One of the million dollar questions in event marketing is “how do you attract attendees”. To try and answer it, we’ve created The B2B Event Marketing Guide, a 15 chapters report on the full marketing strategy and planning process that goes behind a business event.
The article below is an excerpt from the guide. Find the other chapters here.
In this chapter: Earned media channels and basic rules on how to pitch your event to journalists and media partners. Taking the necessary steps for attendees, speakers, sponsors and team members to become promoters of the event. Performance indicators for earned media.
You know by now what media is, so the question is how do you earn it. Earned media is anything you gain organically, through sharing, mentions and referrals. This can be generated by press (through your PR, media partnership efforts or organically), influencers (which can happen in a paid partnership, as discussed before or organically), speakers, sponsors, attendees, employees, etc. Anyone talking about your event without being paid to do it will come under earned media.
A report by Cision Earned Media Influential in Performance Marketing, marked the top three biggest challenges in implementing an earned media strategy as identifying and connecting with key influencers (60%), measuring financial impact of programs/prove ROI (52%) and creating compelling content (42%).
Your public relations (PR) or media partnerships efforts can get you articles, interviews and videos in media, either traditional or digital. Usually, this will be done through a constant relationship from one of the members of your team (your marketer or PR representative) with the media.
Pitching rules for earned media
A lot has been said about the complicated relationship between journalists and PR reps, about how to pitch, when and to whom so it’s beneficial for both parties. We want to sum up some basic ground rules to pitching your event to a media partner, journalist or influencer, which you should use in communicating with any stakeholder in your event:
1. Do your research
For each publication or website, understand who their target audience is, what topics they are covering, which journalists are covering the topics you are interested in, what are their channels (social media, newsletters, etc), what is their average reach is. Constantly review this research to ensure it is still up to date.
2. Be relevant
Link your event with the insights you got from your research and present this. Sometimes, marketers have spent so much time working on an event they know inside out, that they forget others don’t have as much information as they do.
Ensure you clearly talk about the match between the media outlet and your event’s topics. Also, make sure you chose your targets correctly. For example, for a small, regional event you should target regional media, since the national one will likely cover bigger meetings, of national relevance.
3. Be personal
As discussed in the email marketing section, just using the first name of the journalist will bring benefits to your pitch. But don’t stop here, see if you can reference any previous materials the journalist has written that you’ve enjoyed or that are relevant for your event or how they can benefit from getting insight into your event.
Plus, remember to always be friendly, since this is a relationship you want to invest in, even if your pitch isn’t successful from the first attempt.
4. Offer something new and/or unique
Journalists and media outlets representatives receive tens (or even more) of pitches every day. Ask yourself, what makes yours worth the time to research and write about it?
Talk about the new perspectives your event brings, the unique insights offered by your speakers, any innovations or product launches taking place at the event that will get the journalists the content they need for the media outlet.
5. Go the extra mile
As mentioned initially, good PR is about relationship building.It’s not about a pitch a journalist delivers on, it’s about a long term business relationship you are developing.
Invite them to join your event and get extra content from their attendance, organise functions in which you get to meet them face to face, offer them exclusivity or something for free and it will come back to you.
Media partnerships usually function on a barter basis, where you offer exposure in exchange for the exposure you receive via their channels. What you can get and what you can offer is limited only by your imagination.
Through a media partnership, you can obtain exposure for your articles, banners, social media posts, insert in newsletters, ads in magazines or even on TV. Alternatively, you can try and barter any services you need for your conference, but whatever you are aiming to obtain, make sure you offer similar value.
For example, for some events we’ve worked on where we were getting promotion, we made sure we only gave free tickets for media partners that offered us dedicated newsletters to database of over 20,000 contacts.
Involve your brand promoters through advocacy marketing
Another important owned media source are your brand promoters or marketing advocates: your employees, loyal customers, speakers, sponsors and current attendees.
Your employees may have relevant contacts from your target market in their social communities, though some may be reluctant to post something because they are required to, while others will do this without being asked to.
We recommend offering them the option to post and making brand assets (event logo, event hashtag, banners, copy) easily available, but don’t make this mandatory to avoid any frustration in the team.
Your loyal customers are repeat attendees to your events, be them speakers, sponsors, VIPs or paid attendees. Since they have attended your events more than once, they will be able to testify the value of being involved and may also be happy to share this, either on their platforms of yours.
Speaker testimonials are an important part of promoting the event, which we address in the content marketing section here. However, as with your colleagues and employees, you can also ask them in a friendly way if they would be willing to use their own websites or social channels to post about your event, which would bring you extra earned coverage.
Speakers and sponsors are already involved in your event, but getting them to promote this can also be quite difficult sometimes. We believe it is important to highlight the benefits of generating buzz around their attendance even before the event and making sure they have any design or content assets they need (event logo, event hashtag, banners, promotional texts for insert in newsletters, website copy, blog posts, etc).
Plus, if you’re running a paid event, you can offer them a personalised discount code that makes them feel unique, gives them an extra reason to promote the event and helps you track registrations from their side. As is the case with influencers and journalists, you will also need to build a relationship with them, which will help you maximise the results of their engagement.
Good event marketers never forget about the current attendees. Whilst they have already registered to attend, you still want to ensure they keep their excitement about joining the event. You want to ensure they will become your future loyal customers and their customer experience never ends. This is so important, we’ve dedicated a full section to it here.
After they register, you can welcome them on social media and on your website, in the attendee list. Plus, make sure you also share with them any design assets that will help them promote the event on their channels – social media and website.
To encourage this, you can host a competition and offer a prize for most shares, most likes or a raffle for anyone that has posted using your event hashtag or you can offer them discounts for bringing their colleagues and peers, if you’re running a paid event.
Performance indicators for earned media
So what KPIs should you look at when reviewing the success of your earned media strategy? Reach – what is the added reach you have obtained through earned media compared to your paid and owned media assets and conversions – how many people have registered for the event.
There are specific tools for brand measurement and sentiment, which show you how positive or negative is the content being posted about your brand, a few of which you can find here. You can also review traffic sources and conversions on your website to gauge efficiency of each referral source as a basic measurement.
Key takeaways: Build a relationship with your key stakeholders, prepare design assets and measure results to analyse effectiveness.
If you’re interested in The B2B Event Marketing Guide, fill in the form below to download it: