For many event hosts, so-called “influencers” are the holy grail of event guests. Ranging from social media stars to celebrities in the entertainment world, these attendees have the power to share event messages widely and attract press and buzz. These are five pre-event decisions and actions that can help attract influencers to events.
1. Start with the invitation.
Influencers begin to make their decisions about attending events from the moment of receiving the invitation, which can either be an immediate turnoff or a turn-on.
Chicago-based JKLS PR co-director Jill Katz always sends a hard invite, either via mail, messenger, or hand delivery. When hand delivering, she says, “We communicate with the recipients in advance to find out the ideal time for them to accept a delivery so we can make sure the moment is not missed. We find that the electronic invite does not have as great of a response, but [if it was essential to go the electronic route], we would never send via a service like Evite or Paperless Post—we would send individually from our email addresses as we have a relationship with each person and it further personalizes the connection.”
2. Make it personal.
To that end, influencers are compelled to attend events when they feel their presence is both valued and valuable to them as individuals. “[We] handpick our guest list for any event we are developing. We then see that our guests are more receptive to attending since we do not just send out mass invites,” Katz says. “Everyone’s time is limited and we want the guests to feel they made the right choice in attending.”
Event production company Bespoke Boheme founder and creative director Kate Mazzuca echoes the importance of choosing carefully the specific influencers to court—and then treating each one personally. “While many A-list stars will shy away from too much [press and promotion], social media types and business moguls will relish the attention. It's very important to definitively determine your target audience demographic and decide what type of crowd you're hoping to attract.”
3. Provide incentives.
Swag can be a draw for guests at all levels of the influencer totem pole, but free stuff isn’t the only kind of incentive that encourages attendance. “Influencers are inundated with invites and the way to stand out from the party pack is to offer select ultra-influencers, those who can make or break a party, added incentives,” says Michael Krepack, senior executive at Los Angeles-based PR Dept. “This can range from including an influencer’s name on the invite as a host, to sending a gift from the party’s sponsor, to covering the influencer’s car and grooming for the event. The goal here is to make the influencer feel like a super V.I.P. celebrity.”
4. Pick the right venue.
The venue selection alone can cause an event to hit or miss with influencers. “An event’s location is critical to the success of a party for the influencer network you attract,” Krepack says.“Depending on the type of event, keep in mind that key influencers want to be seen at the coolest and often newest location around town.”
Mazzuca adds that the hottest new venue is sometimes—but not always—the right pick: “An exclusive, hard-to-get-into venue can help for certain types of parties, while a venue that's familiar and caters to the influencers in their everyday lives may work well in other instances.”
It may help to start with a target influencer, and work backward to choose the venue. “The strategy here is to partner with a local influencer and seek out a space that the influencer may own or have an investment in,” Krepack says. “This encourages the influencer to pull from his or her network as he or she feels like there is a vested interested in the success of the event. Lesson here is to bring the party to the influencer rather than the other way around—[it’s] the power of home-court advantage.”
5. Involve other influencers.
People who know their value as influencers typically want to be surrounded by others in the same category. “One thing I've found that pretty consistently seems to draw influencers are other influencers. Whether it be keynote speakers, honorees, or host committees, bold-faced names like to mingle with other bold-faced names,” Mazzuca says. “To encourage A-listers to R.S.V.P. early, and actually show up, it often helps to have an influential host committee who can call on those folks directly, as opposed to a traditional invite system. The cool kids will always want to be with the cool kids—as true for events as it was for high school.”
Coltrane Curtis, founder and creative director of New York-based Team Epiphany, agrees, emphasizing the importance of influencer involvement. “Allow an influencer to co-create the experience, engineering organic recruitment from the targeted community itself. Use the influencer network to program the experience, a DJ, a host, an artist.”