Even if you’re a newbie in the PR world, don’t make these mistakes when hosting writers and bloggers at media events
1. Not having enough food. This is a cardinal sin and it happens all too often at media events. Sure, you want to have enough bodies show up to please your client. So you invite WAAY more people than you know there will be food for. But who cares? At least you’ll have enough people, even if they fail to get much food. Problem is, it’s an awful experience for journalists and bloggers and we won’t end up writing anything, or at least anything positive about your client. “I’d even go as far as to say just feed people period. If it’s not during a mealtime, light snacks and apps are always a good idea. And beverages. Offering water bottles or sodas or …something goes a long way.” Barbara Burns
2. Uninformed staff – Sometimes publicists invite us to restaurants on our own instead of at a media event. Super! It’s terrific to NOT get the same pictures of all the same pictures that everyone else gets. But there’s just one problem. About half the time the hostess isn’t aware of our reservation or complimentary meal when we arrive. For whatever reason, the information about our hosted visit doesn’t make it to the hostess. Maybe it does get cleared up, (via we pull up an email on our phones – awkward) though I’ve had many colleagues tell me they just paid the bill and left. But we leave with a bad taste in our mouths and it’s not the food. ”I hate when I have to pull out an email to get someone to know who made the arrangement for me to attend. It gets old and by the time it’s all cleared up, the mood has changed and I don’t necessarily feel like doing the review.” Kiwi Durham
3. Sending out invites SUPER last minute. “It makes me think that either A) the event is poorly organized or B) I wasn’t on their initial list and they need more people to fill the space. Getting invitations for things that are happening next week (or, in some cases, in a few days) makes me twitchy. I work, have a family, and a schedule. I appreciate a bit of lead time.” Ashley Covelli
4. Having Friends and Family night on the same night as Media Night – Why, why, why would you ever think this a good idea? Not only does it add more people in the mix, but the two groups have different goals. Writers want to take photos and stage the pictures. They want to chat with the owner. Friends and family get annoyed because they just want to eat. It rarely ever goes swimmingly when these two groups dine on the same night.
5. Making us look bad in front of friends. How does a PR person have the ability to do that? If you invite us to your event and tell us we can bring a guest, then there’s a certain level of expectation that this friend will have, especially if they’ve come with us before or heard us talk about events. If we go and it is poorly organized (see points 1, 2, 4 and 6), we’ll look stupid to our friends. Sure, they’ll forgive us, but we won’t be likely to forgive you.
6. Tip jars – Really? I can’t believe I even have to mention this. But I’ve seen it plenty of times. A media event is when you are trying to get us excited about your client. A tip jar makes you look cheap and a little sleazy for wanting promotion but not willing to cover the costs associations with it.
7. Parking woes – I was at an event recently where many of the attendees used the garage parking next to the restaurant which was only good for two hours. But the event went on for three. Instead of enjoying their time, the bloggers kept checking the time, knowing they were going to have to pay through the nose for parking. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the attendee. What are the things that will make the event easy for us? Parking can be a huge hassle. Make sure it is validated, free, or complimentary valet.
8. Media shouldn’t have to wait in a long line to have access to an event that we were invited to cover. In fact, media should never have to wait in a long line or the general public line to get in. This isn’t about leisurely enjoying and event like the public, it’s more about finding what we need to write about and we may have other deadlines that we need to be in and out of the event for. And while we’re at it, have VIP areas for media. It makes it much easier to share on social while we are there and makes interviewing less of a hassle.
9. Planning events in the middle of the day. We may have flexibility but it doesn’t mean we like taking 3 hours out of the day for an event. “Events that are in the middle of the day are very difficult, since it requires me pausing work or scheduling around it. There’s never a time when I want to get drunk on a Tuesday at a brunch in the middle of the day.” Lindsay Tigar
10. Repeated follow ups about coverage. “Yes, coverage is the goal and writers know that. However, if you’re hosting a general event, your secondary goal is familiarity with the product, so coverage may not come right away. You need to be okay with that as a brand/publicist.” Anna Davies
11. Be prepared. Similar to point 10, Start your event on time. Don’t make us wait around while you are setting up. And don’t make us wait for food and drink. The pros will have it flowing as soon as we walk in.
12. Take backs are a no no. In your personal life, would you invite someone to your party and then uninvite them? No? Well why would you do that to a writer or blogger? It’s poor taste and you’ll likely be put at the bottom of our list when it comes to choosing what events to go attend. And it happens way more often that you’d believe!
13. Blacklisting a writer after one not so positive review. It’s time to put on your big girl or big boy pants and stop being childish. Here’s the sitch: I picked out an Italian restaurant for my birthday that I’d been wanting to visit and PAID FOR IT MYSELF. It was woefully disappointing and I wrote about it. The publicist told me she’d never have me visit any of her clients as she “couldn’t take the risk” I would write something less than positive. I’ve been writing about food for 10 years and have published several culinary guide books, but okay. Her clients just missed out on being included in a city guide I just wrote for a national publication.
14. SWAG bags deficiencies. If you are providing swag bags, make sure all media/bloggers get one. PR will be doing a disservice if you only allotted a certain amount of bags and everyone doesn’t get one. And if by chance this does happen, (it happened to me last month and the SWAG contained a gift card to come back for a proper dinner at the restaurant), make sure to get the it to the writer, even if you have to snail mail. PS – All the PR company did was apologize. What are the chances I will go to one of their events in the future?
15. Not being social. Nothing to do with not being friendly, I mean not telling us the hashtag or handles for social media ahead of time. We should already have it in the email. But it should be on any printed materials at the event. And YOU should know your clients’ handles and which social sites they are on. If I had a dollar for every time I asked “What is the Instagram?” and being told “Um…they’re on Facebook.” Uggggh!
16. Think of the environment. It is very helpful to be sent home with a drive of information or a link via email, rather than physical pieces of paper. It adds clutter and if you are like me, you may throw something like this away instead of having it easily accessible like it would be in email or on a flash drive.
17. Destination disorganization. I find that its the exception, not the rule, for a destination to throw a lavish event, and then not bother to follow up about scheduling a visit or even ask if writers or bloggers need more information. Why would you go to the expense of footing the bill for an expensive dinner, travel costs for staff and not follow up with writers?
What other rookie PR mistakes have you been exposed to?