As an event business owner, your time is monetized — every minute counts, and there’s simply no room for ineffective PR strategies. If you’re investing time and energy in publicity efforts, they have to move the needle and push you closer to your goals. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting more resources than if you had done nothing at all.
But that leads to a critical question: What is considered a PR success?
Is it about earning recognition from your favorite industry publication? Do you intend to build a reputation that helps you become a national speaker? Or is it about increasing revenue by booking more qualified leads?
What you hope to achieve from public relations should tie into your big-picture business goals, but other than that, there is no right or wrong answer. Your PR strategies should be unique to how you see your business growing in the next five, ten, and twenty years.
Goals can look like anything your heart desires, so think about what you want out of life and business. You could aim to book a certain number of weddings, become a thought leader, build an effective team, earn an association leadership position, or launch a passive revenue stream.
Then, when you have a picture of your ideal future, start considering how public relations can get you where you need to go.
Before diving into all things PR, let’s cover some general goal-setting strategies to set yourself up for success this 2022.
Figure out your endgame and work back from there.
When you think of your business in ten years, how does it look? Are you leading a team that keeps the ship running while you focus on strategy? Will you limit your work to ten hours per week? How many clients will your business serve at once, and at what price point? Are you a renowned thought leader earning a significant income from speaking?
This can be a tough exercise, but looking ahead and getting comfortable with the future version of yourself will help you to make smarter decisions in the years ahead. As you consider the future, revisit the lessons you’ve learned in the past. For example, perhaps you realized that you don’t like offering a particular service, or maybe you now know who you need to hire to reach your next level of success.
Begin working back from the vision you’ve created. If future you is gracing stages around the world but today’s you hardly speaks up in a Zoom meeting, you may decide to join Toastmasters as your first step. Then, you might pitch yourself to some smaller podcasts or offer your expertise to a local college. Small steps are vital, but only if they keep you on track to your end goal.
Break your goal into objectives.
While these two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a significant difference between goals and objectives. While you strive to reach both of them, goals are much broader-based outcomes you hope to achieve. On the other hand, objectives are the benchmarks you must hit on your way to reaching a goal.
For instance, say your goal is to hit $500,000 in annual revenue within five years. It’s easily measurable and time-bound, so you have a definition of success. But it’s not as simple as writing yourself a check and taking it to the bank! Instead, you need objectives to point you in the right direction and motivate you with smaller, shorter-term wins.
In the $500,000 example, your objectives might include:
- Selling a certain number of top-tier packages each year
- Creating an online course to generate another stream of revenue
- Building a sales team to increase outreach
- Adding more value to your offerings to raise pricing
There are many ways to reach $500,000, but your objectives define how you will do so.
Accept what lies beyond your control.
Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans are subject to external influences that prevent us from reaching our goals. From global pandemics to boats obstructing major shipping channels, business owners must always be ready to “roll with the punches” and adjust accordingly.
Fortunately, those in the hospitality industry are no stranger to adapting to a difficult situation. From creating makeshift rigs onsite to hosting virtual events during COVID, event professionals are driven by creativity and often the first to offer an innovative solution in a seemingly-impossible situation.
So trust your ability to adapt while remaining mindful that specific goals may not be attainable due to outside factors. Product shortages, shipping delays, severe weather, and other current affairs can all impact your ability to hit your milestones, so give yourself grace and stay realistic as you plan for the future.
Don’t overpromise yourself.
Ambition is lovely, but it can become risky if you overshoot your goals. Would it be great if you accomplished your top ten goals this year? Absolutely! However, it would also be quite disappointing to finish the year with only two of those boxes checked.
Limit yourself to three short-term objectives for the year, ensuring that each of them plays a role in your long-term goals. Otherwise, you’ll get overwhelmed and nothing gets done — this is natural human behavior, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
Instead, start smaller with fewer objectives to avoid paralysis. If you want to add more later, go for it! But let that be a decision for when you’re already comfortable with what’s on your plate. Set quarterly appointments with yourself to revisit your objectives and ensure they still make sense given your bandwidth.
So with all of that said, where does PR come into the mix? How can you harness the power of reputation management to achieve your definition of success?
It all boils down to a simple formula: Message + Audience = Channel
Understanding the core of your brand’s messaging and what your audience needs to hear helps you identify which outlets to pursue in your PR approach. How can you position your message in front of the audience you want to book?
This three-part framework applies to every type of PR opportunity, including the four most common avenues for wedding professionals:
Real weddings continue to be the gold standard for industry pros, so it’s a great place to start if you’re new to the world of PR. Think about the outlets that stand out to you, as well as the style of weddings you book most. Then, create a system for mapping out weddings you want to submit and where they’ll have the most impact.
A word of caution: It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of national outlets like Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot, or Harper’s Bazaar. These are excellent publications, but don’t lose sight of the second part of that formula: Audience.
In many cases, local and niche outlets provide the best return on investment (ROI). They may not get millions of views per month, but they have your audience. For example, if you’re based in Chicago, you want to book Chicago couples — a national publication may generate a few inquiries, but a local media channel offers more qualified leads.
Who doesn’t love a beautiful inspiration shoot? You get to work with fellow creative partners and experiment with new design styles, but without the pressure of meeting client expectations. But, of course, that also means you don’t have a client footing the bill, so inspiration shoots must produce an ROI.
Here are a few considerations before signing onto an inspiration shoot:
- What outlets stand out to you?
- How much can you allocate for the budget?
- Can you find the best professionals to fulfill your vision?
- Do you have the bandwidth to manage the shoot AND leverage the opportunity?
Not every publication accepts styled shoots, so you’ll have to research and find the best destination. However, the ROI of an inspiration shoot isn’t solely about getting published. You get to produce fresh content for your marketing and develop stronger industry relationships in your market.
Award submissions are often overlooked in favor of lower-hanging fruit, but there’s nothing quite as powerful as marketing yourself as an “award-winning” professional. It’s a phrase that goes far with potential clients, so awards are certainly worth your time.
Spend some time researching industry awards and noting any that stand out. Look at national and local options alike, including any your competitors have earned. This is an excellent task for a virtual assistant or marketing specialist if you’re short on time.
While researching, start mapping out the deadlines ahead of time so you can have as much time as possible. If necessary, find a writer early on to help you craft a winning submission. In addition, many awards request referrals, so start gathering those ahead of time as well. Then, when a new award opens up, you’ll have already laid the groundwork to expedite the process.
Getting started with speaking is similar to award submissions, but you’ll need to build your platform first. What kind of topics can you offer in a way no one else can? When people want to pick your brain, what are they asking you? What do you want to be known for in the industry? Get clear on your desired thought leadership role and create a handful of finalized topics that are ready to copy and paste into a submission.
Then, map out ideal conferences and events, much like with awards. What stands out? How do the submission deadlines fit into your busy season? Are the guidelines reasonable, and can you gather everything needed in time?
Again, speaking research is easy to assign to a team member. Be clear about your ideal audience, the type of content you’ll share, how far you’re willing to travel, and whether you require compensation. Regardless of who is responsible for research, these four elements will ensure the best opportunities rise to the surface.
No matter which of these channels you choose to pursue, the key to effective PR is in the measurement stage. First, you must be able to confirm whether a strategy was successful or not, so revisit your big-picture goals to see if any given endeavor moved the needle. Otherwise, what was the point of doing all of that marketing work?
One best practice for all marketing activities is to add a section to your contact form to ask, “How did you hear about me?” It’s simple and effective, providing insights directly from your inquiries.
You may also ask these questions to measure success:
- How much business am I getting from press links? (Pro tip: Google Analytics is a must-have tool for determining channel-specific traffic.)
- Has my SEO improved from earning backlinks? (Pro tip: Tools like Moz, Similarweb, and StatShow can help you track your rankings.)
- Have my podcast efforts been worthwhile? (Pro tip: Podcasts are notoriously challenging for gathering metrics. Check out Castbox, but take it with a grain of salt.)
While these are just examples, you’ll need to ask the questions that relate to your goals. If you want to succeed at PR, you must connect the dots to align your goals with your audience. It’s great if you like a particular publication or award, but it must be a worthwhile use of your time and resources. Otherwise, it was just for fun (which is OK, but not goal-related).
To wrap this up with a meaningful call to action, take heed of this statistic: People who are published early and often see an increase in revenue between 50-70 percent. They effectively earn more than those who aren’t published at all. So don’t wait any longer — start getting your feet wet with small PR moves that will push you toward your goals and motivate you to reach for bigger opportunities.