How to Plan and Host a Successful Media Dinner


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It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon on a rather uneventful Tuesday. Our account coordinator, Nicole, is sending out her last confirmation emails to a select list of writers and influencers we have invited to our media dinner tomorrow evening at our client’s restaurant in Los Angeles. After everyone has confirmed, we head off for one last meeting with our client and the chef to go over menu design, seating chart, take home gifts and several other details that are crucial to creating a successful dinner.

It’s Wednesday and the big day is here. We go through our normal office routine throughout the day, answering emails, scheduling phone calls and before you know it, we have about two hours before dinner begins. The phone rings, it’s one of our guests who is supposed to be joining us tonight letting us know that they are terribly sorry but have to cancel due to an unforeseen incident. Do we panic? Hardly. We have come to expect this throughout time. The cancelation won’t dampen our spirits as we have a very exciting night ahead of us with some special guests.

Our team starts setting table placements, name cards, menus and before you know it, our guests begin to arrive. One after another, we get them seated, explain the menu for the evening, and offer a drink while they wait for everyone to arrive. Depending on the type of dinner, our team will sit at the table with everyone to build a better relationship, ask questions and make sure they are enjoying their evening. Tonight is a full house and space is limited, so we help the kitchen and wait staff and check in on our guests periodically. As each course arrives, our chef explains in a few words what the ingredients are and why it is on the menu.

As the night concludes – and the alcohol starts kicking in – conversations between our guests get a bit more loose as everyone becomes more comfortable with each other. We don’t want to be too forthright and ask how the meal was so we look for telltale signs: big smiles, clean plates, and many pictures.
A media dinner seems rather simple, right? Invite a few food bloggers to a restaurant, have them sit at the same table and serve them delicious food; all complimentary of course. What could go wrong? The answer? Almost anything.
There are several key components to a successful media dinner and like almost everything else in life, a great first impression is very important, but remember, it doesn’t end there, you have an entire meal ahead of you, so be prepared.

There are several key components to a successful media dinner and like almost everything else in life, a great first impression is very important, but remember, it doesn’t end there, you have an entire meal ahead of you, so be prepared. Below, I’ve included plenty of useful tips to help you create a memorable media dinner and get a great return on investment.

Invite the right guests

Some are just interested in a free meal and their coverage will be subpar. Let them know what you expect from them for being invited. If it is a good write up, a blog post or article. If your guest is an influencer with a large social media following, then a few posts will suffice. Over time, this will become much easier after strengthening relationships with key media contacts.

Do your homework before inviting contacts

What have they written in the past and does it makes sense to invite them? If you are having a dinner at a bbq restaurant, inviting someone who focuses on healthy meals is useless, but this should go without saying.

Be prepared for anything to happen

You should always expect 1 or 2 guests to cancel at the last minute so be prepared and don’t lose focus.

Make each guest as comfortable as possible

Make a menu designed specifically for them which includes their name or outlet. Prepare a take home bag with a few unique items, a gift card to encourage them to return, etc.

Prepare a venue checklist

Make sure the restaurant has their best staff members handling the event. You always want professional waiters and bussers to make everything go smoothly. Also, create a unique and delicious menu. You want each guest to be amazed and leave happy.

Lighting is key! There will be plenty of photographs being taken so make sure everyone can get quality pictures of each dish.

Post event follow-up

Communication is very important, not only for a certain event but for maintaining a strong relationship. Follow up with each guest the following day and thank them for coming and have more information available if they need it for their coverage.

About Matthew McIvor

With more than 12 years of PR strategy and client experience, Matthew serves as President at LocaliteLA Public Relations, overseeing platform and campaign development for LocaliteLA’s current clients and new business prospects. A seasoned strategist, he is well versed in developing program recommendations that merge traditional, social and emerging media channels to help brands connect with their target audiences through relevant storytelling. He was struck with the travel bug at an early age and loves exploring new regions any chance he can get, especially if great food or cocktails are involved. Follow Matt and the LocaliteLA team on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Image via Kaboom Pics