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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.
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:
Why is it important that people see you as… people?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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 event matters. Give it its own Web and social media properties. It deserves that much.
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.
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.
Let’s create an example of how it might look using CoSchedule, starting with the informative content type:
Let’s say you have three buzz campaigns:
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.
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.
January 5, 2015
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