This transcript is from Episode 17 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/17
This transcript consists of the interview only
Tom: Folks, I'm on the line with Sarah Rose. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on to talk to me today.
Sarah: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
Tom: Now Sarah, you are a public relations expert. You have your own public relation business, and you have been in that field for a while. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into public relations.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. So I started on the other side of the media coin as a journalist way back in the day. I just as a student would work on the side or intern at different magazines and online newspapers, and then my first job was working at Us Weekly as a reporter in Los Angeles. And then after that I did some freelance work. I still do writing today, but after some time realized that I may be more interested in public relations, which is the people who work with the journalists and who represent people or businesses or brands and get them into the news. I just transitioned onto that side of things.
Tom: Public relations covers a lot of different areas. Talk to us about all the things that are involved in public relations.
Sarah: PR is… there's a lot of different things a publicist does. Most publicists in general, the basic thing we all have in common is that we work with the media. So whether we do crisis management, so something terrible has happened to your company or maybe you're an actor and it's happened to you, publicists will swoop in and help you navigate that situation with the media. Or with events, publicists are the ones who can do anything from planning the whole event, to just getting the journalists there making sure it's in the news afterwards, that they have the images from the event, etc.
Tom: There's a lot of different things that we could talk about there that could benefit event planners, but today we're definitely going to focus on the media for events. Since you were a writer for different magazines, you've attended a lot of different events in that aspect. Talk to us a little bit about what you did when you would go out to an event as, I guess, from the media side of things.
Sarah: Yeah, I've been to a lot of events. Mostly in Los Angeles but also some in New York, and I went as media, anything from award shows to afterparties to fragrance launches and record launches, or album release parties; really a lot of different types of events. What was the other part of the question?
Tom: I was curious about your experience on that side of the coin. When you come in, what did you experience as the media that maybe could be improved upon by the event planners?
Sarah: Most of the events I attended were really well-done. What I think is kind of funny is, make sure you are inviting the right media to the event because I remember when I was an intern in New York, I would get people… I went to an event for a camera company, and I arrived and they handed me a free camera, and I said, “Thanks,” but I didn't need that camera. First of all, there was nothing I was going to do. I was the least powerful person on the totem pole. So if you can hand out hundred-dollar-plus cameras to anyone who says they are media that attends, great, but I think a little… sometimes I was baffled by how people treated me. Glad for it, but thought it was a bit of a waste.
Tom: Let's go back to the beginning as an event planner here, and talk about somebody who is developing their PR media plan. How do they go about it? What is the first thing? You mentioned selecting the right media. How do you determine what is the right media for your event?
Sarah: A lot of it is just logical. Are you a really big company? Do you want national coverage? Are you a smaller company who wants more local people there? Do you want bloggers? Are you a food company, or is it a restaurant opening? Then you invite the food writers. Or is it a fashion party then invite the style people. First decide, okay am I going local, regional, national, and then what kind of category is my event in?
Tom: Are there any types of guides or online resources where somebody who's putting together an event and they say, “Okay, we want to do regional media. We want to hit bloggers.” Is there anything out there that gives them contact information for something like that?
Sarah: Not for the everyday person. Publicists can buy media databases which tell you… You can just type in “Food media in Detroit” and get hundreds of contacts. But even that can be inaccurate. Most of the time there are some little tricks that I'm happy to explain, but most of the time you have to just do, and we even do this especially with bloggers, because bloggers are changing, coming and going, you mostly just have to put your stalker hat on and get into Google and just look around.
Tom: So you come up to a media outlet, let's say a television station, maybe a local television station, and I guess you have to first figure out where you would fit within their programming?
Sarah: Yeah. TV is a little harder than maybe print or online. But let's say that you are watching, you're a big fan of your local TV station and you know the programming really well and you know there's this. On the morning show they'll talk about… on the Friday morning show they'll talk about best events coming up over the weekend, and you really think that your event is a great fit for that. So that would be step one, is identifying where do I fit. I would say err on the side of being more… it's a tough one. Some people say, “My even is so great, it should be on The Today Show.” Well, the reality is that most events should not be on The Today Show.
Be more realistic, so think, “Really, is this a fit?” If it really is then the next step is “How do I get onto that show?” The main person that you need to talk to if you are interested in getting on TV is the producer. That's the key position that you need to connect with. At every media outlet there's a million different positions; there's news editors, and assignment editors, and anchors, and sports anchors, and sports producers, and just when you are searching around try and type in “Producer for WBAL Morning Show on Friday” and see what comes up. I like to use LinkedIn to find contacts. I'll go under the advanced search and type in “Currently at WBAL” and “General Title: Producer” and see who's popping up there.
Tom: Now producers would be for television. What about for print media?
Sarah: For print, it's editor or writer. You want to avoid an editor-in-chief because they are too busy. You want to avoid anyone who seems too high up but… maybe there's an events editor, that person is perfect; calendar editor, that's a really important person for event planners to know. The calendar editor is the one in charge of deciding what goes into the calendar. So if you want to be listed, you need to pitch to them. Oftentimes there's a form. In addition to finding the contact and sending them an email directly, many times there is a form that you just fill out online and plug all the details about your event in and that can do the trick just to get it listed on all the websites. But I would say if there's a form, we'll submit things in a form but then we also like to find the person in charge and just send them a note as well because I sort of think things get lost when they are submitted through forms.
Tom: That's great advice. I would imagine when you were in the media side of things that you were probably, or your editor was probably bombarded with people proposing their events, “Come on out and cover our event, cover this.” Can you give any tips to our listeners on ways they could maybe talk to the producer or the editor or the writer and maybe present it from a different side that actually draws attention or stands out so they are considered?
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. You know what, for a very brief period of time I was the events editor at Us Weekly in Los Angeles. I was in charge of deciding what events we were going to go to. Honestly the biggest thing in LA is the celebrity. Who's going to be there? What talent is going to be there? For me when I was working and that was my main objective, that was really the only thing I cared about. You could say, “Come to this event on a yacht, at the sunset with amazing food and wine,” and no one would go if it was just a bunch of executives. We needed talent there. So that was my beat. Depending on who, if it's a restaurant event I'm sure the food writer will come, so long as you make sure they know this is a great restaurant and they should be there. But sometimes their schedule's really overloaded so it really depends. It's really case by case. But I would say just try to make it as interesting as possible. If you can get talent, get talent; otherwise, try to pull out the pieces that make the event more interesting than not.
Tom: When the media goes to an event, and I would imagine it's different for each type of media, but are there any considerations they should have that would make it easier for that media to cover the event?
Sarah: Yeah, definitely. First of all, just going super back to the basics, the media has their own… well, it depends on the event, but typically the media has their own special check-in. I'm going to assume that you're running an event and you're kind of short staffed. So that's how I'm going to… assuming that's… Is that a fair assumption?
Tom: Yeah, sure. Everybody's short staffed.
Sarah: We work with a lot of small businesses who are kind of scrappy and have to DIY, so that's what I'm imagining. So put aside with your event, and let's say the event… and again events are so varied. Let's say your event, you have a guest list, and you have someone at the door checking people in. You need a special… you need to make a special note of who's the media. Maybe sometimes media has their own section, own special check-in area, and they get their own media badge. That typically means media needs to be treated more special, the most special, than all of your other guests, aside from the person who is putting on the actual event, the actual client. Media needs someone there to make sure that they have everything they need, that they are comfortable. If they are going to be reviewing the event they need to get the food served hot.
Sometimes when we would go to events, they would put us in the worst table all the way in the back. It depended on the event. If it was the Emmy's, put us… or the MTV Music Awards or whatever, okay fine, put us in our own little table in the back. But if you feel like the media is doing you a favor by being there, maybe they don't know your brand, they're taking a risk in coming, I would say treat them like they are a celebrity themselves. Let's see, what else is really important? Oh, make sure that they have access to the right people. “Do you want to interview the restaurant owner?” “Do you want to interview the chef?” “How are you liking the food?” “Is there anything else I can do?” All of those things to make their job easier.
And the last thing I'd say, most of the time when we went to events we left with a gift bag of some kind. I would say most attendees left with a gift bag, but especially the media. You want to make sure that they… and again it's case-by-case. If it's a restaurant opening, I don't know. Probably they just come and they leave. But if you're doing a fashion line, make sure they leave with one of the bags. Or a beauty company, one of the products so they can go home and try it out. It's also a way of saying, “Thank you for coming.”
Tom: So once you've got them there, it takes a lot. It's more than just handing them a pass and saying, “Here, cover this. This is what we are doing.” There's a lot of different things that you've got to do for the media.
Sarah: Basically you just need to treat the media like so, so special. Remember that they don't need to be there. The media has a lot of options of ways to spend their time and they do get a lot of pitches and it's important to really, really go out of your way to make sure they are comfortable. To me, and I think this is why I have done well as a publicist, I'm very respectful of media. I treat them like they're my rock stars. Don't be globbing onto them and annoying, but definitely make sure you are giving them the extra watchful eye and treating them more special than another guest.
Tom: Now, once you've had the media at your event, is there anything you should do for follow-up or ways to nurture that relationship?
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Once you have the event, the next day or two is really crucial to getting your media coverage. You can get media coverage before the event like “Hey, there's going to be this awesome food and wine festival this weekend. Come check it out.” You can get coverage at the event, you can have a live TV crew there covering arrivals or doing interviews, or you can have writers there talking about the event that night. But a lot of the times you get post-event coverage. That's a good term if you want to learn more, just search “Post-event press release” or “Post event” to learn more afterwards.
To get post-event coverage, you basically send a recap of the event to the media. I'm not a big stickler for following the press release format and making sure it's for immediate release, blah, blah, blah. Honestly the media just needs to know the details. If you want to play it safe, by all means go and learn. It's very easy. Just Google around; you can find how to do the proper formatting. But I would say just send an email “Hi, journalist. It was great seeing you last night at the event. Below is a recap of everything that took place. Let me know if you have any questions. Sarah.”
You send a little outline, it was a wonderful event, this many people attended, this much money was raised, these were the VIPs who were there, here's a quote from the founder on how great it was, thank you. The other big, big thing is pictures, because oftentimes… and you'll see this reading the newspapers, scenes from this weekend or online best recap of labor day parties, and you want your image to be there. First of all, images all need to be available in high resolution which usually is a minimum of 300 DPI. You don't need that necessarily, but that is what they'll want if they want to print an image. Stop me if I'm getting too technical.
Tom: Don't worry, go ahead.
Sarah: Basically you want to get the images from the photographer ASAP. Usually photographers… if you let photographers, they'll take their time. They'll want to edit it all but you need to tell them, “Give me access to the images. I need 10 really good ones. They don't need to be edited, or they can be but I need it now.” Then you get your images and you can include a link. Maybe you can make them smaller size and put them in the body of the email when you're sending your recap, “Below are some images, here's a link to more, and let me know if you want any in high-res.” So the images are a great way to get easy coverage after an event.
Tom: Now, we've talked about selecting the media. We've talked about contacting the media, helping your events stand out, things to think about when we bring the media there, things to think about as you're doing follow-up. Is there anything else that we haven't covered, or any overarching ideas that you could also share?
Sarah: Yeah, sometimes it is hard to find the contact. Maybe you can find the name. You can be like, “Oh okay the morning person at WBAL is this person. All right, great.” But then maybe you're just up against a wall. Usually you can with enough searching just find their name. It's mentioned somewhere on their Twitter, or they have a personal website, or online at wbal.com or newyorktimes.com. They list this is the events person; you can send them an email here. But let's say you're just totally coming up empty. There's a few last little things you could do.
One, you could tweet at them if you find their Twitter. You can say, “Hey, @editor, style editor, I wanted to invite you to an event. What's the best way to do that?” or “Hey, @editor, great nonprofit launching in Nantucket. Would love for you to come. DM me.” You can try to find them through Twitter and reaching out to them that way. Or usually you can get a little logical. Most places I've found in the media have the same… everyone who works there has the same @sarahrosepr.com or @hearse.com. So if you can find that… and then they all have the same sort of mixup of first initial, last name, or first name underscore last name. If you can figure out that pattern you can probably just plug in the person that you are looking for once you find their name and send it to the correct person.
A good way to find that pattern is look for the advertising people at the station, because their names are very easy to find. If you type in “Advertising at New York Times” you should be able to find a lot of contacts. So you can see they do this, first name, last name @nytimes.com and that's going to work most of the time for the media person you are trying to find.
Tom: That's hilarious.
Sarah: I know. That's my little tool. That's what I used to do before I owned this media database because those are really expensive. I didn't even know those existed. I just would snoop around and I still do that all the time honestly.
Tom: I just find that hilarious. The marketing people, you can't find who you are supposed to contact but by gosh you can find the sales people.
Tom: Now Sarah, you do some events on your website. Tell us a little bit about some of the things that you've done in event planning.
Sarah: Yeah. Most of the time the events that we've done… we did the San Francisco International Beer Festival, we did a non-profit in Los Angeles, we do… this healthcare company has an annual Halloween festival and other events that we'll do. When I moved across the country, I did a little launch event for myself. So we've done events. Most of the time we don't handle as much of the production, but we would like to do more of the production. That's something we're very capable of doing, we just for whatever reason are more in a purely media relations niche.
What we've done is, before the event we made sure the event was on all of the calendars, in all of the relevant calendars. For the San Francisco International Beer Festival, everything in San Francisco, everything in Northern California, and everything nationally that talked about beer, food, and wine festivals. We tried to get profiles before, maybe in the beer and wine blogs or in the San Francisco nightlife and lifestyle type of places. Then at the event we had news crews there, the local news covering the event interviewing everyone, and then afterward we tried to get a recap. I think we may have gotten a recap in one of the big publications there. This was last year so I'm not sure. But that's sort of the thing we will typically do.
I wasn't even in San Francisco for that. It's not like I was there making sure all of the beer vendors had their tables, and all of the food was hot, and everyone was fine. I just managed the media, got them there, and the client, the festival when they were there instructed them “Okay, this is how…” They know. It's a lot of common sense on how to handle media. Make sure they are supposed to show up at this time, make sure you're there, make sure you're early, coordinating all of that for them.
Tom: That would be trouble for me, if I had to go to a beer festival and cover it as media. Now, you've been to a lot of events during your time. What would you say is the coolest event experience you've ever had? Maybe something that they did, something you had to eat, or something that you saw, something you experienced. What would you say that would inspire somebody else to go “Ooh, that might be something I could somehow use in my event, or adapt for my event?”
Sarah: We saw… I wish I remembered his name. I once went to an event in LA and there was a very, very famous performer there. It was more from my father's generation, and he was this classic musician and that was sort of amazing. But even then I don't even remember. I think just stick to the basics. Make sure people show up on time. I went to an album release party and the talent… we arrived at 9 p.m. and we were waiting to interview the main musician and at 1 a.m. he had still not shown up to the interview area and it turns out he was inside just smoking weed and partying. So that was really a turnoff from a media side. Just do what makes sense and what you feel comfortable with. I hope that answers the question.
Tom: Now Sarah, if somebody wanted to find out more about public relations and how you help people, where can they reach out to you?
Sarah: My website, sarahrosepr.com. That's “Sarah” with an “H”, and “Rose” like the flower, not rows of seats.
Tom: And your contact is on there as well?
Sarah: Yeah, you can do… we have a contact form or you can send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom: Sarah, again, I want to thank you so very much for taking the time and talking to us today. I hope we can get you on here again sometime.
Sarah: Yeah, thank you. Absolutely. Thanks so much.
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