It is Imperative That Your Conference or Event have a Blog…
Many event marketers will scoff at this revelation; they will tell you that a good website and marketing plan is good enough, that you are on FaceBook and Twitter so why should you go to the trouble of building a blog for your conference. I hear them, and I respectfully disagree.
I am here to tell you that this is 2010 and good enough is no longer enough to keep you ahead of the game. The barbarians are at the gate and those feisty little guys probably have a blog, their blog is titled “We are gonna kick your ass because we have a blog and you don’t”.
OK, All kidding aside, they probably won’t kick your butt with just a blog, but a blog is the first step in making your event or conference a year round affair, an indispensable part of your overall marketing strategy that keeps you in the mind of attendees throughout the year and makes recruiting attendees for the next event or conference easier, faster and actually less expensive than without a blog.
The old rule is true. It costs less in the long run to keep an attendee than to recruit a new one….and your spiffy little event blog is going to help you recruit those attendees and sponsors as well. That is sure gonna make the boss happy.
First, a Couple of Finer Points for Conference Organizers….
What is a blog? A blog is simple; you are reading this post, and it is a blog. A blog is a way to speak to an audience on a regular schedule in a journal type of way, you are on the internet, so I am going to assume that you have a basic understanding, if you need a little more detail, hop over here for a detailed explanation from Wikipedia.
An event or conference blog should be different than your association or corporate blog. They are not the same and should not be treated the same. Your kitchen is for cooking, and your bedroom is for sleeping, you don’t want crumbs in the bed, and you certainly don’t want a pillow in your soup, so don’t try and cut corners and make your blogs one and the same. They are not the same, and I will be pissed if you cut corners.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
How, you are probably asking, is it possible to make your event a year round affair and how could you possibly have enough content to stretch out a conference blog over 365 days….I am here to tell you my friends, that this is the easiest thing you have ever done. In fact, you have so much content that you could have three blogs and you would never fill them all.
Let’s chat – I got some good stuff
There are many elements to making your event or conference live on in the minds of attendees, extending its lifespan throughout the year. Some of the essential elements are building a great community, having a good FaceBook and Twitter strategy as well as some other Social Media outlets. I will cover them in future posts because today we are concentrating on the old fashioned blog.
The most important part of keeping your event going like the energizer bunny is to always be feeding the beast, always be putting out good content and a blog is one of the most critical ways to do this.
Content is the key to staying in business through the seasons and to keep your readers and attendees interested and excited so that when you finally have a call to action like “Register Now” or “Earlybird registration ends tomorrow” they will heed the call and act on your wishes which is every marketer’s dream.
Blogs can be viral and support your overall marketing strategy. They can be linked to your Twitter and FaceBook accounts giving you much needed content for those Social Media outlets; they can provide topics for your online community. People can subscribe to them via RSS and get them delivered to their inbox in addition to your regular email newsletter.
Blogs are also great fodder for search engines making your event or conference available to more people. Updating content regularly helps you rank higher in Google and show up more often for different types of search queries. Do not underestimate the power of a blog to drive attendance figures upward, the more people that can find your event, the more people that can attend your event.
This next reason to have an event or conference blog is my opinion and not scientifically based (for all I know). I have found that people are more likely to link to a blog post than a static web page. I often will come across a blog post that I find interesting and will tweet about it, blog about it or email a link to it, I have also been known to share blog content via my own personal or company FaceBook pages. I never do this with static web pages. I don’t know why it is just something that holds true.
If you want some proof to this, look at what your friends are posting to their FaceBook pages when they share a link, look at what you see on Twitter… you don’t often see “check out this link to the homepage of Bob’s site”… you see “Check out this article on Huffington Post (which is a blog) or see what John wrote about yesterday.
That being said, let’s hit the content trail and get to the information you have and how you can use it.
Pre-Conference Conference Organizers Can Use a Conference Blog To:
- Tell attendees about important happenings and press releases. If you are announcing that there will be a networking reception on the first night of the conference, this is one of the outlets you should use.
- Inform attendees about a new speaker or go in depth on each speaker. This is especially useful, take one speaker per week (day) and feature them. Write an article about them, their accomplishments, their expertise and why attendees would want to attend their session. You could also have the speakers write a guest post which they like.
- The same can be done for sponsors. Talk about event sponsors and what they bring to the table and why attendees should visit their booths. A WARNING – DO NOT make blog mentions or blog articles part of a sponsorship package, this will free you up to talk about lower level or new sponsors that may have an amazing product or service but may not have the funds for the larger sponsorship, it shows that you value them and that they are important as well.
- Announce milestones, if the conference has reached an attendance record or the early bird is ending, make it a post in addition to the other places you will announce it.
- Information about the host city. This is an excellent way to get the community behind you. In the weeks before the conference, feature local restaurants, shops, and hotels and let the venues know that you will be doing this, ask them to contribute an article. They will love the exposure. You may request these local vendors to offer a discount, and you can put the code in your blog.
- Video from past conferences. This is a perfect place to highlight snips from recent events and talk about them. If someone did a crazy crowd-sourced jig and someone posted it to YouTube, embed it in your blog. This builds excitement and makes people want to attend.
During the Event or Conference Conference Organizers Can:
- Write a show daily that should be in electronic form and be emailed to conference attendees (you do this don’t you?); it should also be on the blog every day of the show. Even if it is posted elsewhere on your website, you can do a preview with a link to that page where the daily resides. This is called spreading the wealth. The more places something lives, the better the chance it is going to be found and read.
- Take a few videos during the show.. interviews, etc., post them to YouTube or Vimeo and then embed them in the blog. Make them interesting and (intentionally with purpose) raw, that gives the impression that it is breaking stuff. This also gives non-attendees and “aw shucks” moment that maybe they should have been there.
Post Show Conference Organizers Can:
- Write recap articles, post video (or highlights with links to your video pages) and thank your sponsors and attendees.Spread this out over a few weeks; you can get a lot of mileage out of this tactic.
The In-Between Months Conference Organizers Can:
This is where your blog can pay off. Here are some ideas that will keep attendees coming back and sponsors returning as well.
- Feature sponsor press releases throughout the year, if XYZ company has a new product and they have a press release, post it (and then send the link to the sponsor). They will love this because not very many events care about them beyond their sponsor dollars. This is a great way to show that you value them.
- The same can be said for speakers. Let the world know what they are up too since they presented at your conference. If a speaker went on to become President or a Nobel Prize winner, this gives your conference or event added credibility. Ask speakers to provide articles on the industry.
- Also, do something that almost no show does and will truly set you apart from the crowd. Feature some of your attendees in the months between events. Pick some attendees from your list and call them and interview them. Ask them what they learned at your event, why they loved it and how this learning has impacted their daily lives. Ask them why they would return and use this as an extended testimonial. A WARNING – Make sure that the focus is on the attendee, not the event or conference. People love to get kudos and be mentioned, it helps them in their career and it helps them with the boss. Talk more about their accomplishments than the events. This is loyalty that money cannot buy…. Again, do not cut corners, you may be tempted to have a testimonial spot your website which is critical but if you do not do longer pieces in blog format, you are missing an amazing opportunity.
- Use video as another important feature. You may have a video portion of your website for conference videos, but a once a week update or feature with a few with links to your other pages are an easy way to keep traffic flowing and people interested.
I think that you may be able to see a pattern here. Anything goes. If it is content and it is good content, put it in your event or conference blog. If it is posted somewhere else on your site, summarize and link to it from your blog.
A blog adds a whole new level of critical touch-points that you can have with your attendees that they will like (they hate your email newsletter, they simply tolerate it).
Not having a blog is not going to be the end of your event or conference but having one can make it better, it can help with attendee engagement, attendance, sponsorship, speakers and overall satisfaction. Can your newsletter do that? Can your FaceBook page do that? Can your Twitter account do that? They can… Kind of…..but they are missing one element.. their buddy, the good old fashioned blog.