What makes an A list?
Most of the public would define the “A list” as celebrities and wannabe celebrities. They’re the in-crowd who get invited to glitzy launches, wear the latest fashions, walk the red carpet and appear in the social pages.
When you work in public relations, your stakeholders (or the people that matter to you, the ones you have to ‘take care of’) can vary widely. What works for your A list, won’t necessarily work for mine.
And believe me, your most powerful and influential stakeholders may not be the same as those stalwarts of the social pages.
Most PR professionals know this. They know that the guest lists for the events below are likely to be very different:
- Launch of a new fashion line
- Opening of a new school wing
- Tenth birthday for a popular winery
- Opening of a new car parts factory
- Announcement of a prestigious scholarship winner
- Indie film premiere
For all of the events above, there would be some very obvious names to invite. There’d be a coterie of people passionate and influential in that field – as well as the close stakeholders involved in the project.
But that foodie blogger? They’re unlikely to be coming to the opening of the car parts factory.
It would be rare individual who would appear on the invite list for every event listed above. Though it’s not impossible. Politicians for example, may be invited to all of the above events. A popular entrepreneur or philanthropist could also be on the list for multiple events.
Sometimes however, PR professionals can get it wrong.
They might get lazy with their A list.
I think in this age of celebrity worship and social media, it’s even easier to get it wrong. We can fall into the trap of inviting people with thousands of Instagram or Twitter followers, while forgetting that influential print journalist who has been working that sector for decades. We could invite the most recent reality TV cast member, while neglecting the president of a community group that will be impacted by that new business.
So, what can be done?
How do you ensure you have the right A list?
For starters, remember to regard your invitees as stakeholders rather than party people.
Kim Harrison has an excellent list of typical stakeholder categories in Strategic Public Relations – A Guide to Success (2001). These include:
- Chairman, directors
- Local, state and federal politicians
- Global, national, state, local and trade media
- Investors, donors, members
- Educational institutions
- Community leaders
- Suppliers, wholesalers
- Environmental interest groups
A good PR professional will have developed a stakeholder list for their organisation / client / event. This stakeholder list will be one of the touchstones of your strategic communications plan. You’ll use it to ensure your communications are reaching stakeholders regularly. And one of the many benefits of the stakeholder list, will be the help it provides when you’re managing an event.
Like so much in the PR and communications world, there’s more to the A list than meets the eye.
Next time you read about the A list and look through all the accompanying photos of women in heels and men in sharp collars, do remember: every industry, every sector, every community has an influential list of its own. They’re people who have a stake in what you’re doing. They may be experts, they may be passionate, they may be antagonistic, they may be enthusiastic, they may be wary. The thing they have in common? The ability to impact your reputation and your ability to conduct business.
So put a concerted effort into your A list. Don’t just invite the usual suspects. Don’t be lulled into inviting the people who “always” to go launches. Look further, look across age and gender and career types, and develop a unique A list that you can be proud of.