Hot on the heels of New York Fashion Week, it's easy to let the glitz and glamour of the catwalk seduce you into thinking you should host your own similarly luxurious affair. However do so strategically, says Carrie Ellen Phillips and Vanessa von Bismarck, the co-founders and partners of BPCM, a New York City-based public relations firm, which this year helped French luxury brand Longchamp dazzle buyers of its fall and winter 2019 lines. The show was luxury through and through, with cameos from Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner and other Instagram influencers to prove it. But the two PR mavens attest that you don't have to spend like a fabled French fashion house to have a successful event.  

 Here are five tips for how to keep things fresh and affordable when hosting your own affair.

1. Give your guests a really good reason to come.

"The biggest mistake is inviting random people to come shop with champagne and hors d'oeuvres," says Bismarck. "Everyone today has better things to do than spend an evening getting ready and going somewhere where they won't know anyone."

A better strategy? Offer your guests a unique experience, special connections, or a new skill. That way, you're communicating to your audience that you value their time and you're thankful they've chosen to spend it with you and your company.

The same idea applies for trade shows and conferences. "Just showing up is not enough," says Bismarck. "You have to activate the word of mouth machine at the fair with doing something special."

2. Put your money where it matters.

Regardless of the size of your company, it's important to do research on your audience, says Phillips. Help answer the question: "what does my audience, customer, or target respond to?" By understanding whose attention you're fighting for, it's easier to zero in on the correct type of event. College students, for instance, may not care for a big or flashy event, while working professionals in major metro areas may indeed appreciate a little bling. 

As for getting the most bang for your buck, Bismarck advises skipping the over-the-top catering and costly invitations. Instead, splurge on entertainment and experiences with things like DIY projects or photo booths. BPCM recently helped cosmetics brand Dr. Jart generate buzz with a go-karting event in Los Angeles.

3. Don't troll for business.

People often have strong feelings about being marketed to; mostly, they don't like it. So be authentic and definitely nix the email sign-up sheets.  

If you do want email addresses, give attendees a reason to hand them over, suggests Bismarck. For instance, enlist a professional illustrator or photographer to snap pictures of attendees and then offer a microsite with all of the images. It's "a nice takeaway [guests are] happy to give up emails for," she adds.

4. Use your company's size to your advantage.

You don't need a giant budget to stand out at an event amid other larger vendors, but do be creative, Bismarck says. "Do something people see every day and can emotionally connect with." As an example she pointed to a cosmetics company that rebranded an ice-cream truck in the summer to give out free ice cream in the colors of its new lipstick line. 

5. Set goals and assess them. 

"It is important to be clear about what your desired outcomes are," says Phillips. Be purposeful about what you want to achieve--and measure whether you've hit your goals. She adds that you should also talk about what you learned and how you would replicate the experience or do things differently. After all, the best way not to repeat a mistake is by learning from it in the first place.

Published on: Feb 12, 2019