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Top 10 on how to run events: from a watercress festival!

by on 19 May, 2014

An essential part of corporate communications is an event. And the Watercress Alliance put on a great event this weekend to celebrate the first watercress harvest of the year.

When did you last eat watercress?

Think how hard it is to communicate the message of eating watercress. Seldom used in the ordinary kitchen today but with more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach, so its sponsors say.

A total of 15,000 people went to the Watercress Festival in Alresford, Hampshire this Sunday. Because the corporate communications were great.  And the weather also great.

Here’s my top 10tips for organising corporate communications events from having a great day there:

Make win a multiplier

1                     You’ve heard of the cliché of Win-Win. Forget that. Make it a win, win, win, win… The festival has been running for 11 years prompted by the Watercress Alliance, three local growers. So they benefited. Then add the stall holders who attracted 15,000 potential punters. So they won. Then add the Watercress Railway line which shuttled people from a park-and-ride centre over a 10 minute train ride on a heritage railway to the town. So they win. Then add the Young Farmers who ran the park and ride for £5 per car parking including two rides on the railway, there and back. So they win. And so it goes on.


2                     Include competitions.  The Festival had competitions for who could eat the most watercress, which I did not enter.      It also had competitions by categories including the best overall product. That was won by watercress ice cream. Watercress in sweets: it was there. Anybody want watercress fudge? Then go to Mummy Makes Fudge. Watercress in sausages and burgers: it was there. That was won by local butchers Sole Butchers.

Build from a small core

3                     Build the event up from the interest of a small core. The Watercress Alliance members have built it and it kept going.

Don’t over egg it

4                     But, and this is a big but, do not make the event overly lavish: make it accessible and friendly. That’s where the park-and-ride idea was so good given the poor parking facilities on the town. But it was a bit packed in the main part of the town.

Get the human story

5                     Make a human story of it: a bride needed to get to her wedding car through the throng and the events were stopped to get her there. Ahhhhh.

Good organisation

6                     Have good marshals and good communications between them. They did much get to the bride to the church on time. I saw two cars trying to get through the crowds and they got out as a result of the good control of the marshals, despite the 15,000.


7                     Keep the event concentrated. This event may have died if run over two days: the organisers and those running stalls certainly may have done given the effort they put in. This may not be so for larger corporate events. And it could have petered out if spread too far over the town.

A totla of 15,000 enjoy the watercress festival this weekend: a great example of how to run and promote a corporate event

A total of 15,000 enjoy the watercress festival this weekend: a great example of how to run and promote a corporate event

Good PR mustard: thinking of changing your name?

8                     Use some good PR. My questions about the events were promptly answered by the PR company, Mustard Communications, would you believe.


9                     If possible, link your event to health. Such an event drew a wide range of people but to know that water cress has 15 essential vitamins is part of the message.

Be lucky

10                 Be lucky: such great weather. Without it the car park would have been a soggy mess and the visitors drenched.


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