Your PR To-Dos for 2017

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

If you didn’t quite meet your 2016 resolution of taking your public relations efforts seriously, you’re not alone. However, there’s no reason to shy away from it – especially throughout the off-season.

Here are a few of my best tips for making 2017 your most press-friendly year yet.

Map out the year ahead

At this point, you should have a good idea of the weddings that lie ahead. With the styles in mind, think about which will be the most competitive for editorial submission. Those with unique details, special stories and great couples are typically those that are great, so take some time to plan out your PR approach for each.

Gather what you can in advance for each wedding – a comprehensive vendor list (with website URLs and social media handles!), a submission agreement with the photographer, and anecdotes from the couple about how they met and what influenced their wedding planning. This will make the submission process much smoother when you’re in the throes of peak season!

Create a media list

Think back to when you were a kid and wrote wish lists of everything you wanted for the holidays. Now is your chance to do the same, but for your dream media portfolio. What publications would you just love to feature your work? Where would you like to see your name in lights? Don’t be shy – include any and all outlets that you like, even if they seem like a reach.

Once you’ve compiled a nice list, begin your research on submission guidelines and media contacts to keep on file. Every publication has different requirements for their real weddings, so you’ll need to be discerning with your submissions. A neat Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc can keep all of your research in one place so it’s easy to grab when you’re ready to submit.

Streamline your PR flow

One of the main reasons wedding professionals don’t invest in public relations is because they think it will take up too much of their valuable time. This notion can be easily combatted with apps and programs to streamline your PR push. Does it seem tedious to interview each and every couple for their story? Save time by crafting a Wufoo questionnaire and sending the link to all of your couples. Do you have trouble staying organized in your submissions? Consider signing up for Two Bright Lights, an online platform that keeps your wedding albums in one place and allows you to submit directly to a large number of online and print publications.

Sign up for programs

Looking beyond real wedding submissions, it’s time to start sharing your knowledge. One great way to do this is to be an expert source for journalists – that way, you’ll be included in articles speaking about your specialty. HARO and SourceBottle are two great tools to help you become a source for reporters to reach out. Once you sign up, you’ll begin receiving emails with story topics from journalists – when you see one that interests you, all you have to do is email your thoughts over for consideration.

Whether you start with signing up for HARO or mapping out your upcoming weddings, be sure you’re setting aside some time in the next few weeks to really plan out your PR strategy – your portfolio will thank you! 

Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, a wedding PR agency that works with wedding professionals here, there and everywhere. She’s a long-time industry writer, sought after speaker and unapologetic cat lady.

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How to Evaluate the Return of your Wholesale Partnership

By Audrey Isaac, 100Candles.com

The end of the year is a time for reflection and evaluation as we look at our year’s accomplishments and determine what worked and what should evolve.

As you plan for the year ahead, it’s important to review your annual numbers and take a hard look at the return of your investments. From your project management software to your wholesale partnerships, it’s time to evaluate your ROI and make adjustments accordingly.

First and foremost, let’s look at how you can determine whether you are seeing a positive return from your wholesale partnership.

When you are looking to build in additional revenue streams, it comes down to dollars and cents – as well as happy customers. You’ll need to take a look at both sides: Are you seeing an increase in the amount your couples are spending with you? (Note that this should be simple, as you should already be tracking your revenue per account.) Have your reviews continued to be positive? Consider surveying your recent clients at the end of the year to ensure that your business model meets all of their needs – not just for wholesale-related upgrades, but for your general services as well.

So, what is a wedding pro to do if their ROI isn’t quite as successful as expected?

You’ll first need to determine why the numbers aren’t matching up as planned. Connect with your wholesalers to ask about some of their most popular items. They should be able to share what items are selling well in other markets, as well as online.

If the product itself isn’t the issue, then it may be time to look at your sales process. Assess your methods of upselling, as well as when you try to upsell in the course of your work together. It may be time to switch things up and test the waters with different methods – perhaps later in the sales process or through a different presentation entirely.

Ask yourself: How do you present your items for upselling? Do you share them virtually, in person or both? Can you realistically switch it up to see if it results in a higher conversion rate? Are you selling too early in the process, before clients are ready to commit more of their budget? Alternately, are you selling too late in the process, after they’ve already made their own purchases?

The answers to these questions will help guide your future decisions in the business of upselling. Consider reaching out to recent and current couples and asking for their thoughts so you can get a better understanding of what types of items they need. While you may have initially based your offerings on what you think they want, it may be time to circle back to the source to see if their needs have evolved.

If you’re unsatisfied with your ROI, don’t fret – chances are you just need to mix things up a little to really meet your clients’ needs. Now is the time to use the off-season to work through the kinks and tweak the process so that you’re ready for your best year yet.

Audrey Isaac is the spokesperson for 100 Candles, a wholesale market for candles and lights. Since 2002, thousands of wedding and event professionals have entrusted 100 Candles with their wholesale candle accounts. For more information, please visit http://www.100candles.com/.

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Go Big or Go Home: Turning your local network into a national network

As my favorite book Never Eat Alone shares “your network is your net worth.” Coming from experience, my own connections have been invaluable to me – and not just because they offer me places to hang my hat when I’m traveling around the country (although that certainly helps!).

If the idea of having a national network seems overwhelming or unreachable to you, I’m here to debunk all of your fears and tell you that it is indeed possible and manageable. Before starting my own business, I worked at a local wedding venue, which allowed me to get to know many of the wedding pros in the region. My local network grew quickly, but when I started my own business, I came to the realization that I needed to branch out to truly capitalize on the market.

Here are some tips that I learned along the way:

Share your expertise

Projecting yourself as an expert in your specialty is the number one way to get your name out there and begin to grow connections. This can be done in many ways and, over the years, I’ve grown my network through guest writing, speaking engagements and simply reaching out to those in need of some help. Guest writing is a great place to start, especially if you’re not a fan of public speaking. Reach out to some of your favorite publications and offer yourself as a guest writer or as a resource for them to use. Be sure to have some potential topics on hand!

With that said, speaking is truly what has transformed my network, my business and my life. I started out speaking at local associations among my industry buddies, but once I began pitching myself to bigger national conferences, everything changed. Not only do you get to know other speakers and some of the industry heavyweights, but you also put your company in front of other professionals who may reach out for help or consultation. You know your stuff – so go on and show it!

Be persistent

It can be easy to feel discouraged when you get a rejection email, but let me tell you – for every keynote speech I’ve given, I’ve received tens of “no thank you”s as well. Not everything will be for you, but don’t give up until you find the right fit. On that note, don’t be afraid to reach out to industry leaders and introduce yourself. For a minimal investment, you have a lot to gain!

Get ready to travel

It probably goes without saying, but having a national network does involve some traveling. Checking out new cities and meeting new people sounds like a blast (spoiler alert- it is!), but it’s important to understand the financial and time investment that it takes. It’s important to ensure that your company is at a stable point where you can take that time to travel, understanding that you’ll probably be taking a lot of work with you.

As incredible the experience is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the costs that come with it – long workweeks, expenses of flights and hotels and changing time zones more than you change your jeans. I find the payoff more than worth it, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you dive in headfirst.

With that, remember to stay positive and keep pushing! If you visualize your final goal and never stop working towards it, you’ll get there in no time.

Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, a wedding PR agency that works with wedding professionals here, there and everywhere. She’s a long-time industry writer, sought after speaker and unapologetic cat lady.

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Building a Strong Destination Event Team

All events require a high level of teamwork and organization; however, the coordination of destination events involves managing vendors from different locations, so it’s essential to create a team of responsible and experienced professionals to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

When sourcing vendors for the event team, there are quite a w considerations to keep in mind to ensure you handpick the best of the best.

 Who’s Who

Every destination event differs depending on where it’s being held, but they generally include several key players to ensure it all goes off without a hitch. More often than not, the event coordination is led by the head of decoration and the technical director. While the head of decoration is responsible for making plans for design and décor, the technical director should be out and about scouting venues and organization the technical details.

 Once the event’s framework is in place, it’s time to get down to the finer details. Enter the production team. The head of decoration and technical director provide the team with the plan and it’s up to them to put it into motion. They are responsible for everything from ordering all of the décor needs to constructing any on-site structures. Depending on the complexity of the event, a logistics team may be needed to keep the event timeline flowing – this includes lighting directors, transportation coordinators and traffic conductors, if necessary.

 Sourcing help from the destination can be especially helpful, since they often have extensive knowledge of the area and can be a valuable resource. Just be sure to qualify each person you bring onto your team – we’ve always found it helpful to have a quick run-through with everyone to put their skills to the test.

 Get Connected

With a solid event team in place, it’s time to work out the communication plan. This is especially important with destination events, as people are often spread out around the world until the week leading up to the Big Day. Our team relies heavily on phone and Skype calls to stay connected, since emails and SMS messages can be misconstrued.

 There are also plenty of apps to keep everyone on the same page – our favorites are SketchUp and Cast’s wysiwyg. They allow us to virtually collaborate on lighting and design plans in real time, which can be very helpful when you’re battling with different time zones.

Whether it’s weekly (or daily) calls or constant communication via apps, it’s essential that there’s a continuous conversation to keep everyone involved and on top of things.

 At the Destination

Once you touch down on the other side, it’s time for the fun to start! Depending on the size and complexity of the event design, the team may need to arrive up to a month prior to get everything situated. Smaller events may only require a few days of on-site preparation.

 With everyone in one place, communication is just as key. The head planner, head of decoration and technical director are responsible for coordinating the team as they put together a perfect event. Set aside time for a team meeting prior to the event to discuss the final result with everyone who is involved.

 With that, your destination team is ready to provide clients with their vision in an efficient and effective manner.

 Fabrice Orlando is the CEO of Cocoon Events Management Group, a luxury event planning company based in Marrakech, Morocco that specializes in high-end weddings and special events worldwide.

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From a Wholesaler’s Perspective: What we look for in prospective accounts

Wholesale relationships are great for everyone involved – the supplier, of course, makes a profit from selling their products while the buyer gets what they need for a competitive price. In the past, we’ve covered ways to qualify wholesalers and how to ensure that you’re working with a trusted professional who will look out for your needs.

This time, however, we’re talking about what we look for in a great buyer. We love working with people from all different backgrounds and professions – event planners, photographers, designers, florists and more. With that said, we’re sharing what makes us love working with event pros.

Knowledge

Of course, we don’t expect you to know everything about our products. That’s our job! We are more than happy to give buyers a run-through of our stock and help them locate exactly what they need. However, we do love when our clients come to us knowing exactly what their needs are and how they plan to use it. That doesn’t necessarily mean having specific product knowledge, but rather knowing generally what you want to do so we can help narrow down the best options for you. “Pillar candles that will last for at least eight hours” is a lot more specific than “centerpiece candles.” Decisiveness is a virtue!

Frequency

We have found that our best relationships are with those who order from us frequently. The more we work with them, the better we understand their needs which allows us to notify them of changes in inventory, new products and other news that may affect them. It also allows us to build a rapport with a diverse selection of event pros, which brings us to our next point.

Personable

As with all business relationships, there should be a level of friendliness and we love working with fun and personable people (this explains why we love the wedding industry!). We appreciate those who are open to sharing their personalities with us, as we love getting to know our partners!

Developing mutually beneficial relationships within the industry allows everyone to succeed and build a support network. Know what you’re looking for and be yourself – you can’t go wrong!

Audrey Isaac is the spokesperson for 100 Candles, a wholesale market for candles and lights. Since 2002, thousands of wedding and event professionals have entrusted 100 Candles with their wholesale candle accounts. For more information, please visit http://www.100candles.com/

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