In 2013 Annual Conference, 2013 Conference - Tuesday, 2013 Conference - Updates

FPRA 2013 Annual Conference: Breakout 4A, Award-Winning PR Strategies to Promote Events, Tracy Louthain, APR, CPRC

By Kevin Coulson

Tracy Louthain, APR, CPRC

Tracy Louthain, APR, CPRC is the principal of a communications firm that bears her name. In her presentation she offered a short account of her background and work history, noting that FPRA has been a huge part of her career. She then launched into a case study that outlined how to use PR strategies to promote events.

From ribbon cuttings to multi-day festivals, most public relations professionals have some responsibility and involvement in events. No matter the size of your event you are trying to engage with your attendees.

Case study: 30A Songwriters Festival, Used the festival as point of reference. Some information below is specific to this festival.

Remember the RACE formula. This PR acronym is great for event success AND Image Award entries!

  • Research
  • Action
  • Communication
  • Evaluation

Think of an event as planting a garden, caring for it and watching it grow.

Research: Prep the soil

The first step is to conduct a situational analysis:

  • What is the PR challenge?
    • Situation overview
    • Who do we want to reach?
      • Identify target audiences
      • What do we want them to do?
        • Establish measurable objectives.
        • What are their opinions/beliefs?
          • Know, or get to know, your audience
          • What messages do we want to communicate to each public?
            • Not the same for each audience

Gather information:

Primary research: focus groups, in-depth interviews, field reports.

Secondary research: existing research/events, secondary sources, media.

Quantitative research produces hard numbers, data that is easier to report. Qualitative research can offer more in-depth, emotional information.

The objectives and strategy below were developed for the 30A Songwriters Festival:


  • Generate publicity reaching 500,000 circulation, including national coverage positioning the event as one of the premier festivals in the country
  • Increase traffic to festival website
  • Grow the number of Facebook fans from 2,400 to 5,400
  • Increase ticket sales by 25%


  • Employ viral campaigns and word-of-mouth marketing with past attendees
  • Engage participating artists to add posts about the festival among their loyal fans/followers
  • Leverage partnerships, sponsorships, paid media to extend message and reach
  • Use celebrity and festival news to generate publicity in media outlets reaching target audiences to generate interest and buzz
  • Use artist and festival news to generate publicity within music industry trade publications

Action: Planting the right seeds

The message:

  • Communication must have clarity
  • Message must be concise and relevant  to recipients
  • Message must be consistent
  • Keep it simple, include the three main points you want audience to remember
  • Avoid overwhelming your audience with too many pieces of information at one time

Use an Integrated Marketing Communications approach. Your message must be consistent across every channel, including:

  • Website
  • Social channels/blogs
  • Media sponsors/strategic ad placements
  • Online/database marketing
  • Media relations
  • Mobile app

Customize your website:

  • Design – User friendly, easy navigation
  • Images/video – Pictures say 1,000 words, videos bring emotion
  • Content is king – Use relevant/fresh content, infuse key messages that will resonate with audience, and use key words for search engine optimization
  • Links – Link to supporting content, but also ask for link backs
  • Testimonial/articles/third party endorsements – People believe online reviews

Seven attributes of content that inspires action:

  1. Provocative
  2. Visionary
  3. Differentiated
  4. Relevant
  5. Timely
  6. Demonstrates mastery
  7. Narrative

Communication: Water, nurture, pull weeds

Timelines will vary by event. This is what was used for the 30A Songwriters Festival, and is a good general guideline:

4-6 months in advance:

  • Outline story ideas
  • Draft media release
  • Outreach for media sponsors
  • Send event info to community calendars, listings and targeted trade/event magazines

1-3 months in advance:

  • Send release and pitch newspapers, news services, newsletters, online media, bloggers

Month of event:

  • Follow-up with short-lead reporters
  • Send media advisory again two weeks prior
  • Press conference

Word-of-mouth is very important in five stages within the diffusion of innovation process.

Awareness – Interest – Evaluation – Trial – Adoption

Do not ignore existing/past attendees. Often we focus on new attendees for events; existing/past attendees can help increase the reach of and strengthen your message.

Media partnerships:

  • Leverage a traditional media mix, by offering media sponsorship/partnership
  • When negotiating radio, consider live reads, traffic or 15-second spots to stretch your dollars
  • Negotiate added value as part of the ad purchase, including:
    • Contest giveaways – get listeners/viewers/readers engaged with your event and the media outlet
    • Editorial/advertorial – media always needs fresh content, offer to provide it for them
    • Email campaign – co-branded email marketing to leverage each other’s contacts
    • Social channels – leverage each other’s social spheres

Online campaign:

  • Banner ads
  • eNewsletter (opt in)
  • Outbound paid email (sponsors)
  • Video
  • Organic/paid search
  • Contests
  • Blogs/links
  • Social channels

Make sure you capture photos and video during the event. For about a month after your event, you can keep the story alive.

Evaluation: How did your garden grow?

Look at the objectives you set, evaluate your results. Did you meet or exceed your objectives?

Modification – what could we [typically] do better?

  • Start earlier
  • Better tracking/measuring social media
  • Localized pitching
  • Sponsor/donor stewardship

Now that your event is over, start planning for next year!


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