THE WORLD IS CHANGING ... WHY AREN'T YOU?
Editor's note: Want to know more? Be sure to attend Lara McCulloch-Carter's class at ISES Eventworld® 2009 in San Francisco.
Traditional marketing and advertising are not as effective as they once were. It has become more and more expensive to talk to fewer and fewer people. Yet, many companies still have a “build it and they will come” mentality — build a great ad, Web site or promotional piece, and all of our sales and marketing woes will be solved. The problem is that consumers just aren't listening in the same way. With over 3,000 marketing messages hurled at them every day (“Data Smog” by David Shenk) and 76 percent no longer believing that companies tell the truth in advertising (Yankelovich), the consumer has had enough. They don't want to be spoken at. They want authentic dialogue. They want to feel like companies are listening to them. They want to be engaged.
If you want to talk to your customers, you need to go where the conversation is.
That very statement is the essence of the evolution of modern marketing. Your customers are, at this very moment, using new media tools to speak with one another, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, EventPeeps, Wikipedia, Twitter … the list goes on. In fact, people may be using these very tools to talk about your products and services. So, if you're not currently using social media, it's kind of like a conversation going on that you're not a part of.
If I still haven't convinced you to rethink social media, mull over this: Your future customers practically came out of the womb carrying a mouse and a keyboard. Millennials, of which there are 33 million in America, spend more than 16 hours per week on the Web (www.alternet.org), and 87 percent of them are members of a social network (www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/nov08/11-18MillennialBanksPR.mspx).
So why on earth would you not want to be a part of this movement? After speaking with many event professionals who don't use social media, I learned the biggest reasons are lack of understanding and fear. As a change agent, I'm here to help build an understanding of this medium and dispel some of the myths that surround it. As for fear, well, that's a bit tougher to overcome. But I'll do my best to introduce you to a few tools that really aren't that scary at all.
A blog, or Weblog, is an online journal authored by a group or individual that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Check out event-planning.alltop.com for a list of great event-focused blogs.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) allows users to post ideas and perspectives on any topic in 140 characters or less. More recently, Twitter has been used to promote events, allowing event organizers to speak with guests well before the event and enabling attendees of an event to connect with one another.
EventPeeps (www.eventpeeps.com) is a business networking site specifically targeted to the special event and meeting industries. EventPeeps is a great resource to look up and make connections. Members can create their own blog posts, which are a great tool for sharing ideas and collaborating.
The key to success, no matter the social media site, is to have a good strategy. Ask yourself these questions before you get started: What are you looking to achieve? Who do you want to talk to, and where are they currently holding conversations? How can you add value to the conversation taking place? Remember: Don't talk at people. Listen, collaborate, share, grow, influence, connect, engage and witness the power of this new networking medium.
Social media is not a fad to be ignored; it's an essential shift in the way we communicate with one another. The world has changed. It's time for you to change with it.
Name: Lara McCulloch-Carter
Company: Regal Tent Productions Ltd.
Address: 331 Arvin Ave. Stoney Creek, ON L8E 2M6 Canada
Phone: 800/364-4430, ext. 22
Web site: www.regaltent.com
E-mail: [email protected]
IF YOU WANT TO GET AHEAD ...
Corporate social responsibility, or “CSR,” is an awkward phrase for a relatively simple idea: Companies should behave ethically across their operations.
Many organizations tend to regard CSR as another weapon in the brand charm offensive. For them, CSR initiatives serve to reinforce brand values and show the world their heart is in the right place. In fact, I would argue that CSR is vital because it is an essential element of something far greater than a brand — a company's reputation depends on it.
“Reputation” is something of an old-fashioned word today. But there is a need for it now more than ever. If you consider everything that people look for when making a choice about a company, product or service, then the word “brand” is just not big enough. Ours is an age of increasing transparency, in which people are inclined to question and scrutinize brands and the companies behind those brands. Companies are under increasing pressure to demonstrate and justify how their organizations behave in all aspects of their enterprises. Remember the furor over Nike and child labor?
And so, because the scope of reputation goes beyond brand, it is built by more than marketing. Reputation draws on everything from HR to PR, including legal, sales, R&D, product, corporate strategy and CSR, which rose to far greater prominence in the aftermath of the Nike scandal. If you doubt the power of CSR, consider this: 89 percent of Millennials in the United States are likely/very likely to switch brands (price and quality being equal) if the second brand is associated with a good cause (Cone Millennial Cause Study 2006).
In other words, people have to feel good about you to consider giving you their business. That's a fundamental truth that applies as much to relationships between you and your clients as to those between those clients and their consumers.
But the implications are clear — CSR is about building reputation. And reputation is important.
As event professionals, it's often said in a flippant way that our job is to make clients look good. Exactly right. But, in a more serious sense, every event we deliver (whether for internal or external audiences) is a visible expression of CSR. An event is a piece of communication activity that demonstrates the company's ethical stance, and so contributes to creating positive perceptions. In that respect, actions do speak louder than words — they build reputation. CSR is best substantiated through deeds, not advertising and PR. In other words, you have to walk the talk.
The implication is clear: Event agencies need to assume responsibility for building their clients' reputations. In so doing, they will build their own because a successful event says as much about the agency that delivered it as it does about the client who commissioned it.
So, what does this ask of event professionals? It means we should see ourselves as a link in a chain of responsibility that unites supplier, agency and client. Our decisions, actions and assumptions have an impact — positive or negative — on those who commission our work and those who work for us. That kind of responsibility goes both ways.
Downwards, this demands clearly defined, explicit briefings from client to agency, agency to staff and staff to suppliers. Upwards, it means we consider our work for every client through an appropriate CSR filter to determine what an event will say about that client. So, when you pitch for a project, the question to ask is, “How will what we are proposing add value to our client's CSR strategy and thereby enhance their reputation?” On a purely selfish note, you could also ask yourself, “How will it serve to enhance our reputation?”
Enhancing reputation is far more wide-ranging than just one issue, such as going “green” — sourcing local food, recycling materials, etc. Such details are important because they can make or mar a reputation. This is about what we would call a “conscientious relationship.” To do our job properly, event agencies tend to think on their clients' behalf. We anticipate issues and put appropriate strategies in place. But CSR is taking that due diligence a significant step forward.
As food for thought, here's a suggestion for a CSR filter from a “Business in the Community” briefing note (October 2008). Effective CSR is treating employees fairly, equitably and with respect; operating ethically and with integrity; observing basic human rights; protecting the environment for future generations; and being a responsible neighbor in your communities.
Let's take the first one and see how it might work for you. If you ensure your people are motivated and proud to work for you, it shows. Your clients will perceive the positive spirit in your organization; they will see how your people do their utmost to help them look good.
As a result, you can safely assume they will give you more business. Repeat business builds stronger client relationships, adds to your bottom line and enhances your reputation.
There is a commercial imperative to CSR. Not purely because it enhances reputation, but because it can build business. That may sound a touch self-serving but not in the light of marketplace realities. CSR applies as much to a multinational conglomerate as to a small start-up agency. We are in this together — our clients, our company, our staff, our suppliers — and we all stand to win when we get it right.
Name: Richard Foulkes
Address: 25 Store St. London, WC1E 7BL
E-mail: [email protected]
CORPORATE EVENTS STILL GREAT TACTIC IN TODAY'S ECONOMY
As you are no doubt aware, our industry has recently been splashed all over the mainstream media; from the government's proposed regulations for the disposition of the second half of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to corporate America's cutbacks on meetings, travel, conference participation, and special events for both customers and employees.
Our industry has been unfairly maligned as extraneous, frivolous and unnecessary as a core business strategy during recessionary times. As president of the International Special Events Society, I worked with our board of governors and the ISES headquarters team to counteract the negative publicity by penning the following op-ed piece on the value of corporate meetings and special events in our current economy. In March, we distributed this piece to various media outlets across the country.
The public debate over the extravagances of a few corporations in receipt of TARP funds has overshadowed the real need for corporations to focus on strategic marketing tactics to guarantee survival in a down economy, as well as paving the way for the eventual economic upturn.
Smart firms are continuing to use well-orchestrated meetings and special events during the current economic downturn to successfully prospect for new clients, showcase their products/services to current as well as potential business partners, and to acknowledge their loyal customers and dedicated employees.
Special events and in-person meetings are two of many marketing options available to companies competing for any edge they can to improve their visibility and demonstrate their industry leadership. The strategic use of in-person meetings and special events can increase sales and influence brand position. According to a recent survey of Fortune 1000 chief marketing officers, meetings and special events provide the highest return on investment of any marketing channel.
A well-planned event that is mindful of time and resources and carries a targeted message has proven over and over again to be a successful communications tool. In addition to providing assurance to existing customers, it also sets the table for future business.
The value of face-to-face interactions cannot be overlooked during a volatile business environment. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan noted post-9/11 that “Economies are people meeting with each other, and what that [9/11] did was it froze everyone in place.”
As employees weather the economic storm, professional development symposiums, training meetings, incentive reward programs and staff appreciation events are integral to corporate survival. In addition to fostering employee engagement, corporate meetings are cost-effective ways to generate ideas and share knowledge that drives business growth.
Strategic meetings and special events add value to the bottom line. Corporate leaders should be permitted to exercise their own judgment in determining the value of face-to-face business interactions such as:
Product launches with existing and new customers.
End-user meetings and events to provide training, obtain feedback, and provide buyer and seller interaction.
Customer awareness and outreach efforts.
Professional development and continuing education programs for staff.
Corporate employee meetings and management planning/strategy meetings.
Sales force continuing education and training programs.
Incentive reward programs for top performers.
Customer and staff appreciation events.
Corporate-sponsored events benefiting charitable groups.
In our fast-moving, high-tech world of BlackBerries, Facebook and Twitter, face-to-face, personal interaction is necessary to re-inforce communications and generate sales in challenging times. Meetings and special events are essential tools for companies to strengthen business relationships, educate customers and employees, and reward business performance. Companies must continue to invest in face-to-face interactions as an integral part of any business plan for 2009 and beyond.
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Name: David DeLoach
Company: Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts
Address: 8579 Leeland Archer Blvd. Orlando, FL 32836-8833 USA
E-mail: [email protected]
ISES EVENTWORLD IN SAN FRANCSICO--GREAT VENUE, GREAT PLACE TO LEARN
Holding ISES Eventworld® 2009 in a city that grooves to its own pulse gave the ISES Conference Education Committee the ability to add to the mix of this year's educational opportunities and integrate the city into some of the most interesting sessions ever.
San Francisco is often called “everybody's favorite city,” a title earned by its scenic beauty, cultural attractions, diverse communities, unique shopping areas and world-class cuisine. The locals like to say, “only in San Francisco,” where there's no such thing as too much of a good thing!
ISES Eventworld begins with two exciting educational opportunities. The first is an off-site experiential learning session titled “Knock Your Next Event Out of the Park!” hosted by AT&T Park. You will witness firsthand as AT&T Park's dedicated special event team transforms the home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team into a first-class special event venue. The session will focus on the variety of ways a baseball park can be utilized for meetings and events, technological advancements that allow the park to compete with alternative event spaces, unique opportunities that a ballpark facility can provide and a few special surprises!
The second is the opening general session and keynote speech presented by Simon T. Bailey titled “Release Your Brilliance: How to Reposition, Reconnect and Reemerge in Times of Change.” Bailey asserts that in times of change, you will reach an internal fork in the road where you are invited to redefine success on your terms, realign your behaviors and redesign your beliefs from the inside out. The result is a brilliant person who reemerges knowing how to think strategically and innovatively about ways to generate revenue, save money and create efficiency. In this session, you will be reequipped with tips, tools and techniques to prove that brilliant success is an inside job.
Of course we all want to know the latest trends, business strategies and educational opportunities. Well, check out the full educational agenda for ISES Eventworld 2009 on ew.ises.com.
Lastly, the ISES Conference Events Committee chose sites that showcase many of San Francisco's wonderful venues. Each venue is indicative of local beauty, diversity and charm, making San Francisco a fascinating place for Eventworld 2009! Get a sneak peek at some of the sites here:
- The hip and green Leadership Reception (www.spur.org/programs/spurcenter/plans.shtm)
- The cool and chic Welcome Reception (www.mezzaninesf.com)
- The welcoming Opening General Session, Annual General Meeting & Lunch and ISES Esprit Awards Celebration (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sfodt-san-francisco-marriott/).
Forward-thinking education, great food and beverage, and extraordinary entertainment in a city that always shines will create an ISES Eventworld that will never be forgotten!
ISES EDITORIAL TEAM AND STAFF