Strategic Event Planning [National Conference 2018 Session Recap]

Courtesy of Joe Dunay, Ohio Northern University

Session: Strategic Event Planning

Presenter: Gary McCormick, Founder and Principle, GMc Communications, LLC

Recap: Event planning is no easy feat

but some, according to Gary McCormick, can consider it an understated part of public relations. When thinking about planning events, the first general thoughts are birthdays, holidays and the big “I do.” McCormick shared his successes and journeys to creating an event with impact.

Events can deliver results to the client through strategic alignment, training opportunities, business goals, product and company promotions, branding or consumer engagement. For a successful event that fills the needs of the client, the event planner must ask “why?” According to McCormick, the most important part of event planning is understanding the expected outcome of the event.

Once the outcome is understood between the client and the planner, a plan can be created. This identifies and aligns the five W’s, SMART goals and the budget. Recognizing the need for the event and creating a program that supports the client’s need, is crucial to the contribution of company success.

McCormick touched on notable events throughout his career such as partnering with Disney and working for HGTV. With every Dream Home and Smart Home giveaway, comes an opportunity to show the products and advertise both the business and all of the partners that helped create the final product. However, each house poses its own challenges. For example, the house in Martha’s Vineyard was filmed in January, which means the planning crew had to account for weather and businesses closed for the winter.

As for working with Disney, McCormick shared his experience working with a company that has strictly defined brand standards. While working on the Disney Gardens, it was essential to make sure that both Disney and HGTV were being represented in a real garden, through the branded signage and in the presentations given by the HGTV stars. The events and partnership were successful enough that it grew into a cross-promotional series called “My Yard Goes Disney.”

Event planning is not a simple task but can have a significant influence on the success of the company.  McCormick encourages future PR practitioners to look at the advantages of strategic event planning for a powerful impact.


  • Events can benefit companies in similar ways as strategic campaigns and create a personal connection with the audience.
  • Companies and products can build new audiences by partnering with other businesses that have similar audiences.
  • Planning the logistics, budget and goals before the actions can secure positive results for the client.
  • Regardless of how many events have previously been done, each event has new challenges.

Brittany Osteen is a senior studying public relations, sports psychology and forensic science at West Virginia University.  From Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, she is currently the president of the WVU PRSSA Chapter. Follow @LittleOsteen on Twitter or Brittany Osteen on LinkedIn.

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