I recently returned from the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF), hosted by Freescale Semiconductor in Dallas this past week. With close to 40 media and analysts in attendance and almost 30 spokespeople taking meetings, you can imagine the prep work that went into it. One thing I learned while at the event is that whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth, to host a user conference, at least one thing will go wonderfully right and one thing will go horribly wrong. However, with the right planning and preparation, you can ensure that the PR side of the event is a complete success.
Step one: Start early.
You can never start planning your event too early, but you can start planning too late. You’ll be surprised how quickly your event date sneaks up on you. Start planning early so that you have all the pieces in place – the schedule, the “cool factor,” the panels, the sessions, anything that might be used as a draw for the media and analysts you want to attend.
Step two: Know your influencers
If there’s a budget for media and analyst support – which is fairly likely –you can only invite a certain number of people. Know who the top-tier folks are. Who are the people that you absolutely must have at the event? Who are the ones that it would be really nice to have? Tier out the press and analysts to be sure you’re pursuing the right people at the right time.
Step three: Ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time
Once you’ve gotten everyone in the door, make sure that the right media and analysts are meeting with the right spokespeople. That might involve distributing a list of available meetings topics and asking them to choose the topics they’re interested in. It might involve assigning meetings based on known coverage areas. For group sessions, it might even involve tracking people down and taking them to the meetings to ensure they attend! Either way, be sure that the media and analysts you bring to the event are sitting down with the right people from your organization to get the information they will find most valuable.
Step four: Change everything (or at least some things)
Despite all the hard prep work that went into the event, be prepared for change. Spokespeople will ask for meetings to be moved to accommodate changing travel plans or pop up customer meetings. Reporters might let you know that they changed their mind and would really like to meet with so-and-so after all. Be prepared for change and have a game plan in place to address likely requests.
At the end of the day, don’t forget to enjoy the event. This is a key opportunity for PR. Not only are key media folks meeting with key spokespeople, but the PR team gets a chance at face-time with both groups. In some cases, it may be with a reporter you’ve worked with for years that you’re meeting for the first time. In others, it may be someone new to the space or unfamiliar with the client that you’re able to win over. Or maybe it’s a spokesperson you haven’t worked with before or who has been skeptical of the value of PR. An event is the perfect time to show the value. So in spite of the hectic atmosphere, take time to take in the event, talk to the people there and make a few connections. Because in the end, it’s all about the relationships!