4 content ideas for pre-event marketing

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Your next event is coming up. Press releases from exhibitors and sponsors are storming into your inbox, but your focus is on signing up visitors. So what makes them register to your conference or book a ticket to your trade show? A recent poll by one of our clients found that networking and learning are the main objectives for attendees.

No surprise there. Exhibitors and sponsors want to sell, but most visitors don’t count buying as one of their main motivations to come to your event. They want to find out about latest industry or product trends and they want to meet up with their peers. And yes, they may buy as well.

So, how do you get the balance right? How do you allow your exhibitors and sponsors to pitch (that’s what they paid for) and create interesting content for prospective visitors that address their desire to learn.

1. Talk less about what and more about why

Press releases and marketing emails give too much space to the what, eg. what product launches, what speakers, what seminars, what venue, what time. What visitors really want is a bit of inspiration, ie. the why. Why is my industry changing, why do I find it difficult to grow my business, why should I embrace new technology?

The best way to change the balance of your content strategy from what to why is to find out what people in your industry are talking about. Simple tools like Buzzsumo can help you understand the type of topics that your target audience is engaging with – whether it’s on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Your speakers (if you have any) and your exhibitors can also be a useful source for engaging content.

2. Involve speakers, exhibitors and sponsors

The knee-jerk reaction of most exhibitors and sponsors is to talk about their products. This is what sales people want to do, but it rarely produces engaging content. Events organisers can help them get better at it by driving the content agenda. Decide what topics you want to talk about and then involve your contributors in content creation.

DSCF8708Interesting and thought-provoking features or interviews can be part of the sponsorship package. The trick here is to put the right talent in charge, so you and your sponsor get the most out of it. A professional journalist will find ways of steering the conversation and producing engaging content.

Here is a list of formats we have used successfully in the past:

  • speaker guest blogs
  • sponsored features
  • speaker or exhibitor polls
  • interviews or Q&As
  • Pro and Con debates

3. Choose your format wisely and be visual

Too much marketing content is text based when we know that visual content creates far better engagement. PR Newswire found that a press release with a photo or video increases views by 45%. Generally, articles with images attract 94% more traffic across the web. Use the power of visual content.

Here is how this tactic translates into practice:

  • instead of a press release about how many countries are represented at your show, create an interactive map
  • instead of a feature on top industry trends, design an infographic with video soundbites from your speakers – or even better, do both!
  • instead of text quotes endorsing your event, seed short videos that look real like the following which we recorded with a phone:

 

or something a bit more polished like this:

 4. Amplification: think beyond email

Email is your biggest weapon. There is nothing wrong with it and many marketers in other industries would love to have a marketing database that refreshes itself at least once a year. However, because it is so powerful other channels are often neglected.

Social channels can help you reach a new audience and can complement your email marketing campaign. The trick is to reach out to the right people to act as ambassadors for your campaign. Many speakers, exhibitors and sponsors are influencers in your industry.

Identify the ones who generate the most engagement on social platforms. These are not necessarily the ones with the most followers by the way. Now involve them in the content creation process. By doing so you will encourage them to amplify your content and therefore your event to their audience. This is a very powerful tactic to reach out to new customers or visitors and it helps you create content people want.

Getting the mix right

The greatest challenge perhaps is to get the balance right between allowing your sponsors to pitch and creating engaging content that will drive more and better leads to your conference website. Instead of completely changing your comms policy overnight, just try one or two of the above tactics and see how well it works for you.