Events are an often glamorized, and at times considered frivolous, part of the public relations toolkit. But the reality is, events are about 1% glamorous, and 99% hard work requiring strategic dedication, labour, and a strong budget. They also provide a great return on investment in terms of strengthening your brand positioning, building relationships (with either media or your customers), and lead generation when executed correctly.
Events are no longer a ‘build it and they will come’ tactic. They require well thought out strategy in advance, a sufficient lead time, and often need a budget bigger than you may expect.
If you’re considering hosting a media event for your product launch or wish to foster a stronger connection to your key customers through an event, it can be difficult to plan how much you need to spend. To help, we’re going behind the scenes of the Boss Babe Brunch and breaking down the actual* costs of producing a luxury brunch event for 30 women.
Food, Drink and Venue
It was important to host the event at an Instagram-worthy location while creating a sense of exclusivity. To help simplify logistics and reduce the number of vendors as much as possible, we decided to host at a restaurant in a private room rather than book a venue and bring in a caterer. Ultimately, we decided to work with The Drake Hotel, reserving their bright and comfortable Sky Yard for a private event. We negotiated a $3,500 minimum spend before tax and gratuity.
What did this include?
All food, including scones and croissants prior to the family-style meal
Coffee and tea station
All drinks (we decided on an open bar to help hit the minimum spend)
A/V and tech set up
Room set up
Guest check-in and security
Photobooth tickets upon arrival
The event was a quick one, only two hours long, and having a strong food and venue partner such as The Drake ensured it was a smooth production, appearing effortless to the attendees.
The beautiful benefit of working with The Drake was that our agreement covered many entertainment costs mentioned above, including A/V, photobooth tickets, and a games package. This was an incredible save for us! Normally, you could expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 for items such as these.
Ultimately, the only additional cost of entertainment not covered by The Drake was bringing in an influential and value-ad speaker. Our number one choice was Lauren McPhilips of This Renegade Love. Her brand matched the target market perfectly and she has proven, time and time again, to be able to provide quality content for her audience.
Bringing on a guest of Lauren’s calibre can range. We budgeted $1,000 for booking a high-quality influencer. We also made sure to pick up a special gift for Lauren as a thank you – a bottle of one of her favourite wines!
Swag and Giveaways
This was an area we wish we had a bigger budget to spend on. Swag bags are a great take away for guests if the contents of the swag bag provide real value. If swag bags are overly filled with heavy promotional items or useless products for the audience, they will mostly end up in the trash. This isn’t good for your brand, for your customer, or for the environment.
Because we promised swag bags in our event marketing, we were tied to doing them. In retrospect, we wouldn’t have made that promise unless we had secured a better budget to create a truly impactful swag bag. The same goes for the three giveaway items we randomly gave out at the end of the event.
There are components of a swag bag that can often be forgotten when planning the event and budget, such as the bags themselves (you can’t give swag away without providing a way to carry it home!) and ribbon or tissue for a special pop. They don’t have to cost much, but you don’t want to find yourself a few days away from an event and realize you forgot this key part of your swag.
We ultimately budgeted $685 for our swag bags and event giveaways. Ideally, we would have doubled this.
As we stated earlier, you can no longer host events with a ‘build it and they will come’ strategy. However, we did go barebones for this event in terms of marketing, focusing on social media ads, discount codes and influencer PR.
We planned on spending about $500 between Facebook and Instagram paid ads during a 2.5-week campaign – 1.5 weeks at the start of ticket sales and a week leading up to the event. Due to an unforeseen event change, this was a very short length of time for a campaign. In an ideal situation, we would have been in market six weeks prior to the event. With that in mind, we bumped up our spend partway through the campaign to $600 in order to get the ad in-front of our target audience as much as possible.
We also ran organic social media promotions and executed an influencer PR strategy to support the promotion of the event. The final item under the marketing budget was the hiring of an event photographer to capture the day.
And it worked. Everywhere we went, people had remembered seeing promotions of the event. In the end, the marketing budget ran at $3,300.
The Grand Total
We worked hard to produce a lean event that was sophisticated and had a touch of luxury, and we are incredibly proud of the results. Thanks to smart partnerships, we were able to keep the number of expenses down, helping to simplify the event logistics and ultimately lower the total costs.
In the end, the event budget ran just over $13,000 and the actual costs ran just over $12,500. You can download a complete budget breakdown to review here.
*Full disclosure: The Boss Babe Brunch received generous sponsorship from a number of community partners. The budget presented shares the costs of the event had it been entirely financed by one business.
Photos by Alice Xue Photography.