If an event happens and nobody hears about it, did it really happen?
Maybe that’s not the philosophical question of the decade, but it’s a good one for content marketers to ask. I’d hazard a guess that if not very many people heard about the event, it didn’t really happen.
Why Hold An Event?
Planning and hosting an event is a lot of work, and it may not seem worth the effort. You have enough going on with your blog, your social media, and all of the various content marketing efforts that help build your audience.
Events, though, are one of the few ways you actually get personal with your audience. This does two things:
- Your audience sees you as a person. Events are a good way for you to connect to your readers in a human way.
- Your audience gets to meet others like them. Events can almost be a reward for a great audience, providing an event or venue where they can meet others with the same interests as them.
Why is it important that people see you as… people?
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Tired of the marketing mess?
Conversation and engagement online is one thing, but as every politician knows, you have to get out and meet the people. Meeting people face-to-face increases loyalty to you, your message, and your brand.
It removes that invisible layer that somehow allows people to say and do things online that they'd never do in person. And, while I'm sure your audience isn't made of trolls, that still allows for them to dismiss you easier than if they knew you in real life.
If the research is true, and 90% of how we communicate is through non-verbal communication like gestures and vocal quality, a face-to-face meeting is more powerful than any blog post you'll ever write.
So an event strengthens the bonds between members of your audience, and it strengthens their loyalty to you.
4 Elements Of A Simple Event Marketing Plan
We make a planning app, so of course, we're going to tell you that the first thing you need to do is some serious planning. But that's not just prejudice talking—you need to plan your marketing for your event as much as you plan for things like venue, speakers, and catering.
Think of your event as if it is the core of an apple. All of that stuff that surrounds it is pretty important for the person consuming it. An apple with only a core is an event without a marketing plan.
No one reaches for an apple core just like no one comes to an event without the marketing that brought them there.
1. Start by asking broad questions.
Let's start with a few questions that you and your team can ask to get the ideas flowing in your initial planning meeting.
You should have the planning and marketing team present. Order the answers you collect based on the most important or the most likely:
- What's the story behind your event?
- What is the theme behind your event?
- Why are you holding the event?
- Who do you hope will come?
- Who do you think will really come?
- What is the value of this event for those that will come?
- Is this event more important to us than to our audience?
- What do you hope people will take with them when the event is over?
- Will this event make your attendees' lives better?
- How will you know if your event is a success? What is the measurement?
- What is the most wildly amazing success that could happen from this event?
- What kind of budget is there for each team to work with?
There is a subtle thread running through these questions: Are you planning an event because you need it, or because your audience needs it? The latter is the best choice, but either might be a reality.
It's not enough to start your planning with the idea of "we're going to have a few speakers and a good brunch" and call it good. You must start with a broad understanding of the goal of the event.
It's hard to create fantastic event marketing around the choice of fruit at the buffet.
2. Confirm details and lay out a budget.
The budget. Never a sexy thing for most of us. But, after you've gotten a better understanding of the event, you need to create a budget before doing anything else.
The event planners have (hopefully) been hard at work lining up everything from venue to speakers to giveaways. You should now have an idea of:
- Date and/or time
- Event format
Even if these kinds of details aren't fully locked down, the marketing team should have enough to get started on their marketing plan. And a marketing plan starts with a budget.
You must not proceed without a budget. It's tempting to get wrapped up in the excitement of what content you'll create, but a budget needs to be in place first.
You must know how much your marketing team is able to spend before you can plan your marketing approach.
Without a budget, you could end up dumping a lot of money on huge glossy banners and leaving very little for other kinds of content marketing that might work better with those who are attending.
3. Create a dedicated website and social accounts for your event.
Let's start with the one piece of content that your event should have no matter what: a dedicated website.
Your event (especially one that is a recurring event) should have its own Web page. It's better to send people to a website solely for the event rather than a page buried elsewhere in your site.
If you aren't able to do this, at least consider a landing page with a custom domain name pointing to it.
According to Orbit Media's Andy Crestodina, this dedicated website should have:
- Copy. You'll need, of course, compelling copy describing the event. And that compelling copy, of course, needs to somehow tell the vital details of when, where, and what.
- Curation. All of the pre-event content should be curated in one place. Collect the social feeds, or use an app like Twubs to pull together all of the Tweets with your event's hashtag(s). Make it easy for those who find your site to get involved promoting it on social media.
- Speakers. Images and bios of the speakers who will be at the event. You could even post videos of brief interviews of the speakers if you really wanted your attendees to get a feel for what their message is.
- Registration. Prominent registration button, making it super easy to register.
- Social proof. You need a way to display social proof. In other words, if you are getting some social buzz surrounding your event, it should be displayed prominently on your site. In a way, it's a bit like testimonials for how awesome the event is going to be.
Along with a dedicated website, you should also have dedicated social accounts.
While it's fine if your brand tweets and publishes content about the event, you should have separate accounts, too. Why?
- Your audience can reach out to you with questions easier.
- You can follow people with the event social accounts and make that part of your publicity efforts.
- Your tweets and posts won't get lost in other brand messages in news feeds and on your profile pages.
- It is easier to curate pre-event social content because the content is all in one account.
- It's also easier to measure the success of your social media plan because there is only event-related content present.
- You get twice the exposure, once on your brand account, and another on your dedicated account.
Your event matters. Give it its own Web and social media properties. It deserves that much.
4. Plan the 3 major points of attack with 2 types of event content.
Your event content marketing plan has three major points of attack: pre-event, during the event, and post-event. The content you create for each of those points is slightly different.
There are also two kinds of content marketing that surround an event: informative and buzz.
Let's take a look.
Informative event content marketing tells attendees what they need to know. This might include information on registration and deadlines, or sharing informative blog posts. If you notice a common questions popping up from attendees, you can answer it. This isn't "sexy" content, but it is useful content, and it's the information people need to know.
Buzz event content marketing is self-explanatory. It's all about building the buzz and excitement for the event. It helps increase word-of-mouth, and its goal is to get more people to register for the event. This might include hints and event surprises or giveaways of event schwag. If you've planned a hashtag or other community-generated content idea around your event, that content fits here.
Both of these event content types can be used by the three major points of attack.
Pre-event content marketing happens long before the event happens. You have to get this one right. Before the event happens, your content marketing must:
- Let your audience know about your event.
- Get them excited enough to register and tell others.
- Keep your audience updated on the event so they feel in the know.
- Help your audience remain excited about the event.
It's tough to keep the energy level of people up, but your event content marketing really needs to do that.
During the event, your content marketing takes on a kind of "live reporter" feel. You're keeping both the event attendees informed, as well as those who are following along back home. And, you are still keeping the buzz alive.
Even though many of your followers might not have made it to the event, you're still building buzz for future events. It's important to post social content throughout the event featuring inspirational quotes from speakers, photos of the fun everyone is having, and so on.
Post-event content marketing is the one most content marketers forget. We all need a bit of closure, especially if your event is going to happen repeatedly.
This is your chance to get testimonials or collect social posts that are enthusiastic about your event.
Reach out to attendees on social media. Thank them for coming. Ask their opinions on the event. Post some buzz content from the event, and hint at the next event. Share downloads, videos, and helpful related content that both attendees and non-attendees find useful.
In other words, make those who attended proud that they did, and those who didn't, envious.
Your marketing team will have fun planning the buzz content, thinking up campaigns and fun ways to get people excited. But be sure they are in touch with the planning team so that the informative content isn't forgotten.
Then, using a calendar, begin plugging that content in.
How To Actually Implement Your Event Marketing Plan
It's with events that an app like CoSchedule really shines. Much of your content marketing for the event will be blog posts and social media, and that can all be created and scheduled with that birds-eye-view that only a calendar can give you.
Plus, with the ability to create notes on your calendar, any additional content planning can also happen right alongside the blog and social content.
The rest of this post tells you exactly how to implement your event marketing plan using CoSchedule, but these same ideas can be applied to other tools like a paper calendar, too. So whether you're a CoSchedule user or not, you can definitely learn a thing or two from these tips.
Plan your informative content.
Let's create an example of how it might look using CoSchedule, starting with the informative content type:
- Create a note on the calendar for important dates: day of event, registration opens, various deadlines, exit surveys due, etc.
- Create draft blog posts for the dates.
- Create draft blog posts highlighting the speakers, and place them on the calendar leading up to the final deadline for registration.
- Create social media for all of these blog posts, directing them to your event social accounts that you've connected to CoSchedule, using your usual social media schedule.
- Create additional stand-alone social media posts so that informative content is posted to your social media accounts at least every day. Be sure to include post-event informative content!
- Use color-coding and filtering to make sure that the informative content has a steady presence, according to your plan.
Plan your buzz content.
Let's say you have three buzz campaigns:
- One involves a hashtag.
- One involves people taking photos of themselves wearing the event T-Shirt that you've sent them in various locales.
- One is a series of graphics that tell the story of an average attendee before, during, and after the event with a humorous twist.
Work with each buzz campaign separately, assigning it a different color on the CoSchedule calendar. We'll use the graphics series that tell a story.
- Set your calendar to show you many weeks at once, and remove all other content with filtering.
- Start with the last post first, and schedule social messages for the last graphic the day after the event.
- Schedule social messages with the graphic on the first day you plan to start the campaign.
- Schedule a few social messages prior to that, text only, hinting at "What does an average event attendee go through?"
- Schedule the remaining social message graphics according to your plan. Be sure to use the same colors for this campaign on your CoSchedule calendar.
- Repeat for the remaining two campaigns, using different colors.
Now, using filtering for colors, blog posts, and specific social accounts, see what your event content marketing looks like.
Are there blank spots? Are there days with too much? Does it fit with your ideal publishing schedule?
Even if you aren't using CoSchedule, an editorial calendar is a must-have for your event marketing plan.
Whether you use a paper editorial calendar or an app like CoSchedule, event content marketing is best planned just as you would your other content marketing: on an editorial calendar, with your audience in mind.