Events have become a core part of many companies’ marketing strategies in recent years, via everything from large scale festivals to small, intimate dinners. Increasingly, I’m noticing that savvy brands are making events a core part of their publishing and editorial strategies, too, using them to extend and strengthen relationships they’ve been building via digital content.
Audiences don’t want to be advertised to – they want to be entertained or educated – and ideally, both. The good news is that audiences are willing to consume information from a wide variety of sources, the bad news is that it’s easier to sell to an audience than it is to thoughtfully present information that actually improves their lives.
Events are emerging as a powerful differentiator for brands, however, particularly if they’re linked closely with companies’ publishing and editorial approaches – and specifically, if they deliver on the same promise the company’s editorial mission makes. And as pandemic restrictions disappear, brands are experimenting with new events that offer much-needed physical connections but also act as important pieces in overall editorial strategies.
Events aren’t for every brand – the reality is that most of them are expensive to do and resource-heavy to operate at a high quality. But events – can be particularly powerful as a way to extend a content strategy and connect audiences more effectively with the brand.
Events have existed as key parts of marketing strategies for decades. Hubspot has Inbound, Facebook has F8, OrangeTheory has Momentum, designed for coaches, members and owners of the fitness brand’s franchises.
These conferences have been vehicles to show off new products and features to customers for a few days, then set them free to rush back to their offices and (hopefully) evangelize what they were sold. Another side effect of course, is also the “free” tech coverage that these conferences result in, leading to millions of impressions that would have been hard to come by otherwise.
In some cases, events are ways to connect another important audience segment: employees.
The pandemic changed things. For many companies, it was a halt to physical events, and when they inevitably went virtual, they realized one important, if obvious fact: They could record these events, transcribe them, “cover them” and turn them into content for their publications. It seems obvious, but for many companies it seemed it took the necessity of pandemic restrictions to become the mother of invention. Salesforce is a great example of this: Its streaming service, Salesforce+, was launched in 2021 as a direct response to the company having to “reimagine how to succeed in the new digital-first world,” including turning its events, including the massive Dreamforce conference, into all-digital experiences and adding on original content on top.
There are also some other key considerations to think about:
The end (mostly) of pandemic era restrictions has yet again shifted priorities. Physical events are possible again: In the past two weeks Dreamforce snarled traffic in San Francisco and Intel had an “Innovation” launch event, while Salesforce-owned Slack held its Frontiers conference in New York. As events continue to ramp up, it presents a timely opportunity for brands to go in person, strengthening relationships with audiences and translating existing relationships to the live setting.
It’s also an opportunity for brands to hyperfocus their events on serving audience needs first and foremost. As we’ve written about earlier, there is power in going niche. This can be particularly apparent at events, where people’s attention is likelier to be fractured if their needs are being served appropriately. Content – whether on stage or on a website – that is focused on specific topics or niches finds audiences much quicker. A great example is Atlassian’s Work Life conference, which focused on the niche topic of improving teamwork and collaboration.
The key, for any company interested in building loyal audiences, is to ensure events are connected with the overall publishing approach, vision and strategy of an organization. Ideally, events content should sit within editorial, and focus on telling stories about the company, its thought processes, products and services. For brands in B2B, events can be even more important: Purchases tend to be more considered, which makes the opportunity to combine education and entertainment with an experience much more important.
Events can help companies provide true experiences to their customers, and even more importantly, become significant contributors to other “on-demand” content for their publication. There are also other benefits, such as press coverage that an event can generate, or in some cases, can even offer a path to revenue for some companies through ticket sales or sponsorships.
What’s next: We created a guide to thinking about events content in an editorial-first way. Check it out.