Technology has come a long way to mainstreaming remote working. Yet, despite all of these advances, it is still important to meet with people in person at events and conferences. As important relationships are best maintained in this way, events should be part of your marketing mix. The challenge is that can often be difficult to quantify or justify the Return on Investment (ROI) of this activity. And, picking the right events to attend can sometimes be difficult. Combining Public Relations activities with your Event program is a great way to increase overall marketing effectiveness and ROI.
The Role of PR at an Event
Given the large investment of attending an event, including sponsorship fees, booth design, graphics, labor set up (paying union wages), travel, and lodging, anything that can be done to amplify the benefits and reap future dividends will go a long way to justifying attendance.
Here is where a focus on engaging with the media and analysts can really help with your selection process. If the event under consideration has sponsors, check to see if any are from the media. Smaller events might have a low entrance fee, but only one exclusive media sponsor – which is good and bad. Good, in that you likely will have a chance to speak with them, but bad, in that no other publications will be present. In this case, it might be a good idea to go with a different choice where multiple journalists are present, to then have a greater potential for wider coverage.
The same holds true for industry analysts. Participating in events well attended by your customers is a great way to connect them with influencers, such as an industry analyst. Take advantage of the fact that everyone has traveled to the event and find a time to put these people together to have a conversation about an industry challenge, and perhaps a follow up for a customer success story.
Here are three additional suggestions on how to best maximize the ROI of your event strategy with PR:
1. Be All In – Make an Announcement from the Event
An overall theme to the most successful event attendance strategy – and one that will get you to maximize your ROI – is to choose quality over quantity. For the same budget, it is better to attend 3 events and be “all in” vs. attending 6 with a meager investment at each show. By being all in I am suggesting you should consider being a sponsor, having a booth, getting a speaking slot, making an announcement, and hosting a dinner for customers.
This investment requires having the right team on-site, including sales representatives – it will do your sales pipeline no good to only have marketing staff in the booth and engaging with customers!
Plan your PR announcement pipeline so you can coincide some sort of Press Release, be it a new support program, product launch, or new strategic direction to coincide with your event attendance. Consider hosting a press conference to promote this announcement at your booth. This activity will translate into “buzz” on the show floor, which will generate better awareness and get your internal team excited about working their shift and representing the company.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that better awareness will be achieved by simply covering more shows – especially if you are a startup or smaller company. Taking the time to be all in will give you significantly more awareness, buzz and engagement by customers, prospects, employees and the media.
2. Plan and Engage with the Media Before the Event
Once you have picked the right event and identified suitable news to announce from the show, the next step is to drive interest before you get there. Reach out to the journalists and analysts in your space to see who will be attending. Organize a dinner or lunch event. Call for a press conference. Do whatever it takes to get a commitment from them to meet with your executives, attend 1:1s with subject matter experts, or meet with a customer.
The more planning you can do in advance of your event, the better audience engagement you will achieve while at the show. This will be noticeable by all in attendance, including the competition.
3. Be a Speaker, Presenter or Panelist & Promote It
Part of why people attend events is to learn more about an industry, the players, and the future direction. Technology life cycles continue to compress in length, which makes it very difficult to stay current.
Any opportunity you have to speak at an event – even if that means paying a fee as part of a sponsorship package – is time, resources and money well spent. It may be extra work and require an additional employee to travel, but the payoff can be big if you pick a good topic that it is well attended.
By taking a disciplined, multi-faceted approach to your event strategy, it is possible to deliver impressive results including new sales, opportunities and media coverage. Driving attendance with pre-show announcements and outreach, with offers for interviews, can demonstrate thought leadership and build engagement with the media. Promoting this activity both before and after the event will add further awareness to your brand. These benefits extend well beyond the time you are at the event, substantially amplifying the ROI of your event marketing strategy.