If you ever have wondered how to work with journalists, keep this thought in mind: Their first reaction to any glowing report will be, “Oh, yeah? Prove it.”
They aren't all hopeless cynics. It's just that in order to do their job, they can't let hype stand in for fact. They must see some evidence to back up claims that a person, a company or an event was “simply wonderful” and “everyone loved” her, him or it.
In putting together our annual corporate event issue, I have been impressed by how many special event professionals are capable of proving the value of the events they produce. Whatever we call it — return on investment, stakeholder satisfaction, etc. — event pros are investing time and resources to prove that their events have a meaningful, measurable impact.
I've even seen a change since last year. When working on our cover story, I did not have event producers telling me simply “the client loved it,” as I sometimes did in 2000. Instead, they could validate the success of their events with polls, surveys and other measurement tools. For example, Ron Swartz of Mills/James Productions was able to show that the events created by his team contributed to a division's decision to increase its financial commitment to its parent company by nearly 10 percent.
I don't mean to suggest that measuring the success of an event is easy. Event pro Kathleen Moore, vice president/global event manager for JPMorgan Treasury Services and the subject of this month's Last Word, column, says her team “is just beginning to try to figure out how to measure success.” She notes, “At the moment, what I do is demonstrate that we are targeting the right clients. Over time, we hope to be able to track the increases — if any — in profitable revenue from those clients.
“It's very hard to determine exactly what effect an event or a series of events has on a client's willingness to spend money,” she says. “But we are a relationship business, so everyone agrees that personal contact — and therefore, events — is vital. The question is, which events are most effective? We struggle with this all the time.”
Proving the value of special events is a struggle. But the true event professionals know they have to try.