Interview: Tammy Lynn Gilmore, Publicity and Press, SXSWi

Possibly one of the busiest people at SXSW is Tammy Lynn Gilmore, who heads up PR for the event. We spoke to Tammy recently — before she was consumed completely by her work at the conference.

Coordinating PR for an event as large as SXSW Interactive is not a job for the light of heart. We asked Tammi how she manages through it all, and of course what the craziest thing someone has done to try and get a press pass.

How many press pass requests did you get for SXSW this year?

Somewhere between 600 and 800 just for interactive.

How many were accepted?

There are somewhere between 400 and 450 attending press.

What is the weirdest or most “creative” way you’ve seen someone try to get a press pass for the show?

I think I got an email that somebody would make me the best taco I’ve ever had. That they would cook for me. Unfortunately they missed the deadline.

What services do you use to track media coverage?

We use several different services. PRNewswire is a partner and they help us with the clippings. We use Cision as a clipping service as well. Porter Novelli does quite a bit for us. As you know, we did the call at the end of the year last year, we sent an email t0 press asking them to collect their coverage and send it in.

What are some of the biggest challenges in conducting public relations for a festival as large as SXSW?

Our greatest strength and biggest challenge is that we have this enormous community that everyone wants to participate in. But on the flip side is that we can’t accept anybody, that gives us the difficult job of being gate keepers.

We provide the platform for the event. We are not people who say “this is the next big thing.” Our community by and large says that.

Taking in all of their feedback is big challege. Our event director Hugh Forrest really makes sure we stay engaged. We hand reply to every single email from our surveys. He has us address every issue brought up. Sometimes we get emails about things we don’t have direct control over, but we still address it.

As an employee of his, it makes me feel good.

SXSW has worked with Porter Novelli, and will continue to do so this year. What specifically do you look for in tapping outside help?

Really the value Porter Novelli brings to us is relationships. They heave really strong relationships. There is only one of me and our team here. They have more people to give other people the white glove treatment they deserve. So that’s what Porter Novelli helps provide to me.

I can give them shorthand answers and they wont be offended. They make my life easier. They do a lot of the real hand holding, taking care of people’s needs. There are always wild cards and they help us figure that stuff out.

What are you looking forward to this year?

The keynotes and opening remarks are things people always look forward to. That’s the stuff that sticks out to me. The competition at the 13th Annual Web Awards. That’s awesome.

There is a meet the press launch event. It’s only for press. It’s a special invite only event for companies that are launching new products and services. That really puts things in front of the press so they have a really quick way to see if it’s of interest to them.