event PR

12 Ways to Leverage PR to Fill Seats at Your Events

Events. Each month, there are hundreds, thousands of events taking place locally, regionally and nationally.

It’s clear that event marketing is on the rise. 85 percent of marketers cite event production as “essential” to their marketing strategies, while 41 percent consider event marketing the most crucial channel to achieve their goals[i]. Two-thirds of those surveyed say they plan to increase spending on live events in 2019.

Why are events so popular? They allow face-to-face interaction, which is vital as companies try to build that human connection with their customers and foster a sense of community.

With the uptick in the number of events, why is it that you often hear of them AFTER they happen? Or maybe you never hear about them at all.

Is Your Event a Well-Kept Secret?

When event planners are putting together their conference, webinar, workshop or summit, do they factor in how to promote it?

If you’re going to all the trouble to put together an event, wouldn’t you want people to know about it? Based on the lack of promotion, it sometimes seems as if the host were trying to keep it a secret.

Thankfully, there are ways to address this empty seat syndrome (let’s call it ESS) from which some events seem to suffer.

How to Promote Your Next Event

Here are some tips to help you get the word out and build the buzz before, during and after your next event:

1) Who do you want to attend?: Think about to what audience you’d like to promote your event. Is it mainly to attract a local crowd? Would it appeal to regional attendees? Or maybe even to national or international attendees?

Once you’ve determined this, think about the best way to reach that audience. Are there “influencers” whose help you might enlist? Can you leverage your speakers to help you get the word out? What about attendees? Can you incent them to share that they’re attending in the hopes of attracting more attendees like them?

2) Give an “early bird” discount: Of course, you’ll want to provide discounts to motivate folks to sign up. Be sure to give the early registrants a break – and maybe give them a code so they can offer a discount to their friends, colleagues and followers. If they share it, perhaps they get something in return. Enter them in a contest to meet your VIP speakers, for example.

3) Employ some good old-fashioned PR tactics: Press releases, blog posts and social media posts can all help spread the word.

Interview event headliners so you can create a press release or blog post. Share it on social media and tag them. Ask them to share it, as well.

If you write a press release, you can disseminate it using a wire service and pitch it to your list of key media contacts. If an article appears, be sure to share it on your social media channels.

4) Work with the media: To play off the above, if you have a well-known keynote speaker, you can pitch an interview to your media list.

You can also invite members of the media to attend and cover the event by offering them a free press pass. If they come, offer to introduce them to your VIPs or provide any information or statistics they may need to cover the event. Be as helpful as you can if they ask for something.

5) Social media promotion matters: When the time comes to announce the event, you’ll want to blow it out across your social media accounts. Spend some time crafting creative posts for each channel. A LinkedIn post will differ from that on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, for example.

Then, consider creating sample social media posts to share with those who may post on your behalf (speakers are one group to include). Ask them to tag your company and the event when they post it.

And, don’t overlook your fans and followers. For example, when someone is excited to share that they’ve registered for your event, be sure to LIKE that post – and respond to it. There’s nothing worse from an attendee’s perspective than to share with enthusiasm that they’re looking forward to attending an event only to get NO response whatsoever. It kills their exuberance pretty quickly. So check those social media platforms and be sure to wholeheartedly support your supporters.

6) Use a unique hashtag: Have a unique hashtag for the event. It doesn’t matter if it’s a live or digital event – you NEED a hashtag. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to post and see what others are sharing about a particular event, yet there’s no real way to find that content because the event planner failed to create a hashtag. You might be surprised by how often this happens.

7) Post the event on calendars: There are event calendars in most cities. Google “event calendars near me” or something similar to find them and create a list.

Many allow you to post the function yourself for free, while others charge a fee. Some publications have a calendar contact you can go through to submit the event for consideration.

You can also create an event on Facebook. Tag your partners and sponsors.

8) Leverage your sponsors and partners: This may already be in their contracts, but if not, be sure to invite your sponsors and partners to help you promote the event, as well. It benefits everyone involved if more people attend.

9) Give tickets away: This isn’t new, but there are a few ways to go about it. Of course, you can offer tickets to local media outlets to give away. Local TV and radio stations often give tickets to their audiences.

Another idea: Provide tickets for local organizations that are related to your topic and allow them to give them away to members. An example of this? If you’re hosting a marketing conference, offer tickets or discounts to members of the local chapter of the American Marketing Association or Public Relations Society of America and related groups.

10) Promote the event as it’s taking place: Be sure to have a social media point person whose job it is to post during the event. That person can also be sure to like, share and respond to attendees and speakers posts. They may even have to troubleshoot, should an attendee share an issue they’re experiencing while at the event.

The value of this is that others may see it and share it – and this helps build buzz for the organization that’s hosting, as well as driving interest in attending the next event.

11) Don’t forget about post-event promotion: If this is an annual event, you always want to be thinking about next year. This means that even after the event ends (and you’re exhausted!), you’ll still want to be talking about it.

Try publishing a recap of the event with highlights on your blog. Share photos or video you may have captured. Thank your attendees and speakers for being part of it. And don’t forget to interact with those who proactively shared that they attended. Remember that they chose to spend time and money to be there – so you should be VERY grateful to your supporters.

12) Build your community between events: If you’re hosting an annual event, there are ways to keep the feeling of community going all year long. Some ideas are to start a group on Facebook or Linkedin. Host a Twitter chat. Launch a Slack channel. Send out a newsletter.

Don’t Suffer from ESS (Empty Seat Syndrome)

Remember as you plan your next function not to neglect getting the word out.

However you do it, be sure to consider every option when it comes to promoting ALL your events.

How can I help you with your event PR today?

Like this post? Please consider sharing on social media and following me there. And be sure to sign up for my free monthly newsletter with exclusive content by typing your email address into the box below. 

About the author: You’ll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and award-winning writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and others.

[i] https://learn.g2.com/event-industry-statistics


Michelle's B2B PR Book is AVAILABLE NOW!

B2B PR Book cover