Looking to apply this to your virtual events? Check out this updated version of the article.
Let me ask you a quick question: How do you usually communicate your event?
If your answer includes sharing a few links on social media or reaching out to a few industry influencers, we need to talk.
There’s a big difference between communicating and promoting your event.
Although marketing the event can be part of your communication strategy, these two concepts aren’t interchangeable.
Building a communication strategy for your event involves developing a game plan you can use to find solutions and achieve your goals.
It doesn’t matter if your goals are to attract a bigger number of attendees, seduce more sponsors, or help your guests navigate the logistic aspects of your event.
Designing a powerful communication strategy can open the door to unlimited opportunities.
Finding ways to promote your event, on the other hand, refers exclusively to your marketing efforts to gain more visibility and increase the attractiveness of your event for potential attendees.
Considering this difference, you may often fail to build a coherent communication game plan, resuming your efforts to promoting the event.
Although the marketing part is pivotal, you can’t expect great results without having a well-coordinated and efficient communication strategy.
Not sure what this means?
Here’s a quick list of areas a good communication strategy will cover when it comes to successfully planning, managing, and running an event.
Why do you need a communication strategy for your event?
According to the communication expert Mynhardt van Pletsen, “A communication strategy is a solution to move from where you are now to where you want to be — or put another way, it is what you want to happen to achieve a specific end. A strategy is a type of solution that deals with uncertainty. It raises the probability that we will reach our destination in good form, and it does so mostly by creating the conditions that favor success. It includes statements of intent, is purposefully unspecific, and speaks to the overall direction.”
Taking this definition into account, a communication strategy can help you deal with the following challenges you may encounter when managing an event:
Challenge #1. Building strong lines of communication within your organization
Planning events is already a difficult enough task on its own. Add to that faulty communication between employees or departments and you’ll get an ongoing nightmare.
Let’s say, for example, that your plan is to create a brand event where you’ll present your company’s new products or services. But because of the poor communication you have with the production department, you may end up focusing on designing an event a month earlier than a product launch.
To hold a truly successful event, you need to encourage proactive and easy communication between your team and other departments, and here’s where a communication strategy can really help.
Challenge #2. Expressing your needs the right way
Your organization may be self-sufficient when it comes to running events. Yet, there’s always the need to interact with different vendors, such as venue and audiovisual providers, catering, or event management software companies.
You’ll need powerful communication strategy to articulate your planning requirements to others.
Challenge #3. Presenting the identity of your brand and your events
Whether you want to hunt for event partners or event sponsors, you’ll have to know how to express the core philosophy of your brand and your event action plan.
A communication strategy will help you articulate the messages you want to transmit and deliver them with clarity and precision.
Challenge #4. Strengthening your online presence
It doesn’t matter if you want to develop a content marketing strategy for your event blog or harness the potential of PR campaigns.
A powerful communication strategy will help you align your goals and the messages you want to put out there, with the sources you have access to, and the actions you have to take to reinforce your online presence.
Challenge #5. Communicating proficiently with your target group and marketing your event
Last but not least, your communication strategy also includes the way and the means you’ll use to express your event’s value.
The way you communicate and promote your event to your potential attendees (such as via email campaigns or social media activity) will determine your overall success in terms of attendance and brand awareness.
In other words, a communication strategy addresses all the interactions you may have with the event-related stakeholders.
To help get the ball rolling, here are a few tips you can follow to create a truly efficient communication strategy for your next event:
Your action plan to strengthen event communication
Step #1. Define your goals and event stakeholders
Why are you planning the event in the first place? Is it to attract more leads or to increase brand awareness? Or is it to harness the networking environment and strengthen the industry position of your organization?
The answers to these questions will help you define the event stakeholders who must be involved in the planning process.
For example, if your intention is to launch a new product and motivate your clients to become its advocates, then you have the following stakeholders:
- The product and marketing department, to coordinate the event details and dates.
- The event providers and vendors (catering, audiovisual, venue, etc., depending on your needs).
- Potential media partners.
- Investors, in case you want to showcase your new achievements.
- Your clients, according to different criteria to establish their loyalty.
- The influencers, who’ll promote your event.
Each stakeholder involves a specific series of communication-oriented actions.
Understanding your goals and who’s involved in the entire planning and event-running process will enable you develop different communication actions. As a result, this will help achieve your specific micro-goals and targets.
Step #2. Identify the key message per target audience and the channels you need to cover
Depending on your stakeholders’ profile, you’ll need to decide which messages you want to transmit and on which channels you must be active.
For example, to ensure positive communication with your existing clients, you may decide to use an email marketing campaign.
With (potential) investors, you may decide to go with a different communication format and channel, such as (cold) pitching and meetings.
Step #3. Outline the activities your team will have to execute
There’s a big difference between a communication strategy and a communication plan.
As Mynhardt van Pletsen indicates, “A strategy is about high level thinking; a plan is about ground level execution. For the most part, a communication strategy should not be drafted by the communication team in isolation, but preferably with the close input of the top level management of an organization. On the other hand, the specific plans for separate communication projects should be left to the specialists in those areas.”
For example, the marketing team may develop the communication actions related to promoting the event. Meanwhile, certain executives may develop actions to attract new investors and encourage them to support or attend the event.
In conclusion, each member of the organization or corporation must have clear roles and responsibilities in realizing and applying the communication strategy.
Step #4. Focus on changing behaviors
Don’t forget that the main goal of your communication strategy must target the behavior of your stakeholders. That’s why the actions you or your team take should focus on shaping what your audiences know, feel, and do. This implies a deep understanding of your audiences and those triggers that can get them to change specific behaviors.
Step #5. Set up your success KPIs
To achieve high efficiency levels, you must know how to evaluate the results of a communication strategy. The metrics will depend on your goals and key targets.
If we’re talking about achieving the main goal of the event, which (using our example) is to transform your clients into brand advocates, the performance indicators will involve the number of attendees who actually decided to go with your referral programs or engaged in promotion activities.
If you want to measure the impact your communication strategy had on (potential) investors, you must evaluate the new funds your company organization received after the event.
Although complex and multi-layered, a communication strategy will equip you with the necessary tools to achieve all of your established event-related goals.
From attracting more attendees to improving the institutional communication among your organization’s employees or departments, an in-depth communication strategy will leave you equipped to deal with planning-related uncertainties and catalyze meaningful change through your event.