How can I make my customer conference an industry event?
User events can drive industry thinking - if the right people are involved and there's enough buzz, says Amy Bermar of Corporate Ink. "The right event puts your company at the center of industry change," she notes, "and attendees feel like they're part of something big."
Media isn't always part of company-sponsored user events, but can be leveraged to make news either before or after the conference. To transform user conferences into industry events, Bermar suggests creating competitive awards for customers and tapping recognized names in the industry.
"Announce it early, and use third parties as your judging panel," she says. Nominated customers can come from the sales team, but should include official nominations that are open to anyone, even your competitors' customers.
Sponsorship opportunities with partners can reduce the cost and also get them to participate in the agenda. "Customer conferences are major sales opportunities," notes Bermar. "They can also become the place for customers - and the media - to get the latest news."
National magazine placements are hard to achieve. What are the alternatives?
Placement of your PR message in top-tier magazines is an obvious priority for any print PR program, but don't overlook the opportunity to reach local and regional magazines - particularly for lifestyle, home, and garden products, says Brian Agnes of Family Features Editorial Syndicate.
"Local and regional magazines provide an excellent vehicle for your brand message," he notes. "With most being published monthly, they are a nice complement to the daily and weekly newspapers that should be part of your PR plan."
Given their limited editorial resources, many local magazine editors source freelance and syndicated material to augment their staff-written content. "If you... want to place a story yourself, first take the time to develop a relationship with the editor and find out his or her editorial needs," Agnes advises. "Get a copy of the publication to understand the editorial style, and craft your article with an entertaining, informative, and solutions-oriented angle that presents your product or service in a subtle, non-promotional way."
What kind of charts and diagrams should I be using to enhance my campaign or organization?
"A good graph can elevate your data, whereas a poor one can most certainly reflect negatively," says Lori Wilson of Funnel Inc. "Select a chart format, colors, and any embellishments mindfully so that these choices make the information more clear, interesting, and appealing to your audience."
Use graphics selectively to avoid "chart junk," which can dumb down your data and jeopardize an organization's credibility, she notes. Ensure accuracy of data presentation, even when generated by a computer, so that apples and apples are being compared and data points are represented to scale.
"And be sure to let your data guide the format of your chart or graph," adds Wilson. "Fewer charts are better than bar graphs when dealing with time-related data. Avoid lots of little categories for pie charts."
You also must determine your audience before creating your chart. "Whether your chart is to a group of scientists or busy moms," she advises, "remember that everyone is time-pressed. The most successful charts deliver key messages that pack a quick visual punch."
Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact Irene Chang if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.