This post has been edited and condensed. To read the original post by Stephanie Stahl, visit Content Marketing Institute.
Regardless of your industry or region of the world, pre-event content is an important element for delivering on an amazing event experience.
While marketing campaigns are often centered on content, event marketers often think about content too late. That’s precisely what UBM found in its Content Connects research among technology brands. Laura Forer of MarketingProfs, UBM’s research collaborator, notes that pre-event content shouldn’t be an afterthought: “Ninety-six percent of attendees look for information prior to attending an event, and 90% continue that search post-event. Effective content before, during, and after an event is vital to the overall experience.”
Marketers need to be vocal and consistent to make our events pop with high quality and engaging pre-event content (which, in some cases, can be used on-site and post-event.) I share five ideas for pre-event content that you are welcome to steal as you plan your next event.
1. Create educational and fun videos to define event topics or goals
Short videos can give prospects and attendees a sneak peek at event topics and speakers. The CMI team posted videos before the 2017 Intelligent Content Conference (spoiler alert: we’ll do it again for ICC 2018 because they were effective). The videos were educational, but producer (and CMI Chief Strategy Advisor) Robert Rose also kept them lighthearted and funny to make them worth the three to five minutes people would spend watching them.
They were designed to help marketers better understand tools and innovations behind content strategy – the topic of the conference. Subjects like augmented reality, content audits, localization, and journey mapping were part of the video series that were shared on the ICC event blog, promoted in emails, and posted to YouTube in the months leading up to the event. In each case, the ICC presenter on the topic was mentioned and additional related content was offered.
Watch Robert talk about journey mapping – and sing a Journey song. All I can say is don’t stop believing pre-event videos will work. These videos really resonated with the audience and didn’t require extensive time or budget.
2. Send a clever piece of (snail) mail
Yeah, you read that right – send the kind of stuff that shows up in a physical mailbox. In a time when digital is the primary distribution channel, a piece of mail can be a welcome surprise. Just ask Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs. “The key is to send something fun, cool, AND that also encourages sharing on social platforms,” she says.
3. Develop original research to be shared with attendees and used by event speakers
Original research is an important part of any content marketing strategy. It’s an opportunity to highlight industry trends, challenges, innovations, and above all, thought leadership. The content team that supports Interop ITX, an event for tech leaders, fields topical research surveys and shares the results with attendees, prospects, and speakers.
For its 2017 event, the team released four reports (IT Salary Survey, State of Cloud, State of DevOps, and State of Data Analytics) and published companion infographics, podcasts, and articles in the months leading up to the live event. The research topics directly reflect the event conference tracks and the Interop team encourages speakers to incorporate the data into their presentations where appropriate. Kelley Damore, executive vice president of content, says, “We – editors and presenters – are all speaking from the same data and highlighting the research.”
4. Love your speakers
Your event speakers are your lifeblood. Their expertise makes your event educational and inspiring. Promote them. Celebrate them.
Mike Winkleman, founder of Leverage Media, is a big proponent of featuring speakers in the weeks leading up to an event. One of his favorite examples was a program he launched for Chief Executive Magazine in 2016 which included speaker-focused articles published in its e-newsletters about six weeks before its Talent Summit. The articles reflected thought leadership in key areas and helped promote the speakers’ expertise.
Visual content can also play a role in promoting speakers – and to have them promote your event. One of my favorite strategies for Content Marketing World comes from our creative genius, Joseph Kalinowski. He creates unique “posters” for all the sessions and speakers reflecting the event theme.
5. Highlight user-generated content that shows attendees how to make the most of the event and to have fun
When loyal audience members take the time to create content about your event, it’s like winning the lottery. It’s one thing for you and your brand to tout the event, but it is more sincere and meaningful when your audience does so. Embrace it and showcase it.
Let’s get talking about pre-event content. What are you doing to draw people in for your event or what have you seen others do that you think is – in Ann’s word – FOMO-licious?