The best part about a company special event is that you know it’s coming – in the unpredictable world of Communications, that alone is a gift.
The worst part is that an influx of coverage can mean an influx of bad data – unless your team has a strategic plan in place to draw actionable insights from the media attention you gain.
Setting your team up for success in advance of your next product announcement, trade show, conference, or earnings release is perhaps the most important step of managing PR surrounding an event.
Without that strategic plan, you’ll end up chasing huge volumes of noise and miss out on actionable insights that speak to the issues you care about. Here’s how some of our clients have successfully tackled media analytics surrounding large events.
Step 1: Look at the Past
At the early stages of planning your media strategy, ensure a solid understanding of how your company has tackled similar event situations in the past. If you’ve consistently done well with specific tactics, make sure those are repeated and communicated to your team. If there were unexpected challenges and areas of weakness in your last event, you can focus on those now.
At the onset of a huge tradeshow, one of our clients analyzed how they performed at a similar event several months prior. Historically, data showed that they should expect more than double the readership of the next largest trade event of its kind, and that tonality was over 80% positive. Here are some of the other items they reviewed before game planning a new strategy:
- How much coverage they received and from which target media outlets
- Tonality of coverage from the last event, including sentiment analysis of key event messages
- Which influencers drove the conversation
- Impact of executive spokespeople
- How coverage was shared on Social Media and which topics drove the most engagement
Bonus: Right after the chaos dies down from the upcoming event, don’t forget to document what went well and what didn’t. This will help with Step 1 in the future.
Step 2: Set Goals
Now that you’ve reviewed the past and understand how your team has performed historically, you’re prepared to set goals for the upcoming special event. These goals are crucial for bench-marking after the event is over and will provide unified direction in the moment.
A few great goals our clients have set before special events:
- Connect with influencers in new, unique ways (providing greater access to new products than before, for example)
- Refine messages to supporters and critics based on reception last year
- Shift tone to positive or neutral on specific topics that played predominantly negative last year
- Set a list of targeted, influential authors to engage with who haven’t driven coverage historically
- Employ spokespeople in a more effective way (greater readership from certain spokespeople)
Bonus: It’s good to have goals that are realistic, but be sure to set one or two “reach goals” that you can encourage your team to shoot for – this will provide motivation, and your team may even surprise themselves.
Step 3: Make Sure You’ve Got the Tools
Without the right tools, you’ll have wasted time reflecting and game planning without the means to execute. The right resources will give your goal legs and hopefully protect you and your team from feeling overwhelmed and defeated during an event.
There are several tools and resource allocation opportunities your team may consider, including:
- Training your team on new responsibilities and divvying up tasks in advance
- Working with existing vendors or hiring new ones to help
- Utilizing measurement tools and software that cut through irrelevant mentions (without you doing the work)
One solution our clients have found is to lean on outside help to keep them updated. Our client at the trade show partnered with a PublicRelay media analyst to update their team periodically as coverage streamed in – they even had him come to the event. This extra set of eyes in the coverage allowed the team to move quickly without getting bogged down or overwhelmed.
Additionally, the focused analysis from outside resources kept the client from drowning in details and getting distracted by having to curate every piece of information coming in.
Bonus: Ensure that if you do invest in new tools and software to track an event, you do your homework before contracting. Make a list of what is most important to you and seek advice from peers on which tools have worked best in the past.
Step 4: Recognize You Can’t Do It All
The biggest challenge our clients have faced in previous events was the sheer amount of information thrown at them. For our client organizing the trade show, we analyzed 3,500 unique articles on the event – and those were only the relevant stories! The company received tens of thousands of media mentions during the week of the show, a large portion of which was simply noise.
We’ve seen the following plans help our clients tackle the most important aspects of an event:
- Identifying a concentrated list of outlets they want to monitor in real time
- Committing to reviewing only the most important subset of tweets from influential accounts
- Circulating twice daily updates on coverage, as well as an end-of-day comprehensive summary
Bonus: Recognizing you can’t do it all is helpful in effectively reporting to CEO’s on the progress of your event. Your CEO will only need summarized updates on coverage, not an overwhelming amount of information.
Step 5: Evaluate as it Happens
Monitoring coverage in real time may seem like an obvious step, but it’s important to plan how your team will succeed in this aspect – without a plan, you risk missing actionable metrics due to the flood of news coming at you in the moment (see Step 4).
During their real-time evaluations, our clients have found it helpful to:
- Make expectations clear across the team – internally and with CEO’s. Everyone should know what information they should be expecting to receive, such as twice daily media updates or end-of-day charts/graphs that expose actionable data.
- Schedule frequent check-ins with the team scouring through the media
- Set a plan for reviewing all the 2nd priority coverage from the event after the dust settles (or not even bother with it at all)
Our media analyst who attended the large trade show alerted our client that an exhibitor was thrown out of their event – something he saw in the press before they knew it had happened. Their team was able to speak with the reporters who had started tweeting and publishing negative coverage on the incident and positively shifted the conversation through the rest of the trade show.
Bonus: This is your moment to benchmark against goals – be sure they are clearly accessible either in a shared document or in an interactive document that compares key metrics. This will allow for either real-time correction of course or real-time celebration.
Step 6: Report on the Event
Once the dust has settled and initial evaluation has been done, compile your findings into a presentation that can be used to educate the team and report up to Executives. This is the time to call out your successes and identify shortcomings.
Creating useful visuals, especially ones that incorporate comparison between industry events, are often the best way of sharing media intelligence with an internal or C-Level team.
Bonus: Take slides from each individual event and compile an end-of-year report that gathers comprehensive metrics over 12 months. This will give a useful bird’s-eye view as you enter a new year filled with even more media opportunities.