SXSW PR Planning Guide for 2016

January 22, 2016 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer

SXSW PR planning guide for 2016March 11 may seem like a long way off, but it will be no time at all before almost everyone who is anyone will be headed to Austin for the world’s most unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies, South by Southwest (SXSW). As an Austin company, we look forward to welcoming the world. If you are headed our way to market or launch your brand, the time to get prepared is now. Here are a few steps you can take now to make sure you get the most out of this extraordinary annual event.

Set Goals

As we so often do, we begin our advice for SXSW with goal setting. Ask yourself two questions. What am I hoping to get out of this event? How will I know if I have been successful? Whether your goals involve getting earned media, increasing awareness, lead generation, all of the above, or something else, defining measurable goals is the first step to executing a successful event.

Craft a Compelling Message and Theme

It is difficult to stand out at SXSW for a couple of reasons. First, it’s huge. There is a ton of competition for the attention of journalists and influencers. The second challenge is the nature of the event. We may think of it like a trade show, but remember, it is a festival. It’s meant to be fun and entertaining, a little crazy even. This is not the right venue for low-risk, run-of-the mill messages and campaigns.

Begin Outreach Now

Immediately before, or even during the event, is not the time to begin your media and influencer outreach. Now is the time to start making connections and garnering interest in your story. If you have existing relationships, this is a good time to begin sharing pitches and background information. If you are looking to establish new relationships, make connections through social media or other introductions now.

Plan Your Schedule

Before you go, plan which sessions you will attend. Most veterans recommend at least 2 a day, leaving plenty of time for scheduled meetings and lucky chance encounters.  When setting meetings with influencers and journalists, consider the nature of the event. The late nights are usually filled with music and drinking, so an early morning meet-up might not work out too well for you or your contact. Also, keep in mind that people get busy and distracted during this kind of event. Have a back-up plan or an easy way to reconnect if pre-scheduled appointments are missed. (Just expect this to happen.)

SXSW has been called “spring break for marketers.” It is an exciting combination of business and pleasure. Unless you are going just for the spectacle, now is the time to put together your plan of attack. We’re delighted to welcome you to Austin and hope to see you there.

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