by Vicki LaBrosse

The planning, coordination and expense your company has put into live events have come to a halt. What do you do when your event, trade show or conference has made the shift from in-person to virtual hosting? How do you plan for new product or corporate announcements, in-person networking and lead generation in a virtual environment? Most events are going virtual through 2021 and beyond. It is necessary that your company adapts and develops its PR strategy to boost brand visibility and enhance media participation. Virtual events can still give companies a chance to connect with their audiences, including journalists planning to attend the show. Consider these tips to maximize press engagement for virtual events.

Engage Early
The relationships you have with media and influencers should be established long before the start of an event. The event is the opportunity to connect socially, but it should not be the first nor the last communication until the next event. Reach out to journalists well in advance of the event and supply them with information about your company and upcoming announcements. Ask if they would be open to engaging virtually by inviting them to a press conference or offering one-on-one meetings with company executives. Theoretically, taking an event online could increase media participation. Reporters no longer need to travel and commit to 2-4 days for event attendance, resulting in a flexible opportunity to learn about your company. If your news can be announced in advance of the event, ask to schedule meeting time with press prior to the event to ensure your best chance of media coverage.

Amplify Breaking News
If you have news to announce and the conference is the appropriate time to publicize it, go for it, but do realize others can overshadow your news. Prevent this from happening by tying your news into a larger story or trend that is being discussed in your industry. This makes you more compelling for media and influencers to talk to. Consider hosting an interactive press conference using a livestream or webcast. This is a great format for exciting product launches or major announcements. There’s also the opportunity to offer private one-on-one meetings with executives and members of the media that can be held on a videoconferencing platform where you could demo your product and still get some of that face-to-face interaction you would have at a live event. Be sure to have preproduced multimedia content available for download afterward. Consider creating a custom media kit stocked with important content such as product fact sheets and launch announcements.

Get Social
Take advantage of social media, before, during and after an event. Find out if there is a hashtag associated with the event and use it. Attend the keynotes at the event and live tweet using the hashtag. Encourage visitors to your booth or speaking events to engage with your own brand’s Twitter handle. Ensure your company employees know about the hashtags and encourage them to share content. Also, blog early and often. Create blog posts on subjects pertinent to the event and share them over your social channels. Do this several times during the weeks leading up to the event to create excitement about your company and among your customers, influencers and media. Continue to blog throughout and after the event as well.

Follow Up
Be sure to follow up with members of the media who attended your event or met with you one-on-one. Virtual events allow for promotion long after the conference has ended by directing media to your website to access video, press releases and in-depth content.

With innovative planning, you can still make PR work with virtual events. While product launches may look a little different, there is an opportunity for brands to stand out and drive media visibility and press coverage during virtual events.