need for the event (including schedules and important phone numbers) is strongly encouraged. Out in the wild and outside of your office, technology and internet connections are not to be trusted.
- Setting three alarms for the morning, in the circumstance of an early a.m. event, is not a sign of obsessive compulsive behavior.
- Befriending any and all event staff will only pay dividends in the future.
- Your phone, in many cases, is your only tether to the outside world. Identifying the nearest wall outlet, extension cord or surge protector strip is crucial for its uninterrupted operation.
- It takes, on average, 348 follow-up calls to the news desk of a TV affiliate before the media alert you sent them is entered into their daybook, despite the assurances you received in the previous 347 calls.
- No matter how detailed your pitch is over the phone, the journalists who are ultimately assigned to cover your event will have likely been briefed on it in less than 30 seconds. Treat them as a tabula rasa and assume they have little background on your event or client.
- Sister stations share news content like never before. If a TV news affiliate in the host city covers your event with an angle relevant to another market, ask if they’ll share that footage with their fellow affiliate.
- Expectations of coverage should be adjusted based on the news landscape of the day. The second day of this year’s Dr Pepper SONIC Games, for example, fell on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Newsrooms with an already thinned number of reporters and camera crews adopt an all-hands-on-deck for big news days like 9/11.