Keera Hart + Janessa Bishop
The pandemic has forced us all to think, act and communicate differently but many brands have successfully pivoted to find new ways to communicate with their stakeholders to enhance the ways in which they are viewed and inform how they will interact in the future.
When the pandemic hit, one area of marketing that was hit particularly hard was events. With in-person conferences, parties and events no longer an option, organizations need to find new avenues to reach and interact with their key audiences.
For organizations looking to achieve similar communications goals to in-person events, such as reaching new audiences, building credibility and securing sustained and dedicated attention for your brand, below are a few ideas for how you can redirect your event budgets.
Goal: Reaching New Audiences
Consider: Advertising or Sponsored Content
While in-person events are an effective way to reach new audiences, advertising and sponsored content can also provide a compelling platform for engagement. A common misconception about the pandemic is that it is not an appropriate time to advertise. While it’s important to be sensitive to the current situation, advertising will help you achieve the reach you’re looking for with new audiences.
However, brands need to think critically about advertisements during a pandemic. Ads should not appear too opportunistic or tone deaf. This requires brands to review existing ad content through a new lens and adjust the tone and narrative of ads as appropriate. Ads (and promotions) that stay true to the brand voice but acknowledge the current challenges and situation, as well as offer value to audiences and address their needs, will be the most successful.
Social media advertising, or social media targeting, is also a popular way to reach decision makers. Social networks utilize user information to share relevant advertisements, based on the user’s profile and previous interactions within the platform. Companies can use social media ad campaigns to increase brand awareness or to drive website traffic and sales.
Another great way to engage audiences is through sponsored content.
Sponsored content is a form of paid content that can look and feel editorial in nature. This type of content can include articles, videos, podcasts or social posts, and provides the opportunity for message control and increased audience targeting. Many media outlets have created content studios to create and share sponsored content and have dedicated sections to house such content.
Sponsored content is of benefit to businesses because of the association with the chosen publication and the exposure to its audience. This exposure can drive awareness, traffic, conversions, and leads. Unlike editorial pieces, it offers full control over the content tone and messaging. (One caveat is that, because it is paid, it does not tend to hold the same clout and objectivity as a native editorial piece).
Goal: Securing Dedicated Attention
Consider: Virtual Events
While in-person events have not been an option for the majority of 2020, many seminars, trade shows, and conferences instead channeled their efforts into compelling virtual events or webinars.
According to Ruben Castano, CEO of a popular virtual events platform called 6Connex, virtual events have increased by 1000 percent since the pandemic began, and this trend is not expected to slow any time soon.
Some argue that holding events virtually also extends reach, and while that may be true for some virtual events, the greater benefit is that organizations are able to secure dedicated attention.
Virtual events provide several other advantages as well. Unlike in-person events, virtual events aren’t restricted to a single location. Attendees can join and participate from anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to the internet. Virtual events are also less costly than in-person events, meaning businesses can get creative about how they allocate the funds previously dedicated to event space rental, meals and other live entertainment elements of in-person events.
However, virtual events also come with their own sets of challenges, mostly related to technology. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a slick presentation and having your technology fail. To mitigate technology challenges, it’s important to test out virtual platforms, including audio and video components and connectivity, in advance of the event.
Goal: Build Credibility
Consider: Media Relations
Organizations can also find their place in relevant publications through targeted media relations campaigns and outreach. Media relations is an effective way to increase thought leadership and build credibility, using media as an impartial third-party conduit to build the company’s reputation.
When working with the media, it’s critical to understand the scope and focus of each outlet, along with the reporter’s beat and background. Positioning the value of your story angle or spokesperson interview and ensuring it aligns with the objectives of the outlet and reporter will result in more successful engagements and can help foster strong relationships with your key media.
While physical events may begin to make a comeback in a few months, the pandemic has forced many organizations to find new ways to create more personalized touchpoints and make connections with audiences. As we continue to navigate an uncertain environment, the most successful organizations will be the ones that can adapt their communications strategy and consider new channels in order to effectively reach and influence their valuable stakeholder audiences.