Leadership is Key Through Lousy Economy
April 27, 2009, 10:01 am
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Strong Leadership is key to planning events. Image courtesy of Google. I’m posting in response to a challenge from ready2spark about what leadership means to me during these trying times. Although I’m merely a student who has yet to experience a leadership role in the event-planning industry, I figured I’d give it my best shot and share my thoughts on the subject. 

I think leadership means having the knowledge, skills and attitude to provide direction, cultivate innovation and obtain results- no matter what the circumstances might be. 

It All Depends on How You See the Glass

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” –Albert Einstein

The glass is half full. Image courtesy of SusannahT on Flickr. I’ve always considered myself to be an optimist – and considering the fact I’m about to graduate and enter the worst job market in years, I guess I’d have to be, right? Even when the outlook seems bleak, I tend and try to look for the best in a situation.

I think it’s easy to fall into the habit of dwelling on negativity rather than being positive and responding proactively. Strong leaders should be optimistic and motivate others even when things don’t go as planned.

According to the Tal Ben- Shahar, author of The Pursuit of Perfect:

“The key difference between a perfectionist and an optimalist is that the former essentially rejects reality while the latter accepts it.” 

I think event planners have the mindset they need to plan ahead for everything; unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot anyone could have done to really prepare for this financial crisis. The plunging economy has taken its toll on all aspects of commerce in our country, but I think leaders should accept this economic challenge as an opportunity for creative change in the industry.

Why not look for the upside to the downturn?

After collecting responses from professionals in the industry, the EventManagerBlog identified the following five qualities of successful event managers:

  •  Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Passion
  • Time management

While all of these characteristics are important, it seems like during these trying times, the only way to avoid failure is to be flexible and embrace changes. Planning cost-efficient events without sacrificing quality is essential. Leaders should have the ability to rely on creativity and savvy marketing skills to come up with innovative, new strategies for planning events.

 In addition, good leadership is about motivating others to take action. Leaders have the responsibility of encouraging teams of professionals and volunteers to come up with alternatives to traditional planning methods and still meet the objectives of their company or clients.

 A professor once told me that all the good ideas have been done before, but I don’t know if that is really true in this case. Although our economy is struggling, new technologies are thriving. As social networks like Twitter and Facebook continue to expand, they present endless opportunities for future networking and event-planning purposes. Leaders should see this an exciting time to be optimistic and embrace changes in the industry.

 

 

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Building Blogger Relations
April 15, 2009, 4:01 pm
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Blogging creates buzz. Image courtesy of Google.

I was listening to the radio last week, and I heard a conversation about Heather Armstrong, the award winning mommy blogger of Dooce. After blogging for nine years and building an audience, exceeding hundreds of thousands of readers, Armstrong has positioned herself as one of the most influential woman in the parenting industry. As a result, she earns $40,000 every month for all the advertisements posted on her blog. 

Over the past couple years, I have noticed bloggers continuing to gain credibility and publicity. It seems like now more than ever, public relations professional need to focus on blogger outreach strategies rather than traditional media relations to enhance interaction with online communities.  

Blogs have transformed the way the public views traditional forms of media. Transparency in blogging has increased the ability for people to detect dishonesty, and it has given citizen journalists opportunities to enhance the way they express themselves. Bloggers have the unique ability to reach extremely targeted audiences because they post content that appeals to a niche group of people who share similar interests. More PR professionals are starting to rely on relationships with citizen journalists as part of low-budget, new media initiatives to sustain successful PR campaigns.

According to a post on PR 2.0, it is best to listen and observe before initiating any type of communication with bloggers. Building relationships with bloggers is not done aimlessly; they require traditional media relations skills, as well as planning strategic and creative approaches to promoting your client online.

PR and social media marketing expert David Parmet offered this advice:

Here are a few tips on how to get me to get interested in your clients work. Don’t pitch me. Instead, get to know me, and build a relationship, leave comments on my blog, Join the conversation. Find out what I’m interested in. Read my blog, examine the keywords, read the about page, my focus is on Web Strategy, find out what that means! I usually ignore the generic press release, it gets deleted quickly, consider a personal message. Consider not pitching a press release or announcement at all. Why not point me to relevant blog posts from the client (non marketing ones) that I’d be willing to add to my blog. Always remember that I’m thinking of my readers first, so if the content is not going to help them, I’m not going to point to it–think backwards.”

Stop and prepare the perfect pitch to send a targeted blogger. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Stop Sending Spam

Consider the following tips before filling a bloggers inbox with irrelevant information:

  • Know the blogger. Make a list of bloggers who post about events or who have written about your company previously, and then research those blogs. Building a foundation and basic understanding of bloggers and their target audiences will help when determining which bloggers to pitch and what information they’ll consider to be most relevant and compelling.
  • Be objective. Make sure to find a news hook to make the event newsworthy and of interest to the blogger. Make sure this event is entertaining, informative or of other value to the specific blog’s audience.
  • Develop a relationship. Establish an initial connection with a blogger before asking them to do anything. Always share honest, transparent information to build credibility. Make your message personal and concise, don’t send a press release to a blogger. 

Communicate Cautiously

Bloggers aren’t held to the same ethical responsibilities as professional journalists. Bloggers act as their own editors and they have the ability to post whatever they chose. Because blogging etiquette remains undefined, there is always the potential for bloggers to generate negative coverage and risk harming your client’s reputation. It’s crucial to monitor blogs and feedback from the online community to make sure and respond to criticism or negative comments. However, most of the time bloggers should work cooperatively with professionals as long as a mutually beneficial relationship has already been established. 

Social networking and blogging technologies are going to continue evolving and influencing online audiences, so interaction between bloggers and professionals should continue to improve-and eventually become just as routine as dealing with media relations for traditional reporters and journalists. 



Who Wants to be a Twillionaire?
April 6, 2009, 3:47 am
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How to earn money on Twitter. Image courtesy of Google. Well, my grandma requested to be my friend on Facebook today and it’s official – everyone is on Facebook. Everyone.

The social networking trend continues to grow in popularity, and it seems like the media have made Twitter the latest phenomenon.  According to a post on Business Insider, Twitter traffic has increased by 1,382 percent over the past year, reeling in more than 7 million visitors as of February 2009. And the success of the micro-blogging site has not gone unnoticed. A recent post on Tech Crunch stirred up rumors that Google was interested in acquiring Twitter for a deal around $250 million. Although some reports state company insiders were interested in the deal, sources said CEO Evan Williams wouldn’t sell for $1 billion.

How would you like to be on the receiving end of that deal? Not too bad for a Web site that doesn’t even make any money yet…or does it?

One Tweet Could Make a Difference

Charity:water Twestivals raise money for a good social cause. Image Courtesy of Google. Twitter has the ability to instantly connect celebrities, politicians, journalists and ordinary citizens in two-way communication. While Twitter presents a variety of networking opportunities, some organizations have utilized the technology for social good. After all, where else can all these audiences be engaged to instantly rally around a cause?

Charity:water, a grassroots effort to establish and ensure accessibility to clean drinking water worldwide, decided to organize an event where the local Twitter community could socialize offline. The nonprofit organization planned to raise awareness and funds through Twitter as a cheap, direct marketing path.

In January 2009, a tweet went out asking for cities to join in hosting a “Twestival” on February 12, 2009, with the intention of bringing participants together, via Twitter, meeting face to face, enjoying entertainment and having a few drinks while raising funds for the cause: “Tweet. Meet. Give.”

 A post on Beth Kantor’s blog prior to the event read: 

“This event will certainly make fundraising on Twitter move front and center as well as demonstrate how the age of connectedness and social media is continuing to have a profound influence in changing the way charities raise money. I suspect the amount raised will be impressive.”

And the response from the twittersphere was nothing short of impressive. More than 200 cities around the world hosted Twestivals and brought more than 200,000 twitter users together to raise more than $250,000 for charity:water. Did I mention this was all planned in only a few weeks for almost no cost whatsoever? Unbelievable.

Could Twestivals change the nature of social media fundraising forever?

Harnessing the networking capabilities behind Twitter didn’t happen on its own. Twestival planner Amanda Rose said the events were a balancing act of figuring out what was appropriate for the Twestival sponsorships and keeping the supporters engaged. Her role involved the following tasks:

  • Setting the strategy
  • Writing the guidebook
  • Mentoring city organizers
  • Establishing teams for sideline projects
  • Working with the charity
  • Securing partnerships
  • Developing website content and communications

Tweet your way to the Top

Twitter is obviously a powerful networking tool, which has the ability to bring people together and make a big impact with very little time or money. As young professionals entering the public relations industry, it’s crucial to understand how these networks operate, and how to integrate them effectively into a company’s communications or marketing strategies. As more businesses continue to cut costs by utilizing Web-based forms of communication, understanding social media is going to be a huge asset when promoting yourself to future employers. 



Strategize Events with Style


Oscar de la Renta 2009 spring line. Image courtesy of Google.

So, the weather is finally starting to get warmer and as a typical girl, the change of seasons makes me want to pack up my sweaters and clear out my closet to make room for a fresh spring wardrobe.  Unfortunately, because I am currently a very broke college student, I would have to decide between fashion and food for the next six weeks… And when floral prints, dazzling metallics, bright neons and dresses with pockets (maybe the best idea ever) are just some of the fashion trends among this season’s collections, spring sales are super hard to resist. While I thought about fasting for the remainder of the semester, I decided it would be better to use this post to discuss fashion events in an attempt to satisfy my craving for spring styles with words. 

Planning isn’t Always Pretty

I’ve always been interested in public relations within the fashion industry, but it’s a lot more than flashy runways and designer clothes. There is a lot of work involved, and it’s a competitive career to get into, so you have to be willing to start at the bottom.  

 

 

 

Fashion PR diva, Kelly Cutrone is a fashion designer and founder of People’s Revolution, a public relations firm, with headquarters in New York and Los Angeles.  Cutrone offers expert advice on the reality of how demanding a career in the fashion industry really is. 

Be a Model for Success

For these events to be effective, PR professionals in the fashion industry need to be capable of multi-tasking and working under extreme pressure to coordinate these events. And from the mascara to the seating charts, every single detail matters. The following are just some of the requirements for planning a fashion show:

 

  • Book a venue
  • Hire models
  • Schedule fittings
  • Finalize clothing and accessories 
  • Handle publicity and media relations
  • Attain model and designer talent
  • Hire hair and makeup artists
  • Recruit sponsors
  • Stage the event and lighting
  • Prepare music
  • Manage event staff
  • Arrange Seating Charts
  • Oversee promotion and production

 

Modeling on the runway at Fashion Week. Image courtesy of Google & Picnik.

 

 

Recession on the Runway

 

While the fashionista in me would love to help plan a fashion show someday, from a PR standpoint, I am starting to wonder if all this time and money is even worth it. Hard to believe, months of planning and preparation go into organizing an event that lasts less than 20 minutes.

The economical crisis has impacted all luxurious industries, and fashion is no exception. While some designers have already had to eliminate fashion shows this year, others were forced to be more innovative and strategic when planning shows to decrease spending.

I realize fashion shows are the best opportunity to present seasonal collections to the media and the rest of the fashion industry, but are designers actually going to generate enough sales for it to qualify as a useful investment?

A recent post on the F-Word. made a valid suggestion,

“Taking advantage of the Internet and social media is a great way for designers and brands to bridge the gap between the exposure from fashion week and the lack of communication and understanding to and of their consumers/possible consumers. Although this does not directly equate to more sales, creatively reaching out, listening and understanding your customers/possible customers is always a good thing!”

 

I just think increasing the use of social media during highly publicized Fashion Weeks would help to reach more audiences, be more cost-efficient and actually have the potential to generate more awareness of the designers and promote sales. 

For all the glitz and the glam associated with the fashion industry, it seems like you’d have to be willing to get pretty down and dirty to get the job done. Do you have the passion for fashion to keep you from crying on the catwalk?



Webinars: Worthwhile or Worthless?
March 18, 2009, 8:58 pm
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Webinars connecting professionals across the world. Image courtesy of Google. In the spirit of staying “green,” I thought I’d transition my next post to explore the effectiveness of planning virtual events.  The virtual trend continues to gain popularity and value among business professionals. Although Webinars may not be the most exhilarating type of event to plan, there’s something to be said about traditional conferences moving toward more innovative and unique forms of communication. As social media becomes more prevalent in the professional atmosphere, virtual events have the potential to eliminate real-life events altogether.

Okay, so that last statement might be a little extreme, but as far as the business-to-business audience is concerned, virtual events seem to be a cost-effective solution to the industry’s economic dilemma. 

While these types of events have some obvious drawbacks, how can you help but think watching Webinars from a computer screen isn’t a convenient alternative to the hassle of traveling to traditional business conferences?

 Second Life Saver

Virtual event technology has the ability to extend the reach and impact of events through multi-faceted, user-friendly and highly interactive programs. There are countless Web sites that serve as platforms for virtual event planning.

According to a recent post on the EventManagerBlog,

“Technologies have advanced to the point where virtual events look and feel remarkably like their physical counterparts.”

Second Life has proven to be a success in the virtual event industry, increasing membership by 30 percent since September 2008, according to CBN News. The virtual world established a 3D teleconferencing platform for enterprise customers by creating immersive workspaces. These sites are set aside for corporate meetings, providing a secure experience for professionals with no connection to the Second Life mainland. 

Second Life virtual conference event. Image Courtesy of Google.

The recession has actually helped Second Life, as more companies are looking to lower costs from meeting budgets. In the case of IBM, corporate event planners have been working with Second Life for more than two years to perfect the creative strategy of hosting successful virtual conferences. In just one event, IBM saved $350,000 by hosting a conference online and eliminating travel and productivity costs. 

Networking Over the Net

Professionals can engage with one another through social networking sites during Web conferences. Image courtesy of Google.Although streaming technologies provide cost-effective ways for organizations to deliver messages to thousands of professionals across the world, some worry eliminating physical meetings will decrease interaction between professionals. However, in addition to reducing costs and creating a more convenient means of corporate communication, virtual events allow professionals to engage with one another without the intimidation of speaking up in a conference room. Therefore, attendees could have the opportunity to feel more comfortable providing candid feedback and opinions on the subject matter. During Webinars, professionals also have the capability to tweet, blog and engage with one another via online communication forums. 

Plan Like a Virtual Pro

Although some professionals may still prefer attending traditional conferences rather than Webinars, the industry is only going to continue moving in the direction of virtual events and Web-based communication strategies.  So as public relations professionals, we might as well start making the transition now.

Tips for Planning a Virtual Event:

  • Prepare the meeting’s content information, keynote speakers, and thoroughly understand the Web- based technology.
  • Build an audience by promoting the virtual event to professionals who might benefit from the presentation.
  • Make sure the audience will have the ability to register, understand and gain access to the company’s virtual event platform.
  • Evaluate the event and analyze feedback from attendees to determine if virtual events are an effective way to communicate with a specific audience. 



Events Seem to be Turning Green

Image courtesy of stock.xchng.com.
Four-leaf clovers and leprechauns aren’t the only things that make the month of March so green.  More and more industries are catching the “green fever” and jumping on the green marketing trend in attempts to become more environmentally friendly.  Recently, many corporate event planners are transitioning to host greener meetings in order to help the struggling economy and create a more sustainable environment. 

Green with Environmentally Friendly Events

According to an announcement last week at the Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference, 17 cities are going to host discussions about greening meetings. These meetings will present standards from the Accepted Practices Exchange Green Meetings and Events Practice Panel on how to plan the most environmentally efficient events. The Green Meeting Industry Council inspires to lead change, and strives to transform the global meetings industry through sustainability. These conferences should increase awareness among professionals in hospitality and event management, and give them the opportunity to comment on new green standards before being finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency

Some Have Already Discovered Their Green Thumb

While those in the event planning industry still have a lot of changes to make before they’re considered “green,” some companies have already taken the initiative to position themselves as experts in eco-friendly event planning. 

Tribble Creative Group created the video above to promote awareness about the negative impact events can have on the environment.  Tribble has earned a reputation for planning creative events and providing solutions to preparing conferences and meetings generate less harm to the environment.

Don’t go Green Just Because it Looks Good

Tempted by the green mm candy. Image courtesy of Photobucket. While I think it’s great that more companies are finally promoting environmental awareness, it’s not uncommon in the industry anymore.  It seems like an increasing amount of professional event planners are trying to specialize in green marketing to position themselves as a resource for companies in search of the “green” solution. However, it’s important to be careful when calling a company “green.” Professionals must plan strategically to make an event environmentally friendly; otherwise, they could receive negative attention from the public and the media.

       Caution:

  • If a company is trying to distinguish themselves as eco-friendly by just cutting costs or using fewer resources, it can be perceived as “greenwashing.” This is not smart public relations etiquette because it’s misleading and it can be considered deceptive marketing.  

         PR Tip:

  •  If you want to plan a successful “green” event, do your research first. To position yourself as an eco-friendly company, provide real solutions to conserve the environment at the event. 



Leveraging Social Media to Plan Events
March 2, 2009, 7:28 am
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A variety of social media forums that can be used to promote events. Image courtesy of Google.

Our Society is continuing to become more dependent on the Internet and Web-based communications, and event planning is no different. Many event-planning professionals are learning to leverage the Internet to plan successful events.  When planners use social media effectively, they have the ability to create excitement, build a brand, launch a product and generate leads through viral and buzz marketing.  But — I think the coolest part about social media is that, because of the low-cost and ability to customize information, anyone can do it.

Sending Invites on the Internet

Sample Evite.com invitation for a child's birthday party. Image courtesy of Microsoft.Why spend money buying invitations and waste time sending them through the mail, when you can do it for free and send them online?

From birthday parties to corporate events, Web sites like Evite, Mypunchbowl and Pingg make it possible for anyone to create invitations and send them out over the Internet. 

According to a recent post by Peter Cohan, because of the poor economy, more people are using these sites to save money when planning events. In 2008, more than six million events were planned using, Evite.com, and that number continues to increase.

These Web sites allow users to invite guests via email, SMS/texting or even post them to Facebook or other social networks. The sites simplify the task of managing all event communications including; follow-ups, reminders and last-minute changes by enabling the user to customize, create, schedule and track RSVPs from a single event management page.

By resorting to the use of Internet invitations, are we moving away from a personalized touch when planning events or just finding a more convenient and efficient means of communicating? 

Creating a Buzz Before an Event

Promotional Poster for Toni&Guy Vancouver fashion event. Image courtesy of Toni&Guy Vancouver.

I recently read a blogpost by MarketR, about how his company worked with Toni&Guy Vancouver to plan a successful charity event by leveraging the use of the Internet for a fashion event using a blog, email newsletter, twitter account and Facebook page to engage online contacts and get people talking about the event before it actually happened. 

How they used social media tools: 

  • Blogging- The blog allowed Toni&Guy to position its brand and tell a story while planning the event. It also had a mini-site widget to create buzz, and it gave away free VIP tickets to online contacts.
  • Email Newsletter- The letter engaged clients and kept them up-to-date on chances to win tickets or other prizes, as well as revealing the behind-the-scenes preparation for the event to make its audience feel more informed and involved. 
  • Twitter Account- The twitter account helped drive more followers to read the blog and created an ongoing dialogue about the event.
  • Facebook- The use of this social network also encouraged people to read the blog. In addition, it created an event group to update people on the latest developments and activities for the night of the event. 

When social media is strategically used to in an event campaign, there is the opportunity to reach a large audience and build hype at a low cost. I think this form of event promotion is most effective when target audiences are actively engaged, and the use of social media contributes to making the event unique and newsworthy to earn  media attention.