Event marketing has a unique set of challenges. With content growing exponentially and readers fracturing across more and more channels, it’s difficult to reach event audiences at the right place and time. Whether you’re an exhibitor or event organizer, multichannel event promotion is the key to reaching your desired audience and attracting the best attendees to the event.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- How to leverage social media to promote your event or event presence.
- Why earned media is important and how to encourage it.
- How to use news release distribution to reach event goals.
Reaching hundreds or thousands of influencers, buyers, and journalists in a targeted way at the perfect time may seem impossible. However, with careful planning and strategic use of proper promotion channels, you can reach as many audience segments as possible for a successful show.
What to Consider When Promoting an Event
Event marketing has a unique set of challenges. When planning an event or trade show, there are multiple things vying for your attention — design, budgets and travel —which makes it easy for promotion to get neglected. With the amount of online content growing and readers continually fracturing across more platforms, the challenges that come with event promotion seem insurmountable. How is it possible to reach your desired event audiences at the right place at the right time?
Since there are so many moving parts when planning a show, event organizers may rely on the same formula for promotion each year. However, as technology continues to evolve and attendees’ and exhibitors’ expectations become more demanding, resting on one’s laurels won’t work; event audiences are constantly seeking new experiences and ways to engage with information.
As an exhibitor, it’s tempting to stick with what has been successful in previous years or for other campaigns, but this is a mistake. With new solutions and experiential marketing on the rise, you must measure performance and re-evaluate your strategy every year to keep up with the competition.
Whether you’re an event organizer or exhibitor, multichannel event marketing is key to reaching your desired audiences and bringing the necessary people to the event. A mix of content in paid, earned and owned spaces can help overcome the daunting challenges. These tips will help boost awareness, credibility and excitement to help your event thrive.
Earned Media in Event Marketing
According to an Outsell independent research study, 81 per cent of senior marketers believe earned media is more effective than paid media. The study also showed that audiences view earned media as the most authentic form of marketing. With consumers moving away from traditional ads and looking to search engines and word of mouth to inform purchasing decisions, earned media is becoming increasingly vital to establish brand trust and thought leadership.
Exhibitors — To strengthen company credibility, consider working with the event organizer to reserve a speaking slot at the event. By becoming an event speaker, your brand can generate awareness within the event, appear as a thought leader in the industry and attract more booth traffic. Speaking engagements also increase the likelihood of earned media coverage since they provide newsworthy content for both journalists and influencers who are constantly looking for compelling stories to share with their following.
Event Organizers — Speakers play a crucial role in attracting multifaceted trade show audiences and garnering earned media attention before, during and after the show. Selecting the right keynote speakers that specialize in current hot topics can set the tone for your entire event.
To find the right speakers, take the time to research industry sites, study social media and talk with fellow event professionals to discover which influencers are the biggest players. You can also use media research tools and services to connect you with experts in the industry.
Once you book the best speakers, promote their presence via paid and owned channels to create awareness and excitement for the event. In your marketing, have a call-to-action (CTA) guiding interested parties to an event registration page.
Reach Out to Journalists and Influencers
Exhibitors — Connecting with the most appropriate journalists and influencers is essential for securing earned media coverage for your company. Blindly sending mass emails in hopes of a response is a tactic of the past. Instead, ask the event organizer to provide a list of press attending the show. Once you receive it, research each contact on the list to get a feel for the news they cover, their style, how they prefer to be approached, etc. Narrow down the list to the most relevant contacts and send a personalized pitch showing an interest in their articles and explaining why your product, service or story could be a good fit for their publication.
Be sure the pitch has a clear call to action such as an invite to stop by your booth or a request to set up a meeting.
Event Organizers — The more journalists and influencers you attract to your event, the more earned media mentions it will receive. Research is critical for finding the audiences that are the best fit for your event.
To find earned media generators, search the web or use a media research tool to find articles or blogs written about other conferences in your industry. This research will yield a shortlist of potential earned media prospects and ensure they are active participants in your industry. Create a list of the authors of those articles and use it as a starting point for your outreach.
It is also important to make it as inexpensive as possible for media and influencers to attend your event and easily cover it. Attract these audiences by offering discounts, being accommodating for interviews and providing centralized resources where the media can effortlessly find all event news. It may not seem cost effective upfront, but the coverage journalists and influencers can provide could create awareness and increased show attendance for years to come.
Provide a Sneak Peak With Pre-Show Media Events
Exhibitors — Attending pre-show media events should be a major part of your event marketing strategy. Pre-show media events have the specific purpose of driving earned media and allow you to have the complete attention of journalists. These events are specifically designed so the media has dedicated time to learn about your new product, ask questions and, hopefully, write an article before the show. This earned media coverage can, in turn, drive more traffic to your event booth.
While attending these events, it’s necessary to have your media pitch down and have all materials a journalist might need readily and easily available. According to the Cision State of the Media Report “respondents said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ use multimedia elements 70.5 per cent of the time, compared to their use of data which respondents rated at 56 per cent of ‘always’ or ‘often’ usage.” Journalists are often required to include multimedia elements with their stories so it’s imperative to provide easy access to high-quality images and other assets.
Event Organizers — Partnering with pre-show media events provides a great venue for exhibitors to directly pitch to media in-person.
These pre-show events are also beneficial to event organizers because journalists may write articles about the exhibitors at the event, creating more exposure, promotion and excitement for the event — right as it’s starting.
The earned media mentions that come out of pre-show events are invaluable and those mentions help drive traffic to your exhibitors. More traffic provides exhibitors more ROI and increases the chance of renewal registrations for next year’s event.
Work Together by Fostering Partnerships
Exhibitors — Trade shows can be costly, and if your company is smaller, teaming up with a bigger company that offers a complementary product or service could help decrease costs and increase exposure to new audiences. This format could also increase your chances of receiving media coverage since journalists may be more inclined to start covering bigger exhibition booths first, helping your company get a boost to the front of the line.
Event Organizers — Since trade show audiences are so complex, partnering with other associations in your industry can make it easier to attract your desired attendee, exhibitor and media segments.
A survey from EventTrack had 74 per cent of respondents say engaging with branded event marketing experiences makes them more likely to buy the products being promoted. Therefore, having a booth at another industry show can help increase awareness and registrations and, in return, you can offer other associations that same courtesy at your event.
Owned Media in Event Marketing
Create and Participate in Event Webinars
Exhibitors — In order to avoid missed opportunities, attend any webinars the event organizer puts on about the event. These webinars often discuss numerous free opportunities or detail official vendors that can help promote your event presence.
In addition to attending webinars, ensure you’re doing all you can to promote your brand by creating your own webinars. These webinars can go over what you’re offering at the event, or they can be how-tos on solving customer pain points. The objective of all webinars leading up to an event should be to get people interested in learning more at the show; therefore, include a CTA to learn more at your event booth.
Event organizers — Many events have numerous first-time exhibitors, new to both the industry and to exhibiting at trade shows altogether. In order to ensure all exhibitors are getting the most ROI out of an event, it’s a good idea to put on webinars to help educate exhibitors. If your event works with a PR agency, ask them to participate in providing their perspective and using anecdotes of successful past exhibitors to provide a road map for current exhibitors to follow.
Speak up on Social
Exhibitors — Your social media channels contain a captivated audience already interested in what your brand has to say. Promote your event presence early and often and invite your followers to come see your brand at the show. To broaden your audiences to those following event news, use the official event hashtag to ensure attendees are aware of your company’s presence.
The event hashtag is a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to try different industry hashtags that may reach more of your coveted audiences. Not all companies follow the event hashtag, but they may be searching for industry news and solutions.
You can also increase your following during the show by live tweeting. Live tweeting helps keep your social audiences interested as events often provide useful, timely information that’s perfect for sharing.
Event organizers — Create a unique event hashtag that is short, identifiable and not already in use. Be sure to do your homework on this one – you don’t want to accidentally use an acronym that belongs to another show.
Once a hashtag is chosen, be sure to put the official hashtag in a prominent place like your Twitter profile or a pinned tweet, then continue to use your hashtag with every event-related tweet. These tweets should occur often to keep attendees apprised of announcements and upcoming deadlines.
To encourage attendees to live tweet, use technology like tweet leaderboards throughout the exhibit space or offer prizes for social engagement.
Blog About it
Exhibitors — If you have an active blog, chances are you have audiences that check it often for helpful tips your brand provides. As an event draws closer, pepper in teasers about new products and what the company will be doing at the show. If you’re excited about the news you’re sharing at the event or the new products you’ll have on display, your readers will be too. For the CTA in trade show-themed posts, include an invite to your booth for a demo or appointment. Some shows allow exhibitors to invite attendees to the show for free; if that is an option, make sure you provide instructions on how your audience can take advantage of that offer.
After the trade show, it’s a good idea to generate some blog posts that talk about the event to extend the life of your event marketing. Topics like “What I learned from [event]…” make for great blog posts and provide invaluable information to your readers.
Event Organizers — As an event organizer for a trade show, chances are you’re already blogging to position your organization as a thought leader and resource in the industry. Continue that process leading up to the show but focus on topics that explore and promote your upcoming event. For example, highlight fun tips about the event experience, such as what to wear or what to do in the city.
As the show approaches, promote your blog on your other channels to broaden your audience and establish the blog as a must-read.
After the show, you are in the unique position to provide a higher-level analysis of the event. Reveal industry trends in announcements and blog posts and original research if you have it to help reinforce your leadership role
Paid Media in Event Marketing
Blast it out with News Release Distribution
Exhibitors — News release distribution offers a way to reach new audiences and encourage discovery of your content on new channels. News release distribution casts a wider net among websites and trade publications, generating awareness, facilitating SEO and allowing for measurement of results. Distribution, within a larger strategy also helps drive earned media coverage.
Using news release distribution can help you accomplish your goals, from keeping your brand and new products top-of-mind to driving booth traffic and inspiring earned media stories.
While news release distribution can be an immensely helpful tool, following the below guidelines will ensure you have the most success:
- Headline: Creating a concise, intriguing headline that includes the event name.
- Timing: Avoid sending releases on travel days before the show and around stock market open and close. It also helps to avoid sending your release on the hour, instead send it on an off-minute.
- Multimedia: Include multimedia like videos and photos to make your content more compelling. When compared to text-only copy, news releases with photos average 1.4 times more views and news releases with videos average 2.8 times more views.
- Call to action: Include a link to the next step you want readers to take – such as signing up for a newsletter or a demo request at the show. Don’t forget to include your booth number as well so that attendees can put your company on their event agenda.
Event Organizers — If attendee and exhibitor registrations hit a plateau, you can consider news release distribution to broaden exposure and amplify anticipation for the event. Distribute press releases about keynote speakers, agendas and special attractions to encourage registrations and potential stories.
Create an Event Landing page
Exhibitors — According to Exhibitor Magazine’s 2016 Marketing Technology Survey, 21 per cent of event marketers feel show-specific websites have the most potential to become a powerful marketing tool. Event landing pages have many names like branded microsites or online press kits, but no matter what you call them, they are a great way to centralize event content, have a focused event campaign message, funnel leads and track event success.
A comprehensive landing page should include where to find your company at the event and any necessary details about the products or services you’ll be showcasing at your booth. This provides one place for attendees and the media to do research and one place for you to monitor engagement so that you can to easily measure the event campaign.
Landing pages also aid in simple, consistent event promotion since there’s only one link to promote on social, blogs, news releases, the show floor and in post-show follow up emails.
Event Organizers — To increase registrations for your event, it’s essential to provide a user-friendly event site for your audiences to easily find the information they need.
Each audience will be on your event site for different reasons, and therefore, each should have their own dedicated space. Think about what each audience wants to know, their journey on your site and how to lead them to take your desired action.
For example, attendees may go to an event site to see who’s exhibiting, research why they should go to the show and register. Exhibitors may go to see if their competitors are exhibiting, find valid business reasons to exhibit at the show, research costs for budgeting and register. The press, however, go to an event site for a very specific purpose — to find news. They might register to attend the show, but they first and foremost want to see event and exhibitor news to find a story. In addition to having an on-site press office at the event, having a dedicated online press office page broadens the pool of media that has access to your event’s news. This can greatly increase the potential for earned media coverage as well as provide a space for attendees to map out their agenda.
Explore the Power of Sponsorships
Exhibitors — Event sponsorships offer a unique opportunity to market your product or service to a captive, targeted audience and provide some added visibility for your company at an event. Depending on your company’s goals, sponsorships can provide lead capture opportunities, booth traffic boosts, or earned media prospects. In order to find the best sponsorship fit, relay your primary goals for the sponsorship to the event organizer to ensure their offers align with your desired results.
Sponsorships can be as simple as placing your logo and booth number on free bags for brand awareness to sponsoring lounges and charging stations. They can involve sending staffers to another dedicated space at the event or simply having a Twitter vending machine that dispenses prizes when event attendees use a specific hashtag — the options are endless. However, when selecting the best sponsorship route to take, make sure you have a way to measure your success in order to evaluate if it should be a reoccurring one.
Event Organizers — A 2017 Freeman Global Brand Experience Study showed one in three CMOs expects to budget 21 to 50 per cent of their marketing dollars towards brand experiences, including events, trade shows, sponsorships, exhibits, etc. Sponsors are a great source of event revenue and can be the brand advocate to drive awareness and enthusiasm for your event.
Since companies are setting aside budgets for sponsorships, it’s important to provide the technology and innovation to ensure those big players spend their sponsorship dollars with your event. Attract sponsors by thinking about their needs and providing offers that help them meet their goals. Offer sponsorship options in places that help attendees and find them when they are in a good mood such as food areas and lounges. Most importantly, invest in technology that can demonstrate ROI.
There is a lot of planning that goes into events, but if no one shows up, that planning was for nothing. Follow these 10 tips and you go from feeling overwhelmed before the trade show, to feeling overwhelmed with the results.
Show the Impact of Your Communications with Measurement
When it comes to the communications and PR industry, there aren’t many options to show how your efforts contribute to the bottom line. Measurement and reporting software is key to showing the impact of your event campaigns in order to ensure healthy budgets in the future. Measurement also provides insight into what worked and what didn’t to shape successful future campaigns.