Event Planning Dos and Don'ts


Event planning is an area of public relations I've been reading a lot about lately. Within the next six months I'll be planning six events — five are related to the Independent Professional Project I am completing in school, and one is a networking event for the International Association of Business Communicators, Manitoba Chapter (IABC Manitoba).

In the early stages of planning the first of these events, I looked to my experience at the handful of awesome events I've attended over the years as well as the many poor ones for direction as to what to do, and what not to do. But event planning is not so simple, and there is much more going on behind the scenes than you might think.

Every single event is different — even when a business throws the same staff Christmas party year after year, an event planner can never expect the party to go exactly the way it did the year before. There will probably be new employees to invite and there may be a smaller budget to work with, or a new venue or catering company to consider. Basically, putting on any event involves at least a little bit of risk. Come event day, there will be some things that will most certainly not fall entirely within an event planner's control.

With that said, being highly organized and well-prepared, is imperative to the success of any event. Based on my event planning experience so far, I've also come up with some less obvious things event planners should make sure to cross off their lists, and a few things to avoid.


1. Research what the competition is doing.
Look into what similar organizations/businesses have done and whether or not it worked for them. This could potentially save you time, money and embarrassment leading up to, and on event day.

2. Align yourself with great people and partners.
All the best films, commercials, books, music and advertising campaigns are the result of a team effort on some scale. The same goes for events. Don't try and do everything yourself because your event will suffer. Share the work load with people with different skills-sets than yourself and who you know you can trust. Try to partner with other reputable organizations with similar mandates — this can boost your credibility and increase your resources.

3. Get online.
Being active on social media is a given, but so is having a website. Too many businesses and organizations rely solely on social media to promote events, but people need another online space where they can access more detailed information about you and the event.

4.  Remind yourself of the purpose of the event — often.
It's easy to lose sight of your objectives when taking care of the logistics of any event. Don't lose sight of why you're actually putting on the event in the first place. Of course you want people to come and have a good time, but that's probably not your end goal, although it can start to feel that way during the planning stages.

5. Take risks.
In some ways, event planning is a volatile business to get into. There are so many events vying for people's attention on any given day that the only way to grab people's attention is to raise the bar of what is expected. Put on an event that is different then what your target audience has seen in the past. Think of something that hasn't taken place at your school, workplace or community centre before. By putting yourself and your big ideas out there, you could be rewarded in big ways.


1. Limit yourself before you start.
Before you decide on any one idea for your event, brainstorm as many ideas as you can and don't eliminate any right off the bat. Come back to the list in a few days. Did you think of anything else? Focus on expanding, not cutting your list of great ideas during the initial stages of event planning.

2. Give away free stuff just to give away free stuff.
Free promotional items at events are a good idea if they have a purpose. Don't spend a bunch of money on junk that your target audience will look at once and then toss. People should want to attend your event for reasons other than free magnets and donuts.

3. Take no for an answer.
You're likely going to have to try more than once to get the right people on the phone or to land a full sponsorship. Keep trying.

4. Spam people.
Invite friends and family to LIKE your Facebook Page once. Remind people about your event via email no more than twice. If they aren't responding they way you wanted them to, either you don't know your target audience very well, you haven't created something they value, or both.

5. Stress the very small stuff.
At the end of the day, if you forget a stack of brochures or a door prize, the show must and will go on. If you've done your best to prepare in every other way, everyone will be having so much fun they won't notice.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches: Going Viral


Love it or hate it, no one can deny the success of nearly 60 million YouTube views.

Debuting on April 14, 2013, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches web commercial — a part of Dove's ongoing "Campaign for Real Beauty" — went viral in less than three days.

From a public relations perspective, the ad is brilliant. It generated extensive national and international media coverage for Dove, including 121 print features and 484 major broadcast news and lifestyle segments, and became the most watched video advertisement OF ALL TIME.

So what's so special about it?

Simple — it evokes emotion in the viewer.

Capitalizing on the common human truth that people are their own worst critics, the video shows a criminal sketch artist drawing women first as they describe themselves, and second as other people describe them. The artist then reveals the two different sketches to each woman. The differences between the two sketches are obvious and point to how women tend to describe themselves as less beautiful than they really are. 

The video is clever, believable and beautifully shot. But does everyone buy into Dove's messaging?

Of course not. People are always going to find the bad in even the best campaigns, including this one. Negative feedback is something a communications team is trained to manage. 

In this case, it's relatively easy to sift past the slew of favourable media stories and rave reviews to find plenty of people dissing the video for playing into the very beauty stereotypes Dove claims to be trying to dispel.

"What's wrong with how the way the women look in the first sketches? There are people in the world that look like that," one woman commented.

"The majority of the women in the ad are thin, white, and have blond hair and blue eyes. Only a small sub-set of women are being depicted," said another.

But perhaps the most pointed criticism is aimed at the hypocrisy of the ad's central message.

According to New York Magazine columnist Ann Friedman, "The ad still upholds the notion that, when it comes to evaluating ourselves and other women, beauty is paramount. The goal shouldn’t be to get women to focus on how we are all gorgeous in our own way. It should be to get women to do for ourselves what we wish the broader culture would do: judge each other based on intelligence and wit and ethical sensibility, not just our faces and bodies."

As for myself, I like the video enough, but there's no ad Dove could create that would make me forget that they are owned and operated by the same company as Axe, which continues to run campaigns based entirely on objectifying women.

Creating a Great Collage in Photoshop


Model: Brandon Richmond

Following up on last week's post about collages, today I'll share how I made the collage above in Adobe Photoshop.

The steps below will be most useful to those of you who are at least a little familiar with Photoshop. If you've never used the program before, digitaltutors.com and lynda.com offer some excellent tutorial videos on how to use Photoshop as well as other Adobe programs.

I'll also mention that these steps are only guidelines based on what I've learned so far in my Image Editing & Web Design course and information I've gathered online. There are many different ways to produce the same effect in Photoshop, and everyone will have their own creative process for achieving any one style or look.

My Guidelines for Creating a Great Collage:

1. The secret to a great collage is a great concept. Brainstorm some concepts or themes that you think you will be able to convey through images. It can be very simple like someone flying a kite or a fish in the ocean to something more complex and abstract depending on how skilled you are at manipulating images in Photoshop.

2. Choose several images (7 - 12) you might want to use in your collage and cut them out in Photoshop using the magic wand, quick selection, or pen tool.

3. Make any colour adjustments you want to each image using the selections available under: image, adjustments (brightness/contrast, hue/saturation, black & white).

4. Decide which image(s) you want as the focal point(s) of the collage. I suggest choosing no more than 1-3 images (textures & type included).

5. Create a new document in Photoshop with a canvas size of at least 800 x 400 pixels. This is where you will place your images and begin building the collage.

6. Place the image in the new document you created. As you bring in each image they will automatically appear on different layers. You will need to select the layer each image is on to make changes to that particular image.

7. Try moving images around to different areas of the canvas, rotating them, and decreasing their size. Cut out a part of an image and make it larger than the rest. Don't be afraid to try new things, you can always delete the layer and bring in the image again.

8. Experiment with applying different effects to the images (fx button is located in the layers window on the bottom left hand corner). Apply a colour, gradient, or pattern overlay, or try lowering the opacity levels on the image.

9. Add some type and try out different fonts. Maybe you only want to include one word, or maybe a couple sentences. Vary up the size and colour of the type to draw the eye to the most important words.

10. When you're relatively happy with how everything is looking, make some final tweaks. You might want to boost the colour, or experiment with overlaying different textures over the entire collage to achieve different looks. For example, I used a grunge texture to achieve — you guessed it, a grunge look.

What are some of your tips for creating a great collage? 

The Collage


photo courtesy Rex Hicks Flickr

What do you think of when you first hear the word "collage"? Maybe you think of a disorganized collection of random photographs — that's what I first thought of.

But collages come in all forms and some might be considered an art form in and of themselves, like the example above. This kind of collage is created using a software program called Adobe Photoshop, which allows the artist to layer images and effects on top of one another. 

What makes one collage visually appealing and the next disorderly can be hard to pin down. There are various design elements like making use of lines, shapes, textures and type that can help a designer to create an attractive piece. But there is also no shortage of beautiful images where rules have been clearly broken.

There is, however, an element present in all the best collages. Storytelling.

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