Strategies for finding the right balance between generating PR and profit for events: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

Events cost a considerable amount of time and money to produce. Therefore, it’s necessary to define clear objectives and how to achieve them. Very often, events have two main objectives: generating either PR or profit. If the event can achieve both, it’s a phenomenal success and means that the event has the right strategy in place, committed partners and sponsors, a strong community, engaging content and an effective speaker programme. These factors will help create a long-term PR strategy that can generate profit in a sustainable manner. 

It is not easy to find the right balance straight away, and before generating profit, a strong PR strategy should be in place. To clarify this area and receive more input on the overall approach regarding whether events are designed to generate PR or profit and how to balance both, we put out the question to our community during the weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 9 September 2019, insights of which we want to share with you in this article below. 

Do you think that events are generators of PR or profit and why?  

According to Valerie Wagner, founder of Hotel O Motion, ‘Events should have the goal of enabling networking and meeting the goals of the participants. As a visitor to a trade fair, I want to see what’s new; as an exhibitor, I want to present myself, what I’m doing and how my products and services are perceived by interested parties. Profit can be a goal, but in my opinion only in the 2nd step. Before someone purchases, there are many touchpoints; therefore, events should combine PR and profit in a pleasant way, but have their own goal: to bring together a group of people with common interests.’

According to LeAnna Toups-Bennett, project manager at the Louisiana Department of Education, ‘Any profit generated from an event is secondary. A planner/company must first consider the overall goal of the event. Ultimately, in most cases, I don’t think that is to generate one-time profit. The goal is to create lasting touchpoints that generate revenue over time.’

Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog and Event Planners Talk, suggested that events can be both! Ideally, events generate PR and profit at the same time. They should begin with the purpose and the ‘why’ the event is needed in the first place. When the goal is clear, it will be easier to achieve the set objectives and get all stakeholders on board. Calgary TELUS Convention Centre added that ‘A well planned and executed event can generate both PR opportunities and profit. What is important is to define clear goals and expectations for the entire team involved. Strategic planning is key!’ Johnny Martinez, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Shocklogic, also recommended looking into 3- or 5-year legacy plans.

According to Event Marketing Stars, a B2B events marketing agency with a focus on monetisation, events should generate profit, ‘All events should aim to make a profit, even if it means tracking Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) for leads joining it. Events have associated costs, so in order to assess ROI, you need to aim to make them profitable for the company.’

What forms of PR can #eventprofs use to promote an event? (e.g. press releases, influencer marketing)

According to Valerie, it’s necessary to, ‘Talk about it everywhere, use influencers, blogger relations, cooperations, press releases, social media, own reports in print media, podcasts, videos, Facebook and Instagram Lives, comments. And also encourage the audience to be the ambassadors and advocates. Testimonials on the event landing-page are also essential.’ Irina also added the possibility to share testimonials on Instagram Stories and capture screenshots of comments and engagement with the event. Because they disappear after 24h on Instagram Stories, it’s recommended to save them in the ‘Highlight’ section on Instagram. Valerie added that organisers should determine where they want to direct the traffic from all PR activities and always add the link. Valerie also recommended Google My Business, where it’s possible to share events and get and show ratings. 

LeAnna shared that she will add social media posts, which can be guided and focused using challenges and specific hashtags. Free PR is the best! She also asks her speakers to plug the event on their social media and webpages. This approach places the event on the radar of other speakers for future opportunities. Calgary TELUS Convention Centre added to the above that ‘Video is a key format for any of these PR efforts.’, and Irina emphasised the importance of content marketing and influencer marketing as the key activity, ‘Content should be produced daily for key social media channels, combining both traditional PR such as press releases and email marketing, with all the new methods, such as influencer marketing.’ 

How to find the right balance between PR and profit without compromising the content of the event, so it doesn’t become too salesy?

For Valerie, authenticity is important. It is to be understood that a company or individual doesn’t just do the event for no reason‚ but that everyone needs income to live. Therefore, it is important that the company or individual doesn’t lose sight of their why they are involved in the event and their goal, ‘Stay true to yourself and your brand, your message and focus on your target group.’ According to LeAnna, price transparency is key, ‘Set ticket prices and stick to them. There is nothing salesy about a published price list.’ 

Calgary TELUS Convention Centre added the importance of storytelling and experience design for the right balance, ‘Giving great and authentic reasons to engage through storytelling and event experience design.’ According to Irina, ‘It’s important to communicate and stick to event objectives, so everyone knows why they are attending the event. Educational content and sales should be clearly separated because each has its place during the event.’ 

Pauline Kwasniak, digital marketer, writer, speaker and event planner at TurnedSee and Mbooked emphasised the importance of having the right partners, ‘That is challenging but having sponsors that reflect your event ethos and vision is key. If the sponsors genuinely fit with the event, it won’t become too salesy.’

According to Johnny, ‘Organisers have to be true to their resources. Sponsorship or in-kind partnerships are often useful, while it serves everyone’s interests. Content shouldn’t be a function of ticket and stand sales. Be bold and be transparent.’

How can #eventprofs maximise PR opportunities before, during and after an event?

According to Valerie, newsletters are the most important because they go directly into the mailbox. Therefore, subscribers should receive the latest information first! Additional opportunities include, ‘Addressing the right people, activating the network, doing live reports from the event, promoting interaction, establishing a hashtag, and making ‘talking about it’ as a kind of rule. This could be encouraged, for example through ‘Twitter walls’, where (almost) everyone wants to be seen. Also, you can do live streams of presentations during the event on social media and have a photo box on site. When the event is over, you can do more press work.’  

According to the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, before the event, it’s necessary to take time in building the community and creating content that makes the audience care and engage. Organisers should be able to answer the following questions: ‘Who are your activators? Who’s in your tribe?’ During the event, it’s necessary to create those AHA moments that will make people engage and share. Have interactive sessions, create a hashtag, engage in the conversation live.’ After the event, ‘Give attendees a reason to stay connected. Create value content pieces around the experience, create Facebook albums, send a post-event email, post your pictures on social media and encourage sharing and tagging. Anything is possible in our digital world!’ 

Pauline highlighted the online channels to maximise PR opportunity, ‘Online, online, online. Make sure you also have activation campaigns during the event (various photo booths, cool gadgets, interactive walls) because that will give YOU LOADS of content to later maximise PR. Pauline also mentioned having a long term approach ready by offering loyalty schemes.

Irina sets the focus on community engagement and content marketing, ‘The content should be visual, and when possible use photos or videos from previous events. During the event also lots of visual material combined with text, sharing micro content from main sessions etc.; encourage the attendees to use the hashtag and share their experience online. It’s recommended to run a ‘challenge’ and guide attendees regarding what to post. And lastly, combine both short and long forms of content, with the post-event period focusing on long form, such as a full session recording or a blog article, and repurposing it regularly as shorter pieces across social media channels.’ 

How can #eventprofs generate higher profits from running an event?

According to Valerie, it’s about setting ticket prices and calculations in advance, including early bird tickets and increasing prices as the event approaches. Early birds get the best rates. The closer to the event date, the higher the ticket price. An additional revenue stream is from sponsors. Something that is not used often in events but that is also an option is affiliate links, when people purchase a ticket through a link, and the seller receives a commission. Irina added that presenting a strong brand and having scarcity can allow organisers to charge premium prices.  

LeAnne also mentioned the importance of offsetting costs that as a result, can also lead to higher profits, ‘I also think finding partners whose brand aligns with the events helps to offset costs. Find a partner to sponsor technology, or a meal, etc.’ And don’t forget to add experiences to offer attendees more value, ‘Participants will almost always pay more when an experience is included in the ticket price. Do something local and unique to the area the event is in.’

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