This is a guest post by Ben Hindman CEO and co-founder, Splash.
Getting press to your events impresses your clients, builds brand visibility, and (in an ideal world) results in some media coverage. But when journalists are getting 10 to 20 press invites a week (we know—we asked them), how do ensure your event gets on their to-do list?
In order to get insights on what really convinces the media to attend press events, we asked 16 journalists from outlets like Men’s Health, Refinery29, Entrepreneur and International Business Times. Besides general uniqueness, proximity to the venue and not scheduling things during their work day, the invitation itself was the biggest selling point.
Here are 11 things you can do to get their attention in your next event invitation:
1. Don’t bury the lead (or the punchline).
Reporters learn this day one in journalism school, so it’s imperative you spell out the exclusivity and cool factor right away. Conversely, don’t hide the pitch. If you’re trying to sell a cookbook by throwing a skateboarding competition, fess up. If there’s going to be puppies involved anywhere, make sure to say that, too (we’ve found that one to be especially successful).
“I say get to the point. I’ll be the one to decide whether there might be a story there.”– Lifestyle reporter
2. Be as concise as humanly possible.
The five-Ws-approach is a winner for people who are being bombarded with logistics. The goal is to design an invitation that can easily be scanned, doesn’t feel generic, and relays an overall tone for the event. If your brand is not well known, sharing a bit of background on what they do can help inspire coverage opportunities. Just be terse. If they have questions, they’ll ask. (It’s part of their job.)
“I’m looking for a clear, concise subject line with full details at the top of the email, followed by a brief but descriptive explanation of what it’s for, why it’s relevant to me, and what to expect if I attend.”– Lifestyle editor
3. Know your audience (and theirs).
The biggest factor that secures an RSVP? Relevancy. Unless you’re giving out front row Kanye tickets, most journalists won’t (and can’t) attend your event or product demo because it doesn’t have any use to their reader. Pitch with empathy. And, for goodness sake, spell their name right. (That one really ticks them off.)
“I’m looking for something that’s relevant to my audience and seems like a unique addition to the industry. Good food, casual atmosphere, and an interesting venue help.”– Web editor, fashion
4. Balance visuals with text.
If anyone can appreciate visual storytelling, it’s your media rolodex. Our surveyed journalists agreed: A well-designed invitation speaks to the quality of the event. Use images in the body of the email, never as an attachment, and make sure your invite has text that can easily be copy-and-pasted. No one wants to re-type product or event information they can’t highlight from a text-heavy jpeg.
“It should be clean, well-designed, and tightly-written so it gets to the point. Not overly PR-ish, not junky jpegs with crappy headshots or crappy product shots.”– Blog editor, luxury lifestyle brand
5. Burn the PDFs.
Lose the attachments altogether. Thousand-word press releases are hardly ever read. Even just the words “see attached” is an automatic point against you.
“I can’t stand when people attach an invite and are, like, see attached! It’s 2016, paste your image into the email or give me a super simple link to click.”– Pop culture editor
6. Include a calendar prompt.
Providing an “add to calendar” button in your event invite is one of the most useful and courteous gestures you can make. Just make sure to name your event accordingly and provide all the pertinent details (especially how to get there) in the notes section. This kind of extra flourish hardly goes unnoticed.
“I am annoyed if there aren’t event details that I can easily pop into my calendar.” – Former fitness editor
7. Emphasize a rolling start time.
A universal comment from our survey participants: Lax attendance times automatically seem more inviting and accessible. Use language to convey this “drop by whenever” behavior in the invitation and watch your RSVP rates skyrocket.
“I want it to feel low-maintenance and not something I will get sucked into for five hours. Something I can pop by and mingle at, without making it a big thing. Maybe I actually WILL stay a while, but I want it to feel natural.”– Digital editor, fitness pub
8. Highlight the RSVP prompt.
You have two options here. You can send the attendees out to an event site via an RSVP button, or you can allow them to reply to the invitation itself. Our surveyed journalists said they were happy to follow given instructions, as long as they were clear and concise.
The one thing they won’t do? Copy and paste someone else’s email address into a new message. So take out any unnecessary steps and make sure you send the invitation from an address you can access later.
“I can’t stand when an invite will say ‘RSVP here’ instead of replying to the person who sent it to you. I will only reach out to the RSVP email if I really want to go to the event. It should be easy to just click and RSVP.”– Pop culture editor
9. Allow plus ones.
At Splash, we like to promote the “bring a friend” rule for all free events, but it’s especially important to journalists. Nobody really likes attending events by themselves, especially when they think they’re being pressed for interviews.
All our journalists agreed that allowing plus ones (and announcing that in the invitation) would dramatically increase the likelihood of their attendance. Here’s a bonus: Journalists hang out with other journalists. Why not up your chances by encouraging a group outing?
“Plus ones are huge. I’m more likely to want to go if I can bring a buddy.”– Pop culture editor
10. Make mobile a priority.
You might think they’re chained to a desk all day, but our journalists are on the move, and often checking their email during meetings or video shoots. Creating a single-page invite that loads quickly and responsively on all their devices is a must.
“Just make sure it’s clear and opens fast on mobile.”– Creative director, fitness pub
11. Give up gracefully.
One follow-up reminder about your event is considerate. Anything more starts to hinge on overkill. No response after your second hit means they aren’t interested. And if they do turn you down, don’t ask if there’s another staffer that’s available. It doesn’t help you in the relationship-building department and it makes you sound desperate.
“Personality is the most important, honestly. People who understand your publication and don’t ram things down your throat that wouldn’t work. They should be accessible but not stalkerish.”– Blog editor, luxury lifestyle brand
Although it may not feel like it, you’re going for the long game here. We asked our journalists to list the qualities of their favorite PR contacts. The words honest, reliable, and chill (actually “chillness”) came up a bunch. Be attentive and respectful and you’ll win over your press list, one clear, clever, pdf-free event invitation at a time.
Ben Hindman is co-founder and CEO of Splash, an all-in-one event marketing software used by some of the biggest organizations in the world. In 2015 alone, Splash has powered 500,000+ events for brands ranging from Budweiser to the City of New York. You can find Ben on Twitter or LinkedIn.