One of the toughest feats for a PR professional is securing speaking and awards engagements, and I’ll tell you why. Submitting an executive for consideration at an industry event or for an industry-recognized award requires mastering a delicate balance between relationship building, strong content, being aware of trends and industry conversations around the particular topic you’re proposing, and most importantly – standing out amongst the crowd.
The following are four tips on how to successfully secure speaking and awards engagements that will lead to you elevating your client and their company as a major thought leader in their industry.
1. Build relationships with the right contact at the organization you’re reaching out to
One of the most important things I’ve learned about securing speaking and awards engagements is knowing the right person at the event organization or award hosting company, that you need to be in touch with. Obviously in public relations building relationships is key in terms of reporter and client relationships, but sometimes we forget how crucial it can be to have an event organizer know who your clients are, recognize your email address or view you as a strategic contact to have. Calling the contact in advance of the deadline and asking questions is the first step. Then, checking in periodically to see if they’ve received enough compelling content or need help rounding out their conference agenda or need additional awards submissions is a key way to open up a conversation between the contact and your client.
2. Don’t be afraid to bounce content ideas off your contact
Though our first instinct is to work with our client to come up with the best content out there in order to be strongly considered to speak at an event or win an award, sometimes it’s good to take a step back after researching what other companies in the industry are saying, then coming up with a few ideas with your client, that they can speak to. Next, it’s usually the perfect time to circle back with your contact at the organization you’re working with to see what types of industry conversations they’re hearing. It will help you better inform your speaking submission form/abstract for an event submission as well as any essays you’re drafting for an award.
3. Get bold with your content
If I’ve seen any trend in securing speaking an awards placements it’s that content is king – and the more controversial or envelope-pushing, the better. If you have a client that’s willing to say the latest and greatest technology isn’t actually the best direction for the industry – that creates an interesting industry conversation, as long as, of course, it doesn’t offend any client customers. And, if it’s bold enough to stay on someone’s mind, the better it is for future submissions to the conference or award you’re considering. I once had a client that was willing to go against the grain in terms of content, and I worked with my client to submit an abstract to speak on a panel at a major industry event on a topic that majorly challenged its competitors, and not only was the client asked to speak at the event, but the event organizer asked my client to speak at a few consecutive events afterwards. The content presented by my client during the panel also made its way into an article about the event in a major business publication.
4. Keep in touch with your contact
Whether your client won that coveted award or was chosen to keynote a huge industry event, always, always be sure to keep in touch with the contact you originally reached out to. If the contact took a particular affinity to the content your client was willing to speak to, or generally was fond of the company your client founded, etc., they will remember you, so reach out periodically. See how the next conference planning is going. If it’s an award contact, send a courtesy email to your contact and see how the awards schedule is shaping up. Are they receiving a lot of submissions? Can your client help add to the submissions they’re receiving? Do you have other clients that can contribute?
While securing a speaking engagement or working with your client to submit for an award can be more of a long-lead reward, if you follow these four simple steps, you’ll be sure to have a healthy pipeline of industry events and award wins, elevating your client as a key thought leader in their respective industry.