Breaking Through the Noise During SXSW

March 16, 2016

It’s March in Austin. This may mean warmer weather, longer days and spring break, but one thing is for certain—It’s SXSW season.

SXSW has become a colossal, global event in Austin. Every year, the Interactive portion brings in more and more attendees, organizations, and brands hoping to capture the attention of the media and consumers with unique, innovative technology and ideas that could be the “next big thing” in the digital world.

I recently attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) luncheon with a panel of SXSW industry veterans who shared their experiences and advice on making the most of your company’s presence at SXSW. Omar Gallaga, a tech culture writer for the Austin American Statesman, was on this panel and shared his thoughts on ways PR professionals can make an impact during the festival:

Do your research – Before any media outreach, research the reporters and outlets you want to cover your stories. Finding out their interests and where they’re going to be during the festival can help secure face-time and may result in media coverage.

Pitch with detail – Although you may feel inclined to be concise with pitching, reporters appreciate longer, more detailed pitches for SXSW efforts. Explaining exactly what’s happening and why the reporter and their audience would be interested in the event can provide more motivation for attendance.

Creativity and strategy are key – Most reporters pay attention to events and efforts that are highly unique, interactive and convenient to attend, so focusing on these aspects helps ensure media attention. For example, centering the time and location of your event around an interactive session that reporters are attending and offering food and swag are strategies that can raise chances for visibility, attendance and coverage.

As we near the end of SXSW 2016, here are a few recommendations from ECPR about garnering reporters’ attention during this very hectic time.

Consider pitching stories to reporters who aren’t already covering SXSW – This year, we pitched SXSW stories to education and transportation reporters, in addition to tech reporters. The stories were related to technology, but had other angles to explore. Reporters who cover other beats may have more time available to cover your story.

Think visuals – Especially for TV reporters, look for ways to offer a particularly compelling visual for their stories and let them know what they can expect once they get there.

Consider timing – If you are planning an event and want media to attend, try to schedule it at a time that doesn’t conflict with a major keynote speaker, for example.

SXSW Interactive has always been a hotspot for fostering digital creativity and discovering new technology. It has also evolved into a high-profile opportunity for driving brand awareness. Taking a few extra steps in your PR efforts to break through the clutter of SXSW can have a big payoff for your company.
Photo courtesy of Google

-Christina Ibarra
Account Executive