From the May 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Special events are an effective and affordable way to gain high visibility for your growing firm. Couple your event with a comprehensive publicity program, and you can reach new audiences, enhance your image or brand, or even catapult to national prominence--like Clarendon Cheesecakes, the tiny Clarendon, New York, cheesecake company that held a pie-eating contest to raise money for a national charity and landed coverage on NBC's "Today" program.

First, you need to decide what makes your event newsworthy. Each type of media has different requirements. Magazines, including trade press, have lead times of three to five months and are usually interested in advance features on noteworthy industry events and stories about celebrities or causes, while newspapers and radio stations are looking for local angles. Many radio personalities are often available for special appearances, and hiring one guarantees you'll get lots of on-air mentions.

TV is a visual medium, so you're less likely to get coverage of a speaker standing behind a podium--unless the speaker is making a highly newsworthy announcement--than if the speaker is met at the airport by 200 schoolchildren. More TV crews are assigned during the week, so it's best to schedule your event on a weekday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

To communicate with the press, you'll need a media alert or press release, and a press kit. A media alert is used to announce the event and provide specifics, including when and where it will be held, what will happen and who is involved. A press release, on the other hand, carries news, and it should include facts and quotes from key individuals.

The goal of your media-relations efforts should be to acquire pre-event publicity, coverage of the event and post-event stories. The real secret to winning coverage is to send your information numerous times to the same media outlets over a period of a month or more. Then follow up with each contact by phone to "pitch" your event.

During your event, designate a media area staffed by fully briefed members of your team who can distribute press kits to reporters. Be sure to collect business cards from the press or have them sign in.

After the event, follow up with reporters who attended; send thank-you notes to those who run stories. Media that were unable to attend may still be interested in doing post-event stories, so be prepared with terrific photos and a summary wrap-up to distribute to select press. This persistent attention to detail and follow-up will help ensure comprehensive coverage.