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Image by David Carroll

The spotlight. Thousands of brands chase it, hoping for free advertising in the form of news articles, stories, and viral social media. And yet so few truly get lucky and earn the kind of press coverage marketing managers dream of. When throwing an event, such as a conference, meeting, or large party, there are a number of angles event planners can take to draw the media.

The first rule of thumb? Remember that by providing a compelling story for a journalist, you’re helping them do their job, not burdening them. Reporters have to find stories to fill their newscasts, columns, and social profiles. Make it easy for them, and you’ll be helping each other. So what makes a compelling pitch? Here are a few angles to consider.

Be Different

A story about a networking conference for IT professionals doesn’t exactly jump off the page. “A meeting happened today!” isn’t going to win the reporter accolades from their readers, but something surprising will. Search for the story within the story. The well-known speaker who offers a shocking soundbite. The musical number that broke out among the thousands of attendees. The college roommates who reunited at a professional luncheon after losing touch for thirty years. With very few exceptions, you need a hook that is a departure from the normal operations of your event. And with that hook, you’ll get a few lines of mention about your event’s core purpose, too.

Feel Good

News can be heavy. Especially in today’s social climate, every reporter is looking for the heartwarming story that will go viral and earn millions of views. Remember “Zombie Kid?” His claim to fame was telling a local reporter that he liked turtles. That kind of moment can’t be replicated, but its lesson is clear: viewers are a lot more interested in a good laugh or a touching moment than a simple story about a fair. Is there a story of courage, compassion, or hilarity that’s making the rounds at your party? That unrelated tale could be your path to PR gold.

Star Power

There’s one glaring exception to the surprising, feel good, unrelated, story-within-the-story rule: celebrity. We are a fame-obsessed culture. When fame intersects with our hometown, we get excited. And so do newsrooms. Your most promising opportunity for star power is your keynote speaker. Is a former president taking the podium? Is a surprise musical guest treating shareholders to a beloved ballad? Before you get starstruck, remember to do one thing: tip off the press.

Think Like a Reporter

Once you have your hook, it’s time to put on your journalistic hat. What can you do to make the reporter’s job easy? Provide written materials for their background information, including names, titles, and phone numbers in writing. Have a few pre-screened attendees at the ready to provide testimonials. And provide a point of contact that can return calls and emails within minutes. When deadline approaches, you want to be sure of one thing: your story, rolling on the press.