If you’ve ever helped organize a special event, you know it’s far from a quick afternoon task. Between conception, invitations, venue, food, decorations, entertainment and other factors, event planning can require dozens of hours of work with many hands on deck.
If it’s a professional event you’re hosting, it’s likely you have some sort of measurable goal in mind — in the senior living world, that might look like gaining a certain number of new leads, deposits or referral sources. Regardless of what it is, why not bolster your efforts by inviting the local media to the event so they can help spread the word about what your organization offers to the larger community? Earned media can be a powerful way to show your value, highlight what differentiates you from your competitors and generate some local buzz.
Before you start firing off emails and making phone calls, though, consider the following four tactics to help maximize your special event media strategy:
Create a media list
If you’re serious about getting the press to your event, creating a custom media list will increase the chances of your pitch landing in the right inbox. Hosting a grand opening celebration for a new assisted living community? Don’t just invite anyone from the local paper, reach out to the business reporter who recently wrote a story about the national senior housing boom. Putting on a promotional event for a piece of technology your community is introducing to its residents? Pitch the features reporter who covered how new virtual reality platforms are being used in assisted living communities. While carving out the right list for your event can take a bit of extra time, it also boosts the likelihood you’ll get positive results.
Be sure to consider which media format might best fit your event as well. If your event will have great visuals and a strong human-interest angle, don’t forget to include the local TV stations. If it’s less visual with more of a business focus, you might stick to inviting reporters from local newspapers and magazines, as well as industry and business publications.
Get a press kit together
Think of a press kit as a hybrid of an event program and educational/background literature on your organization — it should provide reporters with everything they would need to write an accurate story without attending the event. And if they do attend, bonus, as you’ve given them all the facts and figures to get them started quickly.
Basic components of a press kit include an attractive cover page, an event news release, a fact sheet on your organization, a team page with key players’ bios and photos, and any other relevant supplementary materials such as data, history, infographics, etc. You may also consider including a quote and FAQ sheet, previous articles written on your organization and a zip file or flash drive of high-resolution images. Make sure to attach your press kit and other files in your pitch, follow-up and post-event emails, and to have more copies than you’ll need on hand at the event.
Prep your team
Making your organization look and sound good is not the media’s job — that’s on you and your team. This is why media training is an essential part of special event media strategy. Take some time prior to the event (at least a few days) to identify a spokesperson and go over talking points, facts and key messages with them and the rest of your team. Remind your team that it’s okay to politely decline answering a question if it involves giving away proprietary information, or to tell the reporter they’ll circle back if they don’t know the answer to a question. This will reduce the chance of a sloppy quote or inaccurate information making its way into the world.
While your spokesperson or others who will talk to the media don’t have to memorize anything, keeping a pocket cheat sheet with a few key points you want to make about the event or your organization will help keep the conversation on track. Often, reporters just want a handful of helpful quotes to round out their story, which you’ll be helping them write with the information in the press kit outlined above.
Make moves after the event
The big event may be over (perhaps to you and your team’s relief), but that doesn’t mean your opportunity for press coverage is. The following post-event actions will help optimize your relationships with the media and maximize your reach:
If a reporter attended the event:
- Send a follow-up email thanking them for attending. Encourage them to let you know if they have any questions or would like additional materials
- If the reporter did not bring a photographer or camera crew to the event, send along photos from the event as soon as they’re available
To those you pitched who did not attend:
- Send photos along with captions from the event, as well as the event news release, updated to past tense
- If the event made a larger community impact you can address, consider drafting a letter to the editor or pitching a guest column to a local paper. For example, if your event was to benefit a charity such as Meals on Wheels, write a letter to the paper thanking the community for their generous support. It will reinforce you are truly committed to the local community and seniors
Planning and putting on a special event at your senior living community can be a serious hustle, but with a bit of extra effort, you can craft a smart media strategy that will help attract coverage and boost ROI, making your event one to remember.
As always, let us know if you have questions. We know the ropes on these and other senior living marketing matters, and we’re glad to assist.