By Richard Finn
Here is any host’s worst nightmare. You throw a party and nobody comes. You have everything ready. The music, the catering and the venue, it’s all in place.
It could happen to any event organiz- er. Sure, you would still get the friends of your participants and teams. But that would not be a long-termed strategy for growth in the number of participants, spectators and sponsor opportunities.
There are numerous platforms upon which to create a media strategy and build a buzz for your event, including traditional media—newspaper, TV, radio and web.
The use of traditional media is some- thing I have become very familiar with throughout my 30+ years in the business and should be part of any long-termed promotional and growth strategy.
I sought the advice of long-time sports publicist and media executive John Totaro, president of Totaro Communications in New York, to help me come up with the following steps that can be used as solid building blocks for creating a media strategy to build awareness of your event. John has worked with events ranging from championship boxing matches and other sports events to com- munity-based projects.
The building of a media plan should begin several months in advance of the event so that you can launch your campaign anywhere from 45-30 days in advance of the event opening.
STEP 1: Develop Your Plan
Engage different groups in your organization, including the CEO and other executives as well as representatives from the marketing, sponsorship and event operations departments, in the strategy and planning sessions. This will help you hear dif- ferent perspectives, learn about the needs of each group and create a full “buy-in” from your entire organization on the strate- gy and execution. During planning sessions the following points should be determined:
• Messaging: The campaign should highlight and be con- sistent with what the brand/event stands for. The message will help create a strategy point.
• Talking points: These move in lock step with messaging and should be sound bites that your CEO, spokespeople and media officer will use.
• Spokespeople: These are the people who will speak on behalf of the organization and should be senior officials.
• Calendar: Determine when you would want to launch the campaign. Are there different milestones or dates that you want to use for announcements/news releases, etc.?
• Sponsorship & Marketing Needs: Decide how your media plan could enhance these departments’ objectives by providing extra exposure for sponsors.
• Use Of Local Or National Media: Determine whether your plan calls for utilizing local and/or national media.
STEP 2: Find the News Angle
You must find the hook, the news angle for your event. Obviously an inaugural event is always “news.” Do you have a new or unique venue, have you increased the num- ber of teams, if you have prize money is there more this year than last, who is your keynote speaker if this is a conference? The addition of a celebrity spokesperson with
whom the media would want to talk can attract attention. Giving back to the local community through raising money or awareness for a charity or cause is a very popular vehicle for many events in building community support as well as creating positive media coverage.
STEP 3: Build Relationships With Media
After developing a targeted list of media outlets that you want to cover your event, build relationships with them. Plan tabletop visits to newsrooms where you can intro- duce yourself, talk about your event, give out background material. This way you per- sonalize your relationship and humanize your event.
Keep the media informed by sending out news releases or news alerts for upcoming media opportunities like news con- ferences and phone interviews.
Remember that when setting up news conferences or phone interviews, or even sending out news releases, a good time for doing so is from 11 a.m. to noon, which should give media outlets and journalists ample time to make their dead- lines (whether in print or on the air for the evening news).
Richard Finn is a veteran sports media executive, publicist and journalist with more than three decades in the industry. He was director of media relations and sports strategy for New York Road Runners and the New York City Marathon from 1999-2013. Presently, he is working as national media consultant for USA Table Tennis.