November 23, 2017

PRSA Alaska sells out

How to produce a chapter workshop that sells out and earns a profit

PRSA Alaska sells out

“I have never, or maybe rarely, had members send emails following a session expressing how much they enjoyed a session. I received at least five following this session.”
— Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRSA Alaska
Find out what others say about Ann’s workshops

It’s the good kind of problem to have: PRSA Alaska and the Architecture/Engineering Marketing Association of Alaska both had a little extra money in the bank. Which made chapter leaders ask …

“We’re saving our money … for what?” says AEMAA program director and president-elect Leah Boltz. “We wanted to take our money and really provide a benefit for our members.”

That’s when Boltz had the brilliant idea of bringing me in for a chapter writing workshop in Anchorage. (Little did she know her chapter would wind up with even more money in the bank!)

The secret? A comprehensive PR and marketing plan, as you might expect from these two groups. Among the elements of the plan:

  • Offer popular topics. “Our members were interested in writing tips, and their bosses seemed interested in paying for it,” says Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Boltz’s partner on this project. “We positioned the event as one that appealed to anyone who writes for a living, not just public relations professionals. This meant we could reach out to people beyond our own membership and was likely a key to success.”
  • Promote aggressively. The publicity team created an extensive plan, targeting people who weren’t members of PRSA or AEMAA and involving individual outreach.
    • Reach out. Publicity team members asked each board member to send the invitation to at least 10 people who were not members.
    • Make it personal. Fundraisers contacted fundraisers; journalists contacted journalists.
    • Tap other markets. Event planners distributed fliers at chapter meetings of other groups, like associations of press women and marketers.
    • Go social. Leaders also published the event on the chapters’ Facebook pages and in a series of tweets.
  • Get a sponsor. The chapters secured two corporate sponsors who contributed $1,000 in exchange for logo usage and one free seat at the event. Sponsors also provided graphics for the publicity and made workbook copies.

Two weeks before the workshop, the event had sold out. Even after asking the hotel to reconfigure the room to accommodate more seats, chapter leaders had to start turning people away.

Attendance: More than 100 people — some who flew in from Fairbanks — attended the program. Still, chapter leaders had a substantial waiting list.

“If you consider our chapter has 130 members, and we had 110 at the luncheon, that’s a fairly good ratio,” Barber says. “Attendance at our monthly lunches has been between 30 and 40, down from previous years.”

Between 25 and 35 people usually attend the meetings of AEMAA, which has 50 member firms.

Member service: In a follow-up survey, 100 percent of attendees said they wanted PRSA and AEMAA to bring me back for another workshop.

“I have never, or maybe rarely, had members send emails following a session expressing how much they enjoyed a session,” Barber says. “I believe I received at least five following this session. There were also tweets and other discussion about how much individuals learned and requests to be part of future programs.”

Revenue: The event brought in $17,120. After expenses, the chapters split more than $7,500 in profit. Which means they now have even more money in the bank.

What will they do with the extra cash?

“Reinvest it in educational programs and more member benefits,” Boltz says. “Save it for Ann Wylie next year!”

Learn more about my chapter programs and discounts.

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