Use public relations and live events to build your public profile and boost the quality and quality of your inbound leads.
In a world of high-tech sales tools and digital marketing, it’s easy to forget the positive impact that good old-fashioned public relations and events can have on generating leads and buzz for your business.
Public relations involves getting free coverage of you our your startup in traditional and digital media channels, like online publications, print publications, television, radio and social media outlets.
Your presence at live events can come via attending conferences and exhibitions as a guest or even better, by participating in the on-stage program as a speaker or panel member.
Public relations and live events are, in fact, a great complement to your digital inbound marketing activities and they can work together to boost your sales and marketing impact.
What makes public relations and live events so valuable is that it generates brand awareness, builds your company’s credibility and your authority as a founder – all without having to pay outlets for these benefits.
The exposure you get from these strategies will boost interest in your company, product or service and drive potential clients and partners your way.
In this guide, I explain the three critical elements you need to make public relations and live events a high impact lead generation machine.
USE ‘HOOKS’ TO LAUNCH YOUR PUBLIC RELATIONS AND LIVE EVENTS STRATEGY
The starting point for an effective public relations and live events strategy is the same as for digital marketing.
You need to decide what key messages, also known as ‘hooks’, you will use to get the attention of media outlets and event organizers.
Here’s how to create the right hooks.
First, make sure you have a clear value proposition as this is the foundation of your overall communication strategy.
Next, identify up to three proof points that add credibility to your value proposition by providing further layers of detail.
Finally, write 3-5 content themes or topics that support your value proposition and proof points and that you can communicate without directly selling your product or service.
Why is it important that these topics not be viewed as direct sales messages?
Because your direct goal is not to ‘sell’, but to build visibility about you, your company and product and develop your personal and professional credibility around these topics.
If you’re successful in creating this strong link, you’ll position yourself and your company as the ‘go to source’ for information on these topics and be welcomed on media outlets and conferences with open arms.
For example, say you’re a med tech startup whose value proposition is to provide a unique solution that helps improve a pregnant woman’s prenatal care.
Some relevant proof points may include:
- The founding team’s combined 30 years of experience in prenatal care.
- A study you conducted with 100 pregnant women who tested your technology and found it improved their comfort during pregnancy.
- Recognition from a credible independent body that confirms your technology provides a new approach to solving a serious problem.
Some relevant content themes or topics could be:
- How new technologies can be used to improve prenatal care.
- The five factors that women rely on in choosing their prenatal care provider.
- How prenatal care has evolved and the top three trends you can expect in the coming decade.
These content themes could be the foundation of multiple articles, interviews, and presentations that you share as part of your overall public relations and live event strategy.
Once you choose your hooks, makes sure you maintain these content topics for at least 6-to-12 months.
Consistency and repetition will drive visibility and credibility as your target customers and partners see these same topics coming up when they come across you and your business.
FIND THE RIGHT MEDIA OUTLETS TO BUILD AWARENESS
Once you’ve nailed down your key messages, create a public relations strategy that targets the media outlets that are most likely to be interested in your content themes.
The ideal platforms should speak to your target audience of either customers or business partners and most likely focus on a particular industry or subject matter.
Common forms of media include:
1. Online platforms
These can include webinars, articles, blogs, or podcasts.
Every sector has its own set of relevant online media and there is usually quite a selection from which you can choose.
Use this range of choice to your advantage, by appearing in as many of these media outlets as possible.
2. Offline media
The most common forms of offline media are television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.
Don’t underestimate the impact that appearing in more traditional forms of media can have on building your or your company’s credibility and authority.
As someone who worked in the TV industry for 20 years, believe me when I tell you: if you have the opportunity to appear on television, take it!
Nothing builds credibility more quickly that being seen on a TV screen, whether it’s as part of a news story or even better, as a live guest on a news program or chat show.
If you can get onto a program like Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den, then you’ve hit the jackpot!
These shows deliver huge ratings and reach and have built massive brand awareness for entrepreneurs and their businesses.
This is exposure you simply can’t buy.
3. Guest writing
Writing a guest article on either a blog or a print publication relevant to your industry or sector is a great way to build authority.
These articles should focus on adding value to the reader, but you can usually tie in your company and your work with customers through examples or case studies that you include in these articles.
MAKE LIVE EVENTS A CORE PART OF YOUR LEAD GENERATION
It’s sometimes hard to determine where public relations ends, and live events begin, as they feed off of each other, and provide the fuel for your lead generation efforts.
Still, there are unique benefits to participating in live events dedicated either to startups and innovation in general, or to the specific sector in which your company operates.
Live events and conferences offer an amazing opportunity not only to build awareness, but to meet people in your industry who are there for the sole purpose of networking and building relationships.
Make the most of your attendance by setting a goal of how many people you’d like to meet, and even identifying in advance who, specifically, you’d like to meet.
Have your elevator pitch ready, hand out business cards so people have something to remember you by, and follow up within 24 hours of your meeting by email that either says ‘nice meeting you,” or confirms the next steps you agreed, if any.
This is a fantastic way to meet potential customers and partners and generate warm leads for your business.
You can improve the impact of your event presence by moving up the five levels of event participation.
Attending an event is the simplest way to take advantage of this strategy as you can build your professional network and generate leads through informal conversation and discussion.
You can approach people who speak on stage as part of the conference program, or you can introduce yourself to others during breaks or specific networking events usually held at the event itself.
While there are plenty of free events to choose from, the biggest and most prestigious conferences and exhibitions normally charge an entry fee, depending on the level of access you want.
If you choose the right events to target, however, you will find that this is a great investment of your time and money.
The next level of presence is as an exhibitor.
This is when you rent space to place a physical stand inside a dedicated marketplace area.
You or your colleagues normally stay at the stand throughout the exhibition and can present your product or service to potential customers on site.
It’s a good idea to book as many meetings as possible in advance of the event itself so you don’t rely exclusively on attendees who pass by.
This type of event presence usually carries a higher price tag – due to the cost of appearing and the cost of production your stand – so make sure you choose the events and exhibitions that fit your target customer and your budget.
Taking part in a conference as the member of a panel discussion on stage is a major step up in building your credibility and authority via event participation.
As a panelist, you get the opportunity to share your opinion about a topic relevant to your business, which positions you as an expert.
Being in the company of other experts in your field – in some cases alongside other panelists who are perhaps better known in their field than you – links you to these more distinguished participants in the audiences mind and places you on their level.
The best way to become a panelist is to approach event organizers with an offer to participate for free.
If you know the conference agenda, recommend yourself for a specific panel or topic.
If the agenda is not yet public, pitch your content themes or topics and see if any of them fit the program.
Over time, as you participate in more events and become better known in your sector, you’ll find that event organizers will reach out to you to invite you to participate as a panelist.
The next level of participation that really sets you apart is becoming a featured speaker at an industry conference or event.
This is a fantastic opportunity to promote yourself as an expert and build credibility an awareness in your niche.
This is particularly true if you have a strong stage presence and share some memorable stories or examples that stay with the audience even after you’ve finished on stage.
Choose one of your content themes as the topic of your presentation, and make sure you focus on adding value for the audience and not simply selling your product or service.
Of course, you can still spend a minute introducing yourself, your company and your product or service, just make sure your speech doesn’t come off as one long sales pitch.
As in the case of a panelist, you can reach out to conference organizers directly to pitch yourself as a speaker – bigger events have a dedicated site where you can submit your entries – but as you build your profile, you’ll find inbound interest, as well.
5. Fireside Chat Guest
Being featured on stage as the subject of a ‘Fireside Chat’ – when you are interviewed one-on-one by an industry expert – is the highest rung of the event participation ladder.
If you get to this stage, you’ve probably achieved something meaningful in your industry and people want to hear what you have to say.
The benefit of being the guest of a ‘Fireside Chat’ is that you don’t need to prepare a presentation and can simply share your key messages and topics via an informal conversation.
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As you move up the ladder of live event participation – from attendee and exhibitor to panelist, speaker and “Fireside Chat’ guest, you’ll find it’ll much easier to build your professional network.
If you’re ‘on stage’, people will be more likely to approach you directly to make a personal connection and share their interest in doing business with you.
NEXT LEVEL PR AND EVENT STRATEGIES
Once you’ve implemented the basics of public relations and live events, there are three ways to boost the effectiveness of your strategy.
All three approaches amplify your credibility and authority, but they require significant effort and time commitment, so you should only consider these options if you are ready to take on this challenge.
Create your own podcast is a great way to build instant credibility.
Make sure you choose a specific topic of focus – the more niche it is the better – as this will help distinguish your podcast from the tens of thousands of other ones available on Spotify, Apple Podcast or Google Podcast.
You can choose to be the primary host and driver of your podcast, sharing your thoughts on specific topics related to your product or service in a structured way, as if you were speaking at a conference or event.
Alternatively, you can invite guests on your podcast and interview them as if you were conducting a ‘Fireside Chat’ with them.
You can use your podcast as a platform to connect with potential customers and partners by inviting them on as guests.
I created the Launch Stories global startup podcast and have spoken to some amazing entrepreneurs about how they built a successful global business.
I share these lessons with my audience of startup founders, who aspire to be as successful as the guests I have on my podcast.
Check out my latest episodes HERE for some inspiring entrepreneurial stories.
2. Hosted Event
Another high-level way to build your authority in your industry is to host a live event yourself and invite others in your space to attend either for free or on a paid basis.
Creating your own even makes you a ‘gatekeeper’ in your industry and enables you to set the agenda and invite guest speakers and panelists.
Creating a live event is no small task and requires significant investment of time and resources, so if you go down this path, make sure you are committed to following through.
3. Own Book
The highest rung of the public relations strategy ladder is writing a book that positions you as the expert in your field.
A book creates instant authority because you can say, you literally ‘wrote the book on’ whatever topic you are writing about.
Whether you self-publish or get a traditional publisher to put out your book, you’ll find that it will attract interest from media outlets and event organizers and be a key driver in building your profile in both arenas.
Writing a book requires a tremendous commitment of time, energy and focus, so only do this once you’re ready to devote at least a full year to this project.
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