Making events purposeful

Event - from wikimediaI attended a promotional event last week for a major technology brand, where a couple of Australian business leaders stood along side a US celebrity to talk about the progress of technology and their business experiences.

At least I think that’s what it was for.

Actually I have very little understanding what the event was about, why I received an invitation (other than as a technology influencer) and what the return on investment must have been for the tech brand running the event.  There were some great moments in the 2 hour event, and it was very well-attended (around 500 people were there).  But as for direct influence over the buying habits of the attendees, or their advocacy in the market, I suspect the event had next to zero impact.  And it all comes down to purpose.

I’m often amazed that business events don’t seem to have a purpose.  While there may be some great draw-cards that attract bottoms on seats, unless there is an explicit purpose that is clear in all messaging, in the structure and engagement with the event, and in the outputs from the event, it’s often extremely difficult to gauge success. In most cases, the problem of communicating event purpose comes down to the reason why an event is held in the first place.

Is it a launch?  Then the company/product needs to be the focus of the event, and messaging should talk about the company and its products.
Is it an industry discussion?  Then the messaging should be about educating the industry, and providing a platform for debate on issues arising.

Is it an event to support the development of up-and-coming businesses? Then the messaging should be around fostering future talent or celebrating new successes.

Is it a networking event?  Then the messaging should emphasise the opportunities to be derived from meeting people at the event, and profiling a few invited participants and acknowledging their expertise.

It’s not rocket science.  Tell your potential and invited attendees what to expect, and give them an idea of what’s expected from them.  And it’s not enough for event organisers to tell attendees that they want them to tweet and blog about their events.  They should instead be clear about what they are going to do with information shared about any specific event.  How will that feedback help support the future of the business?  Why do they want to read posts about the event?  How will they engage with that content over time? What kind of relationship will be forged from participation with the firm?

Stop measuring the number of posts you received, or the number of instagram pictures (100 pictures of the same view of a stage provides precisely zero value).  Instead measure what you are trying to achieve, and engage your audience in collaborative development of outcomes and outputs from your events.

Events can be powerful vehicles for engaging audiences, but running events is a skill.  You need time management, guest management and you need to look after your attendees before, during and after the event.  But most importantly, people need to know why they are there, and what value their presence contributes.  Only then will organisations truly understand the success of their events.

Why Company Directors Need to be ‘Out, Loud and Proud’ on Social Media

Do you know who should be a company’s biggest champions?

company directors social mediaEmployees, I hear you say. And you’re probably right, but that’s only going to happen if a company has a super-engaged workforce and its employees are actually empowered to spread the love via social channels, as well in offline forums (public events, with friends over the backyard barbecue). Actually, not only empowered, but motivated to do so.

This is particularly important today as social media can help spread positive vibes about a brand far and wide, and if these ‘social vibes’ emanate authentically from passionately engaged employees, then it’s a massive win for the organisation in question.

But as research tells us time and time again, employees are not engaged.

Indeed, according to a Gallup study in the US, many employees are confused as to what the company they work for stands for:

Too few “brand ambassadors” – According to the report, “Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.”  As always, such findings point to the need for more and clearer communication from senior management to all organizational levels. (SOURCE)

And herein lies the problem, and it’s not the fault of employees but more so a lack of passionate external communication (not to mention clarity internally) from senior executives and company directors.

I’ve always maintained the ‘C’ Suite, including company directors, should be at the forefront of a brand’s communication with the public. In the past that would mostly have meant being front and centre of dealings with the media (preferably sans stilted messaging and media-trained slickness).

Actively engaged

But today communications leadership also means being actively engaged on social channels.

If a company’s board is not out there championing the business they’re directors of, if they’re not leading conversation or generating debate around issues affecting their industry or trends relevant to the company they represent, then who will?

You certainly can’t expect your employees to embrace social media and become unofficial ambassadors for your organisation if you’re not prepared to do it yourself.

Nuances of new media

There’s also a second very important reason why company directors need to be active on social media.

They need to understand, with depth, how it works. They need to develop an intuitive feeling for the nuances of the new media landscape. They need to ‘get’ how consumers today are connecting with brands and with each other using social technologies. In short, company directors need to be fully ‘socialised’.

If you haven’t got first-hand knowledge and experience of the technologies that are disrupting the way businesses market to consumers (indeed, an understanding of how social media can impact upon the operation of a business positively or negatively), you will be at a distinct disadvantage in the boardroom.

Companies need directors who are not only passionate about social media but also willing (and keen) to use their social networks and online publishing platforms to create content on behalf of the brand and interact with customers and influencers.

Having directors who are part of a company’s social PR efforts, who are ‘out, loud and proud’ on social media, will speak volumes about your brand in a positive way.