IT’S good to have a passion. Real, unabashed enthusiasm is contagious and a joy to behold in a person, even if it’s a passion you don’t share. When you get people coming together who share a passion then you have the beginning of something cool – a club, a team or perhaps even a movement.
Here at Harrogate Convention Centre we often deal with enthusiasts who want to share their passion and bring together fellow fans at an event. Throughout the year we host healing festivals, gin festivals, board game festivals and we’re about to stage a huge comic book art festival. All these events started out as an idea from someone with a passion, and those events continue to grow every year. Like I said - passion is contagious.
So… you want to have a go at organising your own convention. That enthusiasm has spread to a few trusted friends and you’re all fired up and ready to welcome the world. You’ve got a cool event name, the dates and a venue. Now what? Now you need to let fellow enthusiasts know why your event will rock their universe. It’s time to get your PR plan rolling. Our PR & Media Manager, Richard Catton, who’s worked with many start-up expos and festivals, shares five tips to get your story out there when you’re the new kid on the block.
Get everything in place before you even whisper details of your event to anyone. And by ‘everything in place’ I mean get all your website and social media pages set up, contact details established, ticket platforms working and press release written, then go BIG with your launch.
Let’s say you’ve organised a weekend for fans of science fiction collectables - research your target audience, discover the hashtags, where do they converge online? Where do they trade collectables?
Pick a date to announce your event, tease it for a week on social media, embargo your press release until launch day, open your website for business. Announce your event to the world with a big bang and you’ll avoid a publicity black hole.
You need a friend
Chances are if you are heavily into a hobby, scene or lifestyle, you’re going to know others with the same interest. It’s time to call-in (or beg) some favours.
That big launch we talked about could be a whole lot bigger with a little help from your friends. Ask them to follow your new twitter account and use your event’s hashtag regularly (yes, you do need one). Do you know someone with a business relevant to your event? Ask them to put a poster up and share your posts across their social media. Would they even be willing to sponsor you in return for their branding across your event? And don’t forget to invite relevant bloggers, in fact roll out the red carpet for them. If you consider your launch announcement as dropping a stone into a still pond, your friends and contacts are the big ripples.
What can the venue do?
Whether your event is taking place in a hotel function room, or a fully equipped venue with purpose-built spaces such as (to pick a completely random example) Harrogate Convention Centre, you and your venue have a shared interest.
A good venue should do everything it reasonably can to ensure your event is a success. When you take your event to a venue you’re not only their client, but the visitors you attract to your event will have a positive impact on the local economy, think taxi rides, money spent in local cafes or restaurants etc.
A venue should have a PR support package to offer as standard. This includes a degree of access to their social media followers and press contacts. Talk to the venue, find out what they offer, then be cheeky and ask for a little bit more. Your success is their success too, especially in that tough first year.
You’re opening in 10 minutes and there’s a huge queue of enthusiasts waiting to get in. Time to relax, your PR job is done…right? Wrong!
That queue of people? Grab a snapshot and get it slapped across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with all the right hashtags and you’ll make the people who aren’t in that queue feel as though they’re missing out. Once you’re up and running it’s not about pre-sales anymore it’s about getting people turning up and paying on the day. Work with your exhibitors, guest speakers and visitors. Pump those hashtags, get trending and use lots of images with real people doing cool stuff. Make it feel like your event is THE place to be on that day for anyone who shares your interest.
Plan next year this year
The first year of an event can be tough so don’t get down if you haven’t set the world on fire…yet. The fact you actually took your event past the ‘talking about it in the pub stage’ is way further than most manage. However, what you have now is two very valuable commodities – experience and, what we in PR call ‘assets’. By assets we mean, amongst other things, a great set of photos from your event (please get a professional photographer in and get those GDPR forms signed), they are very handy when building the buzz for year two and populating your website with content. Also collect as much feedback as you can from visitors, stall holders or exhibitors – invaluable in evolving for your second event. Make sure you publically thank everyone involved and get the post-show press release out (The Force is Strong for Sci-Fi Convention’s First Year etc) with a few of your best pictures and the dates for the following year. Now get cracking, there’s only 12 months until your next event…
For inspiration, check out some of these public shows which we’ve launched, or are currently hosting at Harrogate Convention Centre.
AIRECON Analogue Gaming Festival
Wildlife & Safari Travel Show
Thought Bubble comic art festival
The Gin to my Tonic Festival