Fan Expo Dallas

How to Get Journalists to Cover Your Event

By Jo Trizila, President & CEO, TrizCom Public Relations

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Events: At TrizCom PR, we love events – not only because they are fun but because they are parenthetical; they have a start and an end date, and events are measurable. For many of our events, the pre-promotion is more important for selling tickets than actual event attendance. However, if your event is a press conference, for example, press attendance is imperative.

However, unless you are promoting a best-seller, crowd pleaser or limited offer, it is often difficult to get press coverage.

Here is a good tip sheet from TrizCom PR for attracting media to your event.

1.    Create a plan. Think four months out for long lead pitches, 4-6 weeks out, a week out, the day before and post event.

2.    Know what the cool factor is – i.e., don’t bury the lead. Be as concise and precise as possible.

3.    What is press worthy of this event? Find the news hook. Is someone newsworthy speaking/headlining? Will a newsworthy person be in attendance (elected officials are always a great primer)? 

4.    Know your audience and where they are. Also know your journalist’s audience. Remember, selling the journalist is just part one to event PR – they must sell it to their audience. The topic MUST be relevant to their audience. I would not encourage inviting a technology reporter to a Junior League luncheon – unless Sheryl Sandberg is a member of this Junior League and has confirmed her attendance. Don’t forget your trade publications.

5.    Target influencers – identify top industry influencers and bloggers.

6.    Have images and video. An online press kit with downloadable high-resolution photos, biographies, agendas, etc. is always preferred, but place this information on a jump drive and you are just as good. The object is to make the media’s job as easy as possible.

7.    Can you tie your topic into a current event? We call this newsjacking.

•    If your association is holding a convention and there is a well-known speaker talking about insurance and the rise in premiums, pitch the reporter the speaker’s credentials and mention that he/she would be willing to talk on record about how the Affordable Care Act has impacted the xyzzy industry and their predictions for the future.

•    If you are hosting a medical conference and a leading M.D. is there to talk about a recent study but also has a new product to unveil, make sure you mention that.

•    If by chance you are hosting Fan Expo with Peter Mayhew (original Chewbacca from Star Wars), and a local woman who went viral for wearing a Kohl’s Chewbacca mask in her car has been personally invited to meet Mr. Mayhew – for the love of God, make sure the media is aware of this.

•    We represent a Boat Expo. Recently we tied in boat sales as an economic indicator for the economy. It worked. In fact, the economy topic is considered an evergreen trend. It will always sell.

8.    Write a press release or a media advisory. An ‘if we build it they will come” mentality just doesn’t work if they don’t know anything about it.

9.    Prepare your spokespeople with message points. Knowing why you want media there in the first place will help with what you want the journalist to write about (i.e., message).

10.    Have a person assigned to media. Nothing is worse than inviting a journalist to an event and they aren’t on the list or they wander around with no direction. Have a point person for them to text if they need anything.

11.    Make your own media. Photograph, video and Facebook Live at the event. At a few press conferences we have hosted, I was afraid breaking news would interfere with their attendance. I have hired a few photo journalists to mimic press and tape the event. The strategy works twofold – the audience and the client don’t realize they are not press, and secondly, you have great video to pitch post event.

12.    If it is a party, allow them to bring a guest.

13.    Remember the 5 Ws plus…
•    What? What is the event about? (20 words or less)
•    When? When is the event? (Date AND time – if someone is speaking at a particular time, note that. If it is a drop in at any time, mention that.)
•    Where? Where is the event? (Consider this when inviting the media to cover the event. I know of very few journalists who will travel for an event.)
•    Why? Why should the journalist care about YOUR event?
•    Who? Who will be there?
•    How? How do they let you know they want to attend?
•    Your personal contact information including cell.

14.    The final and most important factor - to get a journalist to cover your event is to simply invite them.


My First Convention Experience as a Publicist

By Nikki Darling, TrizCom PR

This past spring, TrizCom PR signed Fan Expo Dallas as a new client. Fan Expo Dallas was formerly known as Dallas comic con – the largest convention for lovers of comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, gaming and more in the state of Texas. They were in need of a PR team, and we were there to offer our expertise and team of creative individuals to get the job done and exceed expectations.

My not-so-inner nerd was nothing less than stoked to work on this account. However, I knew it was going to be a learning experience, because I had not previously done PR for a big event or convention. This was going to be a first for me.

The weeks and months leading up to the convention were full of observing and learning from my superiors. I worked with them while they guided me on strategies in order to fulfill the objectives established for the event. I learned a lot about promoting a major event: I learned how different it was from a regular brand management client or PR retainer client. By the end of the convention, my head physically hurt from all of the information I took in – either that or from sleep deprivation.

However, nothing could compare to how exhilarating working the actual convention would be. I basically lived at the convention center that weekend. Seriously, I should have brought a sleeping bag and pillow for how much I was there. But I loved every minute of it.

Our team was responsible for signing in the media, giving them credentials, taking them on tours of the convention center and, of course, arranging for any onsite interviews. Not only did it feel nice to stand behind the check-in table and help dictate protocol, but it was really neat to be able to connect with the members of the media I have been pitching and idolizing for so long. Making those connections was extremely beneficial and having the opportunity to arrange interviews and make their lives easier was an added bonus

Fun fact: I also got to meet Anthony Daniels, the actor that plays C3PO in all Star Wars movies. He was a gem and even had his own mini C3PO to hold up in pictures. We took him around Dallas for different interviews and he was so willing to take a picture with anyone who walked past! 

I ran around that convention center for three days, making sure I always knew what was going on at all times while constantly scouting for media opportunities. Any time a reporter said thanks or had a look of relief come across their face when they secured an interview, I had a little adrenaline rush. I was able to do what I did every day in an office at one of the coolest conventions in Texas while interacting face to face with media. I had many moments where I felt very proud to be a part of my company and very thankful for these kinds of opportunities. Talk about rewarding.

The real fun (and nerves) came the last day of the convention when the internet-famous Chewbacca Mom was making an appearance. We anticipated the morning to be rather slow in terms of media attendance simply because it was the very last day and most of the media had already checked in. However, our previous pitching efforts paid off and, before I knew it, we were hosting four local television crews – ABC, CBS, CW and Fox. They were all there to catch Chewbacca Mom meeting the real Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, for the first time on camera.

Before this weekend, I had not worked directly with camera crews, so working with four was a bit overwhelming at first but quickly became almost second nature. I was able to guide their shots during Chewbacca Mom’s meeting with Peter Mayhew and direct their coverage with knowledge of the event’s programming. Preparation, in this case, was key. Knowing the timing of the event, layout of the space and technical capabilities of the venue allowed me to deliver the need-to-know info quickly to the TV crews. No time was wasted.

Following the Chewbacca event, I made my way backstage where I sat down with Chewbacca Mom, Candace Payne, to prepare her for one-on-one interviews with local media stations. She was the sweetest lady, and I was so glad to meet her.

We led the cameras over to a table behind which stood a step and repeat with Fan Expo Dallas’ logo plastered all over it. There was no way we were going to have four cameras interview someone without the Fan Expo Dallas logo in sight. Our team manned the area, ensuring no fans somehow made their way back or no passerby ruined our shot. We were in the backstage celebrity area of the convention center. So it felt ironic to me that while the news crews were interviewing Chewbacca Mom, celebrities like Lucy Hale (my favorite), the Phelps twins, Jack Gleeson and Rob Schneider all walked past – some even whispering in wonderment that they were seeing Chewbacca Mom in real life.

Chewbacca Mom finished up her interviews, and we led the press into the main convention area for b-roll coverage and interviews with attendees. When all was said and done and the news crews packed up their tech gear, I made my way back to the press room – out of breath the whole time. I sat down behind the check-in table shaking and panting after my 2-hour long adrenaline rush from which we secured four television spots.

My public relations career has been a short one. I graduated from college about a year ago, so almost every opportunity thus far has turned into a learning moment for me. Hosting media, coordinating interviews and securing four television spots for my client was definitely the highlight so far. I even called my mom to tout my accomplishments of the weekend. All in all, the one thing I had to say to everyone who asked was “working that convention was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.” The experience was like nothing else, and the lessons I learned are far beyond any I could have prepared myself for.

Conventions are exhausting, I’ll be honest. But my goodness are they exciting.

Nikki Darling is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she received a B.A. in journalism with a concentration in public relations and a double minor in English and marketing. Her involvement with nonprofits in the community, mixed with her writing and design abilities, contribute greatly to her communication skills in the PR world. She is constantly striving to improve her knowledge of the industry by making the most out of every opportunity.