Every time your organization holds an event of any kind, it’s a pivotal moment to deliver a message, increase brand awareness, and build lasting relationships with members, prospects, and the key decision-makers in your sector.
So it’s surprising when organizations fail to integrate their event marketing with their broader communications and outreach strategies. Surprising—but by no means unheard of. If you work for an association that has a great communications program that does little or nothing to promote upcoming events, here are some steps you can take:
- Start early: If you’re planning a six-month campaign for an annual event, start nine or 10 months out if it’s the first time you’ve tried to coordinate with your in-house communications group.
- Line up your arguments: If the communications team has never thought of the conference as a prime source of information and messaging, it’s up to you to make the case. You can do that by highlighting the strong content you’re bringing onsite and the connections between the conference and the broader communications effort.
- Find your spots on the calendar: If your organization has a strong communications presence, it probably has an editorial calendar to track key milestones and deadlines. To integrate your event marketing with the rest of the communications effort, you’ll have to carve out your spots on the calendar. Try to maximize exposure in the weeks leading up to key registration deadlines, and watch for moments when conference content can reinforce your organization’s wider messaging.
- Treat content as a fulcrum: Some content marketers recommend using a blog as the fulcrum of a wider social media strategy. Every time you publish a new post, you create news that you can legitimately redistribute via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social channels—and when readers are particularly interested in a topic, they “raise their hands” by clicking the links in the blog. By linking those readers back to your conference website, you encourage them to find out more about the program and, ultimately, to sign up for the event.
- Adhere to the schedule…: Once you’ve committed to the editorial calendar, it’s important to meet your deadlines. You picked your spots for a reason, and your event needs the timely, effective marketing you’ve mapped out. Your in-house communications team is counting on you, too, and you’ll earn their undying gratitude by delivering clean, readable text when you said you would.
- …but be prepared to improvise: Any editorial calendar can be overtaken by events. In fact, author David Meerman Scott has elevated newsjacking to a fine art. If breaking news helps you make a compelling case for people to attend or sponsor your conference, that means postponing the post you thought you had lined up and publishing it next week instead.
You’ll know you’ve connected with your communications team when they start to see your conference as a smart, useful resource, not just another product they have to sell. The first step is to recognize content as the most important part of the event, and think about how to market it accordingly.