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Looking ahead: it worked for Mickey Rooney--and it works for event publicity

Mickey Rooney's philosophy of always looking ahead has obvious application in the public relations world, particularly in promoting events.
Mickey Rooney's philosophy of always looking ahead has obvious application in the public relations world, particularly in promoting events.Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Thirteen years ago, while interviewing legendary entertainer Mickey Rooney for a feature in the Daily Herald, I asked him to reflect on some of his fondest memories in show business.

"I never look back on anything," he said, almost perturbed by the inquiry. "I look ahead."

That kind of determined focus on the future, not resting on his laurels, helps explain why Rooney--born Joe Yule Jr. in Brooklyn, New York on Sept. 23, 1920--kept popping up in films well past his 90th birthday. When he died, apparently of natural causes on Sunday, he was in the midst of working on three films, including "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

That same forward-looking mindset is a must in event-based public relations, too. Rather than putting all your eggs in the basket of attracting the media to your event, it's crucial to do as much as possible to generate publicity in the days, weeks and potentially even months leading up to it.

One of the hallmarks of strong organizational discipline is to leverage one event to promote another coming up on the calendar. Why rely solely on e-mails, website updates, snail mail, phone calls or any other communication avenue when you have your core audience right there in front of you?

Year after year, one major conference after another, World Wide Group, an Amway Approved Provider, has consistently applied this simple marketing principle to great effect. With a variety of Spring Leadership conferences on the horizon, starting with a gathering in Las Vegas this coming weekend, World Wide Group and its leaders will be sure to emphasize the next batch of business conferences, known as Family Reunions, that are slated for the summer.

For those seeking media coverage, there are too many variables beyond your control for you to risk digging in your heels and banking on a strong media turnout for your event. The weather can wreak havoc, from raining out an outdoor event to making it difficult for the media or general public to be in attendance for an indoor event. Also, other events will certainly compete with yours, including those of the breaking-news variety that are not on any calendar but loom at every moment.

Those are only two of the most obvious and recurring wrinkles in even the best-laid PR plans.

By spreading out your communications effort over time, you are taking three bites at the publicity apple--the pre-event, the event itself, and the post-event. And even if you have struck out on the first two phases, don't give up. By this point, you will have placed yourself on news outlets' radar screens. So, as long as you have been professional and patient, you could be poised for success through submitting interesting and attractive photos from the event, along with detailed captions.

In some cases, a post-event news release and video footage could be helpful media fodder. Even if not, creating that content will provide your organization with material to post on its website, in its social media sphere, as well as in other communication that can be shared with interested parties, from fellow business partners to clients or subscribers.

The post-event should include highlights and other significant developments from the event. It also represents an opportunity to break new ground, so be sure to go beyond a mere re-hashing of the preview.