Fun runs, fashion parades and food festivals: the PR behind major events

Image courtesy of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
Image courtesy of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

It is amazing what you can learn from fun runs, fashion parades and food festivals. Three Melbourne communicators shared the excitement and challenges of managing PR for major events at a panel discussion in May.

The panel included Sally Brown from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Sharon Morris from the Mother’s Day Classic and Brooke Shell from Ann Morrison PR. Topics included measuring the success of major events, building relationships, sponsors, volunteering and planning.

Key points:

  • Planning is instrumental and starts 18 months in advance for major events
  • Managing relationships with volunteers, sponsors and attendees is a large part of the PR professional’s role
  • Measurement and reporting has become an extremely important part of major events communication

Brooke Shell says the media landscape has changed considerably in the five years she’s been working on L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. This year, they held their first bloggers conference and got a huge response. She also says media accreditation is a major part of large events. Both Sally and Brooke work on festivals with a large number of events in different locations, and agreed there was a lot of interest from local media who wanted stories about people and events in their area.

When asked about the importance of measuring the success of their events, the panel said it was important to not only get quantitative data but also qualitative information. Sally Brown said feedback helped improve future festivals and communication approaches.

On the topic of measurement and data, Sally Brown also said the Food and Wine Festival were able to track where people were when they bought their tickets and were seeing a large number of tourists from New Zealand. As a result, they now focus some of their communications on this market including New Zealand launches.

When asked about tips for smaller events, Sharon said people organising events in smaller communities should build strong relationships with local businesses. She also said councils can provide invaluable support – particularly helping shut down roads for fun runs.

Sharon, who runs multiple events around the country on the day of the run talked about the importance of volunteering. She has a very small team of paid professionals and relies on the support of volunteers.

All agreed they often needed to work on their work/life balance, particularly in the lead up to their events. Brooke Shell who is used to managing celebrities, models and fashion designers said she often reminds herself and colleagues that we work in PR not the ER. Sally Brown likens her job to triaging and says she’s learnt to focus on the big picture and not sweat the little stuff.

Here are some facts about the events Sally, Sharon and Brooke have worked on:

  • The Mother’s Day Classic is Australia’s largest charity fun run and has raised more than $7.8 million in past decade
  • The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2012
  • L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival has been running since 1996

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