Ben Chodor
Ben Chodor

Live events are a vital component of every PR program. Brands rely on events of all sizes to showcase their latest innovations and corporate news, network with other industry professionals, meet new customers, and engage with media to garner press coverage. However, as of February, all in-person events came to a complete halt, and PR pros had to adjust their planned 2020 programming and revamp their strategies quickly.

With millions of dollars on the line, event organizers found a scalable solution—virtual events. Tech industry leaders like Oracle and Microsoft announced that their in-person events for 2020 would shift to a virtual format. Given the nature of their business and roots in the tech sector, this seemed like a rather obvious solution. However, the momentum continued, and other brands and verticals began to follow suit, including healthcare, entertainment, and food and beverage.

Event organizers have started planning for 2021, and PR teams have begun drawing up plans to support different campaigns and event formats. If there is one thing we have learned it’s that virtual events are here to stay. While we can agree nothing can truly replace an in-person event, there are several benefits to having both in-person and hybrid events. That said, PR professionals must learn to navigate the virtual event landscape and find ways to get creative and generate opportunities for their clients.

Having the right tools makes a difference

While the nature of virtual events might appear to make it more challenging to interact with attendees directly, PR professionals can quickly remedy this by using the right tools at the right times. Are you hosting a press conference? Consider launching a branded live stream or webcast. With the right platform, you can also offer breakout rooms or 1:1 personalized video meetings and interactions. All of which are a win and well-received.

Personalization is key

Similar to live events, personalization is critical. PR pros should still attempt to interact as much as possible. Go the extra mile when it comes to media outreach. Consider creating personalized agendas, event plans, and activity links for reporters to navigate through the event. When creating these, remember your end goal and the story you are trying to create. Provide the reporter with the necessary sessions and content they’ll need to remain engaged. By taking ownership of the schedule and direction, you create a seamless experience that they may remain engaged with.

Remember to engage

To strike the best engagement, you must bring the show to life. Whether you include gamification options, giveaways or swag bags, it helps! Reporters and influencers do not have the opportunity to touch, feel, or interact with your product or team. Instead, you can consider creating "booth kits" or "to-go" bags that they can unbox on a live feed alongside you. Don't hesitate to get creative with it either—perhaps it's a cocktail to sip while watching!

Lean into your digital channels

Amplifying your client's voice across social media and other digital channels is nothing new. Put time into crafting an ongoing digital media plan to broaden your audience and reach. Be sure you are promoting it on company channels, individual channels, and others continuously. Do not hesitate to include session titles or descriptions and always be sure to engage with hashtags, speakers, or attendees interested.

Train to the platform

To create the smoothest experience possible, be sure to become a pro at whatever platform a given event is using. This will take some training leading up to the event, but the long-term pay-off from knowing how to use platforms properly makes a difference. Hosting a pre-event training session for media members might allow you to stand out and guarantee a perfect virtual experience come event time.

Post-event takeaways

While following up with media members who attended your event is nothing new for PR pros, virtual events offer even more opportunity for post-event promotion. Be sure to check what kind of access you have to video archives, press releases, and other useful content following any given virtual event.

In summary, while the transition to virtual events might seem like a significant leap, PR professionals have an array of tools and strategies at their disposal to navigate this new landscape. As the industry continues to evolve, we must too!


Ben Chodor is president of Intrado Digital Media, which owns the PR workflow platform Notified.