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November 17, 2009

CONTENT KINGS:The importance of cross-channel communication

When we work in an industry that’s all about face-to-face, how can we really harness the power of digital content? Pete Roythorne investigates

The buzz around social media just keeps getting bigger, and some claim it is revolutionising the marketing landscape in a way that makes the advent of TV look like child’s play. In an industry that centres on dealing with people face to face, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the meetings and events sector would be immune to its charms, but the reality is we are embracing this technology, and should continue to do so, if we are to drive our discipline into the 21st century.

First, it’s important to realise that social media is not just Twitter and Facebook. Wikipedia defines it as: “Media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.” This covers a multitude of technologies and ways of communicating with your target market.

For the meeting and events organiser, social media in all its forms offers access to an audience the size of which most people could only dream about, particularly at the costs involved. It also offers the ability to deliver content to these people pre and post event, thereby extending its life cycle and creating longer-lasting and deeper engagement.


Digital dreams: Online content is the way forward

Ampfliying your message
“Digital content is far more than a means to amplify and engage the target audience about an event – it is an integral marketing tool in itself to communicate the event to a much broader audience,” says Jonathan Emmins, managing partner at experiential agency Amplify. “Through digital content, you can build consumer anticipation, deliver a feel of what the event was like and showcase a host of post-event reviews, reaction and content.”

Emmins also points out that choosing which content works best depends entirely on the campaign.

“For example," he says, "we recently raised awareness and created anticipation around the launch of Red Bull Energy Shots with a short viral video invite which we shot with a ‘Secret Agent’ sending a message to internal staff and journalists offering advice on how to infiltrate ‘Project Compact’.”

It’s this cross-media approach that David Miller, creative director at content marketing agency Three-Sixty, stresses is crucial if you’re going to get maximum benefit from digital content.

“It’s important to use a wide cross section of media and channels to get the most effect and the widest spread,” he explains. “For example, Twitter can be a great way of building a community and interest around an event, but you need to be able to deliver more. So, creating a specific website dedicated to the event and then creating relevant content around that subject area to engage your visitors and give them a flavour of what to expect from the show is a powerful tool. Again this content should be in a range of media, from written articles through to video interviews with speakers.”

Before and after
RPM’s chairman and founding partner Hugh Roberston reaffirms the fact that digital content not only builds the buzz of an event beforehand, but also extends its life afterwards.

“Pre and post-event engagement is vital to maximising reach and impact of any live campaign,” he says. “Digital engagement pre event can be used to raise brand awareness, target difficult-to-reach audiences and provide valuable user-generated content. Content and data generated throughout the live campaigns, such as photography, videos, artwork, opinions and interviews, can provide a real reason for continuing dialogue with audiences post event and measuring the success of the activity.”

Janine Maxwell, associate director at marketing and PR agency Kinrossm Render agrees.

“Social media is becoming an increasingly important way to keep delegates engaged long after an event is over," she says. "We typically organise seminars and events to get closer to our target audiences.

"The events themselves provide the opportunity for us to meet and find common ground, and now with social media we can continue building the relationship, sharing relevant information and communicating.

"We are careful not to use social media to sell and push out our message," Maxwell continues. "Instead, it's about maintaining a dialogue and progressing the conversation we had at the event itself.”

Maintaining this dialogue is about continuing to create relevant content.

“Digital communication is an extremely effective way of keeping consumers and delegates engaged once a campaign has finished,” says Emmins. “At its most basic level you can provide a thank-you message via your website, partner websites and/or social media. Plus you can include an event review accompanied by photo, audio and video content documenting the live activity.

Exclusive content
“You can also follow this up with exclusive content by artists or figureheads who featured at the event, and also by related artists and/or figureheads to those who were at the event, in order to keep the community engaged,” he continues. “As with maintaining any relationships long term, the key is to find an excuse to converse with your audience by feeding them something they will be interested in and inviting them to debate issues relevant to the campaign.”

For Amplify's San Miguel Hidden Depths campaign, the website was specifically designed to host a variety of content posted at various points before, during and after the campaign.

So, however much you may want to resist them, digital content and social media are crucial tools for the modern event organiser. Not something that can be ignored.

“Understanding how to use and harness the power of digital content is crucial for any event organiser to extend the reach of live activity, deliver valuable experiences to consumers and maximise impact of the campaign beyond the live event itself,” concludes Roberston.

“Visitors can be reached across a number of touch points surrounding the main event contributing to their overall experience and how they will feel about the brand afterwards. Organisers should consider the consumer journey outside the live event, and how they can use digital content to ultimately increase attendee numbers and broaden the reach of a one-off piece of activity.”

This digital content approach was a key feature of RPM’s Smirnoff’s UR The Night event at the O2’s Matter venue this July, where fans of the vodka brand had the opportunity to shape the night themselves.

In the lead up to the event, fans on the official Smirnoff Facebook group were prompted to cast their votes to determine everything from drinks to decor, live acts, pre event parties, VIP areas, activities, bars and much more. Tickets for the event were only available through the Facebook group and fans were driven back to the site after event to view photos and videos captured on the night. The campaign was a huge success, with 13,500 additional Facebook group members post event.

However, Three-Sixty’s Miller believes it’s vital not to restrict the use of digital content and social media to marketing campaigns.

“Although, digital content can be a significant boost for any campaign, communicating through these channels should be built into the very fabric of how companies engage with their target audiences. They should be part of a company’s strategic communication vision," he says, adding: "There is no quicker way to build relevance, kudos and loyalty, while at the same time getting your message across to your target audience… and there is certainly no more cost-effective way.”

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