Make Your Presence Felt: The PR and Content Marketing Guide to Productive Events
So, professional conference season is upon us! Once you’ve decided to go to a conference and have your travel set, what do you do to get yourself ready?
A PR and marketing team has unique objectives at each conference, but as I prep for my first CMWorld, I realize that there’s more strategy involved than I anticipated. These days, going to a conference is not a passive experience. Along with lots of learning, my conference goals include producing content, and having a thought-through process will be essential for fitting everything in.
Research sessions and workshops
If you aren’t signing up for a full pass, you might want to look into other options. This can mean general press or industry access or an exhibition hall pass. Getting the correct access is the beginning of your event journey, so make sure that you have the right credentials.
If you’ve registered as a full attendee, roll up your sleeves and enroll in workshops or breakout sessions before you get there. Wait, you might say, “How do I decide which ones to go to?” Hopefully, the blurbs on the site give you enough information to make decisions. If you want to guarantee an engaging speaker, google videos of them, or plug in a relevant search into your media intelligence platform and check out videos and authored articles/posts.
Get your social accounts conference ready
If you don’t use your social platforms for work, either clean them up or start new accounts especially for professional venues, such as conferences and to give to future colleagues. Stymied as to where to start? LinkedIn for professional networking, and Twitter and Instagram for monitoring the event and connecting with fellow attendees in real time.
Depending on the conference, it may be possible to see an attendee list with accompanying social handles before you arrive. Also, if organizers provide event-specific Twitter and Instagram handles—you’re ahead of the game! Grab all of these and put them into Twitter lists. If you’re super organized, separating out speakers and attendees can be useful later when you’re on site and covering the conference. Since Instagram doesn’t provide the ability to make lists, just follow those handles.
If no attendee names or social handles are provided via the conference website, uncover attendees by looking at who is using the event hashtag and google speakers’ names. In the case of Content Marketing World, for example, I searched for the branded hashtag #cmworld, in addition to “Content Marketing World*”, “cmicontent”, Cleveland, and 2016, since I was only interested in this year’s attendees. Plugging a boolean search into a media intelligence platform has the advantage of keeping searches running, gathering results throughout your planning process, as well as gives you the ability to spot possible trends ancillary to the event.
After you reach a certain tipping point, say 100 attendee handles on your Twitter list, a nice pre-conference engagement tweet might be to ask, “Who else is going to #CMWorld? Putting together a list of attendees and don’t want to miss anyone!” This will serve you three-fold, first it will broadcast your attendance to other Twitter list makers, and second, it may then lead to introductions. And third, as this callout might net you a few responses, it is possible that your Twitter list is the most comprehensive (and therefore will be utilized on the ground, during the conference).
Producing conference coverage
At this point, you may have an idea of how you’d like to cover the conference. During the course of an event, especially one that is a week long, it is difficult to do anything other than focus on what’s happening in the present. You’ll be busy networking, attending sessions, taking notes, watching exhibitor demos, going to happy hours, and dinners. So, having an idea of what your coverage will look like and prepping for it before arrival is the best way to create and produce content while you’re there. Block out time in your schedule to get your project together, so that it receives maximum impact. Producing and getting content out (whether this is a blog post or infographic) before (or soon after) the conference is over will allow you to leverage the hashtag in social channel promotions, help cement new relationships you’ve forged at the event, and position you as an essential part of the community that the conference caters to (a first step towards industry thought leadership).
Here are some ideas for coverage:
- Photo project highlighting speakers or attendees that reflect your audience’s demographic
- Live tweet with attribution (Twitter lists comes in handy here)
- General social coverage of the event on Twitter and Instagram with hashtags (helps cement new relationships)
- Infographic or blog post round-up that includes lessons learned and favorite quotes
A big part of conferences are the networking opportunities. As un-conference YxYY puts it, “At your average conference, we know the best conversations happen in the hallways. They happen over late night drinks, and on the walk from point A to point B.”
If you’re new to this particular conference and even new to the profession, how can you guarantee opportunities to have these conversations? Again, social listening is your friend. As you research the conference branded hashtags, include “happy hour”, “attendee dinner”, “VIP dinner”, “drinks”, and “after hours” to get a sense of what’s happening and who’s going. If invitations are open, RSVP to as many events as you’ll realistically attend. You might also surface posts from fellow attendees suggesting IRL engagement. If you’re feeling bold, answer the call of: “Does anyone at the conference hall want to grab dinner?” or throw out your own social invite. Either way, conferences are a way to get out there and meet like-minded colleagues discussing your industry. Using media intelligence and social channel searching you can enrich your conference experience and make it productive.
We’ve covered sessions, prepping personal social media accounts, tracking conference attendees’ social accounts, listening to hashtags at the conference in real time, and contributing with your own take on the conference, and now the after hours events.
Using this as a guide, planning coverage and listening to socials throughout your conference experience (before, during, and after) will guarantee a productive experience! You’ve got everyone’s Twitter handles, now get out there and network!