PRWeek: Events have become a commonplace part of a PR campaign. What are some of the ways that PR pros can maximize the results of their event?
Jack Mardack: The best way to maximize the results of your event is to find a cost-effective, repeatable event formula that you can readily scale across multiple markets. Take, for example, Weber Shandwick's “Got Milk?” Mustache Mobile Tour earlier this year, which used Eventbrite to centralize event management for the multiple cities. Weber Shandwick took the wellness and nutrition message and delivered results for the client by doing exactly the same thing at each event in each city. The agency rented out a centrally-located, large public venue and gave away product and pamphlets. They touched about 30,000 American consumers directly at the events, but also consistently exposed the URL of a single Web site created especially for the campaign – whymilk.com. This gave Weber the ability to track offline-to-online crossover traffic on a city-by-city basis.
PRWeek: What are some of the trends that you're seeing in events planning and execution? Are there any popular strategies or tactics?
Mardack: Because it's gotten so easy to pull together an event fairly quickly and cheaply, a lot of companies are becoming more creative with their events. Last month Virgin Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which also enlisted Eventbrite's services, brought a few hundred people together for an event at a bar in New York City to watch representatives from each company duke it out on Guitar Hero. This event came together in only a few hours, and both companies used Twitter to spread the word. About 100 people showed up at the offline event, Tweeted about it, and uploaded images with the sponsors' names in tow.
PRWeek: Social media has also become a standard PR campaign component. What does an offline event offer that online social media engagement can't?
Mardack: I don't see these things as being either/or. It's all about using the convergence of the new and the traditional to your advantage to create a better, more effective model overall. It would be optimal to use online social media to drive people to offline events, and then use events to drive people back to your online social media. The most successful events are the ones that combine online social media engagement and offline engagement to achieve an effect for clients that is larger than the sum of the parts. If you are still thinking of your social media initiatives separately from your events initiatives, you're missing a big opportunity.