Gaining maximum PR leverage from awards events

By Wright Communications

Two of our clients, Sir Peter Blake Trust and KEA New Zealand recently hosted incredibly successful events - the Trust's annual Leadership Awards, and KEA's World Class New Zealand Awards.

These superb black tie occasions enhanced these organisations' reputations and celebrated the contribution of some outstanding New Zealanders. Importantly, they also attracted comprehensive media coverage, including television news slots, nationwide newspaper stories, magazine cover features, and interviews on prominent radio programmes.

Achieving the PR objectives for the Trust and KEA was the result of a successful collaborative approach with their dedicated staff, and carefully tailored PR plans.

It is important for PR to be a key part of the overall planning well out from the event, preferably months in advance. Objectives and potential issues need to be discussed as a team, and regular update meetings held.

There are myriad media channels, and a comprehensive media strategy will include all possible coverage opportunities. Often, this is based on the background of awards winners - whether it be their career history or specialty, their ethnicity, or the region they come from.

One of the most successful strategies we employ is to develop a media partnership around awards. This can be anything from a full partnership - for example, with a newspaper or broadcast outlet - to a relationship with a specialist publication which is only interested in one particular award winner.

Partnerships require a professional approach, and usually take some time to set up. A good PR company has the right media contacts to nail down the required result, and the nous to negotiate issues such as exclusivity and the prominence of coverage to the client's best advantage.

Confidentiality is nearly always a prerequisite around awards, and it is crucial for this to be understood and incorporated in the PR strategy - in certain circumstances, we ask media to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Embargoes are another important consideration. They have no legal effect, and the pros and cons of issuing news under embargo needs to be considered in the context of key media deadlines. Experienced PR professionals should get the balance right.

The final piece of the puzzle is professional and compelling media liaison - from the first five seconds of the first phone call, through to meetings with media decision makers, the development of media kits including releases and images, the issuing of event invitations to media, and managing journalists at the event.

The PR work doesn't end once the buzzing crowd disperses into the night.

Top PR professionals ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to a drive for media coverage, and more often than not it is the many post-event follow-up calls we do which complete the overall PR picture of another successful event.

The final step is a concise de-brief report and de-brief session with the client, focused on recommendations for the following year.  We have worked with Sir Peter Blake Trust on its Leadership Awards since 2008, and helped KEA leverage the World Class New Zealand awards for three years - this builds continuity with media and the client, and ensures improvements are made to the event's success every year.

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