PR – Stratford Festival of Motoring

For the press to cover a story, it has to be new and interesting. That’s great when you have new and interesting things to talk about, but can be slightly more problematic when you’re trying to help someone shout about something that isn’t necessarily new – like an annual event.

When it comes to promoting annual events, it’s not always enough to tell people it’s returned that year. Sometimes you need to do something a bit different. We’ve all heard the term ‘PR stunt’. There’s a reason for that – quite often they work. Of course, something has to be genuinely newsworthy in the first place, but you can’t churn out the same announcement or press release month after month or year after year – you have to mix it up.

I’ve worked with Stratforward, the Business Improvement District (BID) in Stratford-upon-Avon for several years now. The BID organises several events a year and my remit is to try to gain coverage for them. It’s exactly the kind of situation where the challenge is on to come up with something a bit different than the announcements we’ve made in previous years.

In 2018, we wanted to do something that would gain interest before the festival for both the event itself and its sponsor Listers, as well as providing PR and social media opportunities during the two-day event and afterwards too. We came up with a ‘Car-aoke’ competition modelled on the well-known TV show Carpool Karaoke. Cheesy, yes. But it also ticked all the boxes of what we wanted to achieve – a way of involving the sponsor and their car, a way of involving visitors, something different and a bit more fun for what can sometimes be a dry ‘event sponsorship’ announcement. It also gave us an opportunity to create a bit of a social media ‘buzz’, encouraging people to share their entries across social media channels of both the festival and Listers, plus some post-festival PR by announcing the winner of the competition.

The launch of the festival of motoring was covered in the local newspapers and also received plenty of social media engagement during the festival itself, while the announcement of the winner of the competition was also covered in both local newspapers. Of course, there are far bigger and better PR stunts out there, and this wasn’t necessarily a perfect example. But proof that sometimes it’s worth doing things a little bit differently if you want to tick several boxes and add something ‘new’ to a recurring story.