How To Plan An Amazing PR Event (with a not so awesome Budget)

Producing a successful media event on a budget is not as hard as you think. The number one skill you need (aside from being a stellar bargain shopper) is organization. If you’re a PR pro, you most likely have this skill down pat. Once you figure out the What and Why of your event, the Where, When and How will easily follow. Here are some tips to creating an awesome soiree on a shoestring.

Find the right venue

The location for your event is your first hurdle. This will most likely be the biggest expense unless it makes sense to hold it at your company’s PR office or your client’s workspace. Think about where most of your guests will be coming from and keep the location central. A cute, trendy restaurant, boutique hotel or bar with a separate party room or patio can work well, and reduced the need to decorate from scratch. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on the price with the manager. The worst they can tell you is NO. Ask about their less busy days and times and try to make that work to your advantage. Since most people have day jobs, scheduling your event in the morning before work or in the evening once people leave for the day will insure you more RSVPS.

Host multiple clients at once

A great way to keep the budget down with a PR event is by having more than one client participate. Last April, I held a spring beauty media event that included 6 clients. While that sounds like a nightmare, it actually worked out brilliantly. By doing so, I not only allowed all of my clients to show off their latest product launches to the same group of media members, I was able to book a 5-star hotel’s pool area and split all of the expenses by 6.

Keep décor costs down

The theme and location of your event will determine its look and feel. Most locations already have a set décor so you can easily play off existing elements to keep decorations to a minimum. Succulents, plants and loose cut flowers from Trader Joes paired with simple glass vases from The Dollar Store can look much more expensive than they are. For a beauty client, focus on the product ingredients for décor inspiration. For instance, a rose facemask can be accessorized with rose petals, a skin cream with coconut and aloe. Pick up a few coconuts at the supermarket and an aloe plant and voila! You’re fancy.

If you’re promoting a fashion client, you can easily take their latest line sheets and house them in cute, colorful frames and display them throughout. Fun frames or decorative chalkboards are also a great way to show off your client’s social media handles and event hashtag so guests are reminded to share their experience with their followers.

Enhance the event with sponsor participation

Sometimes it makes sense to partner up with another PR firm or service-oriented company to offer a more memorable experience for your guests. Mini massages, manicures, astrology readings, even a braid bar will make the event more interactive and interesting, which will often boost attendance. To negotiate these services for free, offer the companies gratis PR by promoting their logos and social media handles via your invitations and social media..

Keep food and drink options to a minimum

The truth is that media rarely consume a ton of food and drinks at events. Rather than going overboard with snacks, meals and cocktails, offer something to sip and nibble on that makes sense for the time of day of your event. Work with the manager of your venue for elegant yet economical ideas. Depending on where you’re holding your event, you may even be able to bring in a food or drink sponsor to prepare a signature snack or libation that fits in with your event theme. With a sponsor, you can provide your guests with delicious refreshment at no cost to you in exchange for free promotion at your event. It’s a win win!

Lean on your client for event assistance

With events on a small budget, everyone needs to pitch in. You’ll need assistance managing RSVPs, connecting with guests, photography, and generally making sure everyone is having a good time and learning about your client’s products. Bringing on outside help is going to cost you, but if your client is willing to help manage the event, or bring in their own employees to help, it’s one less expense.

Keep Swag Simple

A gift bag is usually expected at media events, but this doesn’t mean every guest needs to walk out the door with $500 in free product. Talk to your client(s) before hand and see what they’re comfortable offering. If it’s a new beauty launch, one item from the launch along with a press kit is a good idea to gift each media member. Ask the manager of the venue if they have anything they could throw in like a gift certificate, or a wrapped up baked good from their kitchen. If you have a co-sponsor at your event have them throw in a gift card or small item. Resist the idea to fill up your gift bag with a bunch of collateral (discount coupons, promotional materials) that is just going to get tossed, and focus on 1 or 2 useful items in a good looking package.

With a bit of creativity and elbow grease it is possible to work with your clients and sponsors to produce a well-attended, successful media event without blowing the entire PR budget.

About This Author

Charmed PR owner Robin Tolkan-Doyle is a results-driven publicist and writer with more than 20 years experience in the media. She has been featured as a fashion correspondent on KTLA, KABC, eHOW's Style Channel and YouTube's FAWN Network. Prior to working in public relations, Robin sat on the other side of the pitch as a magazine editor and writer. She knows how editors work and what they want. She's also launched two successful fashion and accessories' businesses of her own, so when it comes to aspiring entrepreneurs, she gets them. Totally. (She's also a native Angeleno, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley). Robin also blogs about finding the beauty in life, lipstick and loud children at Beautyologie.com. When she’s not doing all that, she’s a nurturing mom to her two children and three dogs...and living a charmed life.