Let’s face it: some things are just better in person. No matter how persuasive your emails are, in public and media relations that in-person element can mean the difference between media coverage and radio silence.
You might think this is common knowledge, but a 2017 Journal of Experimental Psychology study found that people underestimate how persuasive they are in person and overestimate how persuasive they are over email. The moral of the story? In our increasingly technology-focused society, it’s a smart idea to incorporate opportunities for face-to-face encounters with your target media audiences into your public and media relations strategy. These encounters are critical when you are looking to sway someone’s opinion or make a strong impact.
One of the strongest ways to make an impact is by hosting a media event. These events offer media contacts exclusive, in-person access to the news, product, or experience you’re unveiling before it becomes available to the public. If successful, their coverage will drum up excitement among their audiences and result in a successful full launch for your organization.
When Media Events Make Sense for Your Mission
There are several variables to hosting a successful media event, like selecting an engaging format and choosing optimal timing. Before you start planning, however, you should determine if your news is truly “event worthy.” To do this, ask yourself whether members of the media would gain unique knowledge and insight—that they could not otherwise—from attending an event. Many event-worthy news items check one of these boxes:
- Novel. A brand-new product that media would benefit from experiencing for themselves. For example, the opening of a new museum that no one has toured before.
- Controversial. Is there any controversy around your promotion? It might ease current controversy or prevent further controversy to create a comfortable environment where the media can ask tough questions directly to leadership and influencers in the organization.
The National Law Enforcement Museum (NLEM) recently announced a news item that checked both of these boxes—their news was best experienced in person, and the subject matter of their museum can sometimes be controversial in today’s political landscape. Below, we’ll take you through the process of planning NLEM’s media event to give you an idea of how you can replicate the process for your own breaking news.
How NLEM and U.Group Turned the Media into Detectives for a Night
As part of our work with NLEM, we created the award-winning integrated marketing campaign, Crimes UnCased. Our team developed an immersive experience that turned museum visitors into detectives tasked with solving a fictional crime using clues planted in exhibits. Those who were successful in cracking the case were entered into a sweepstakes to win a $25,000 grand prize.
When we strategized our media relations approach for the scavenger hunt, we decided it was best to unveil Crimes UnCased to the media through a customized event. Given the immersive nature of our scavenger hunt, we knew the media had to experience it for themselves in order to share with their audiences. With our strategy decided, the next steps were to create a guest list and plan an event our guests would be excited to talk about.
Creating a well-rounded guest list
We performed extensive research to isolate the right invitees for the event. Our guest list included local influencers and media contacts who cover subjects like culture, museums, and police and law enforcement at the local, regional, and national levels.
Once we had our list of target influencers, we sent invitations that were tailored to the individuals and awaited their responses. The event ended up drawing in close to 30 media attendees and served as an introduction between the museum’s leadership and notable journalists like Mike Balsamo, who covers federal law enforcement for the Associated Press. Mr. Balsamo had never been to the museum before and enjoyed himself immensely at the event.
Setting the scene of Crimes Uncased
With our attendee list in place, we worked closely with the client each step of the way to plan the event’s details. The goal was to create a fully immersive experience that put the media in the setting of an urban city like Washington, DC or New York City during prohibition era.
Together with NLEM’s internal event team we created customized, on-brand take-home gifts that included coffee mugs reading “You have the right to remain silent until I have had my coffee.” The museum’s event team also planned a prohibition-inspired catering menu including a signature cocktail called the Chicago Typewriter and miniature hot dog trucks that circulated the event.
The organization’s newly appointed CEO gave the welcome speech to guests and then media were invited to jump in, put on their detective hats, and solve the fictional crime just as museum visitors would be asked to do. In lieu of being entered into the sweepstakes, the winner of the evening’s festivities—which ended up being the team from Washington DC’s NBC affiliate—got to select a Title I school to receive a donation from the museum.
The museum’s leadership reflected on the event as a successful introduction to notable members of the media and local influencer community. The feedback received from reporters and other media who attended the event was spectacular—and more importantly, so was the media attention. Associated Press’s Mike Balsamo tweeted about some of the museum’s most intriguing exhibits to his followers, the museum had mentions on Twitter from anchors at NBC and CBS Washington, and top local influencers posted some great Instagram stories.
How You Can Drum up Excitement with Your Own Event
These highlights from U.Group’s work with NLEM should help you integrate media event planning into real-life scenarios. They should also help you to set parameters for planning your own media event should you think it makes sense for your business or organization.