As more and more marketers operate journalism-inspired brand newsrooms, teams are adopting crossover skills like research, interviewing, and accurate storytelling—competencies honed in Journalism 101, but rarely taught to would-be marketers. Among these neglected skill sets, event coverage seems to be one of the greatest blind spots.
Marketing teams jot down keynoters’ loudest moments on stage, regurgitate those climactic points in a post, and hit publish.
We’ve all done it, and we all know that this surface-level coverage means we’re missing an opportunity to go further. How can you get beyond simple play-by-plays and analyze an event’s larger meaning for your content strategy?
If your event pieces aren’t performing as you well as you would like, consider looking at the ritual differently. Creating an event recap is not a chore. It’s an untapped treasury that can achieve dramatic results if approached from a new angle. Here are a few ways you can use events to boost your overall content approach long after the stage is cleared.
Image attribution: John Price
Call it anticipation for next year’s event, or call it FOMO, your event coverage should spark the attention of all those who couldn’t experience it in person and hopefully motivate them to purchase a ticket to the next one. By filling your content with images of beautiful scenery, engaged crowds, and a round table of laughing ex-strangers, you can easily evoke an unspoken desire in anyone who couldn’t attend and grow your audience for the next time around.
Another reason to view a recap as an opportunity instead of a one-and-done task is the wealth of delineated content you can mine and reuse to reach more people across varying media. For example, consider producing a series of blog posts highlighting lessons learned from different presentations, or create shareable quote cards and images with memorable soundbytes from the event. Building this index also gives your paying ticket holders the gift of a reference to look back on once they’ve returned home. Conferences are often likened to drinking from a fire hose, because no one can take everything in while it’s happening. A good recap allows attendees to relive the best parts, reflect on the value of the experience, and hopefully get excited to attend future events as well.
Treating your recap like a quality project and diving into each component of the experience rather than just boiling it down to the general takeaways also allows you to spark ongoing conversation and may even inspire your future ideation. “Here’s what happened” rarely, if ever, compels a reader to reply. Why would they? An elevated deep dive into an event’s impact and larger mission, however, invites readers to weigh in and keep the momentum of the event going in online spaces such as forums and social media comments.
In order to deliver something that your audience wants to keep engaging with, marketers need to ensure that the coverage their reporters bring back from the event moves beyond the obvious observations and broaches the larger implications.
When sending reporters and freelancers out to cover an event, it’s your responsibility to make clear to them what to pay attention to once they arrive. Before the day of the event, equip those doing the coverage with a list of key takeaways, details, and presentations they’re expected to document in order to ensure your coverage will be as robust and thorough as possible.
Once on site, have your corporate reporters take notes and snapshots to capture all of the main session points, crowd involvement, and real-time user generated content like live tweets from attendees. When you’ve covered all the bases, it’s then time to go further than content creation drudgery and create something much better than the expected rehash.
The foundation for a lively post-event conversation should be laid weeks before the event. Brand storytellers on assignment should read keynoters’ books, sift through Youtube videos and podcast episodes to hear where speakers have landed on issues before, and map connections to panelists’ past work. But most importantly, your reporters should have direct access to insiders.
Image attribution: Samuel Fyfe
An essential component for companies seeking to elevate the value of their event coverage is to seek out opinions from the industry leaders involved in shaping these events.
“I was fortunate to connect with several internal experts via phone,” says Jasmine Henry about her successfully elevated coverage of Gartner’s June 2018 Security and Risk Management Summit. Samsung underwrote the coverage, and Henry acted as their reporting agent. Advance insider access, she says, is what gave her the edge. “During these phone calls, I was able to ask a mixture of questions about the Gartner event and industry trends, which was particularly helpful in shaping the vertical coverage.”
For example, Henry explains how she asked Keith Fuentes (vice president of sales for Samsung Knox) and Jon Wong (Samsung’s senior manager of business development) about pain points with government decision-makers and how their experience stacked up to the 2018 Gartner CIO survey. She and Nick Rea (vice president of mobility innovations) chatted about reception to his presentation at the Gartner Symposium and emerging security trends on the ground.
Putting corporate leaders in touch with content creators produces a confidence in both the brand and that brand’s contracted storyteller. Henry felt extremely well equipped going into the event week, which gave her the confidence she needed to dive deep into her reporting: “The interviews with sales leaders is not a typical component of event coverage, but it should be,” she says. “They added a lot of rich context and insight into industry trends because they engage with event attendees on a daily basis and know audience members extremely well. I wish I could always ask questions one on one when covering events.”
You’ve given your brand storytelling team early access to event insiders and composed a recap covering all your main bases. Now, it’s time to differentiate your content. What happens next will get the attention of any keynoter who reads your coverage.
Scour your pre-event research notes to find relationships between what a speaker has said in the past and what they now claim on stage. Is there any difference? Point it out, and speculate which changing industry factors may account for the shift. Hypothesize how readers could make a similar shift, or why not. If the speaker has been consistent throughout years, call that out in your coverage, instead of highlighting a change. Take the concept a step further and find instances where your own brand has spoken to the same relevant theme.
Finally, the most effective way to differentiate your event recap and generate conversation is to invite readers to draw their own conclusions by taking the speaker’s points a theoretical step further. This is a risky move, yes, but you’re daring your readers to stretch their mental muscles, not make wild claims. What are the implications of what a keynoter said?
One of the benefits of these tips is that when the piece is shared on social with a public “Did I get this right, Ms. Keynoter?” and a tag to the original speaker, an influential (and very transparent) conversation can take place.
In most B2B content marketing strategies, conference coverage is a must. Not only does a recap help to loop in colleagues who missed the event, it also honors your presenters and whets the appetite for future events. The only problem? Many event recap pieces simply spit back what happened. The missed opportunity can frustrate your readers more than satisfy them, a backfire you may never even realize until it’s too late.
Elevate your approach, and your final product will follow suit.
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Feature image attribution: Ali Yahya