Evite.com's efforts to create a buzz have not been limited to its parties. The company comes up with all sorts of ways to get noticed, including driving around town in the multicolored Evite VW. "You need to create reasons for people to talk about you," Bracken says. "That's why people go to a site-because it was recommended by their friends or it piqued someone's curiosity." Evite's tactics have apparently met with some success: The site recently won a coveted Webby award, the Internet's version of an Oscar.
Just as Evite has activities to keep the site high-profile, TheSquare.com has networking events throughout the year. Marciano says that's the way you "rise above the noise."
The launch party should not be an isolated event, Sharpe points out, but rather part of a PR plan that takes the company from seed funding and early development through its IPO and beyond. A party's success is determined by whether it is consistent with a company's brand strategy and whether the company follows up afterwards with contacts made. "If the money is spent wisely, the party is a very good investment in brand development and relationship building with the partners, the investors and the press," Sharpe says. "The only time it's not a good use of money is if it's not done well."
Some ideas for making an impact with your party:
Be selective about your first invites. Try to find influential members of the press, investment community and industry. Then invite these people to bring friends.
Put something at the party entrance that screams what your site is all about. Put your URL on a huge welcome banner.
Put changing screen-shots of your site above the party floor.
Only hire celebrities if they fit your theme. Most of the time, celebrities are overrated, and sometimes, they don't even show up.
Plan activities around your theme. If you have a sports site, set up a mini basketball court.
If money is tight, consider hors d'oeuvres rather than a smorgasbord.
Get sponsorships from partners. They may pick up the food tab, for example, if you put their logo on one of your banners.
Put out a bowl for business cards, and ask people who are leaving if they'd like to be on your mailing list for future events. Be sure to follow up.
Julie Vallone is a Northern California business and technology writer who has crashed dotcom parties throughout the Silicon Valley and beyond.
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