Every year at USGBC, we look forward to the many local, regional and international meetings where we can network with our peers and continue our personal professional development and education. Despite having to postpone our in-person meetings until 2021 due to global health concerns, USGBC didn’t want to miss the opportunity to provide valuable educational opportunities to our partners and colleagues around the world, so we’re moving many of our in-person events to virtual events. Thankfully, marketing and promoting our virtual events doesn’t have to look much different.
Promoting events involves a lot of moving pieces, from graphic design and email marketing to content creation and social media posts. Here’s what to keep in mind to successfully promote your event, whether it’s in person or virtual.
1. Create a robust marketing plan.
Most of the work in event promotion comes in the planning process, as creation of key messages and graphic design assets need to be completed ahead of your promotional push. Creating a robust marketing plan early in the process is paramount to successfully marketing your organization’s event.
A marketing plan should include:
- Key messages focusing on what attendees will get out of the event
- Audience segments, including relevant professions and geographic locations of attendees
- A timeline for promotions
- Potential press opportunities and a targeted media list
- A social media plan
- Graphic design assets needed
2. Organize deliverables with a marketing calendar.
Create a timeline for when you want to promote certain aspects of the event, such as keynote speakers or the launch of registration. Make clear the avenues you want to use to share your messaging, whether that be through customized emails, blog posts, social media or any other platforms.
Be sure to share the marketing calendar with any other team members that you will need to involve in the process, like the email marketing team or social media team, and that you assign tasks clearly and appropriately.
Create a marketing calendar to stay organized.
3. Reach the relevant audience with emails.
Emails are one of the most effective ways of reaching potential conference attendees. Almost every email marketing service allows you to target certain email contacts based on the type of content you are sending and whom you want to target. For example, if you’re sending out a call for proposals, you may want to target those in your contact list who are educators or teachers. If your meeting is being held in a specific location or relates to a particular geographic region, you’ll likely only want to send emails to people located in that specific area.
Make sure emails include a compelling subject line, links and graphics, and try not to be too wordy. Most important, always include a call to action—what you want your audience to do when they receive your email (“register now,” “sign up for updates,” etc.).
Use email strategically to reach the right audience.
As for email content, there is no shortage of what you can promote, but some ideas that tend to attract engagement include:
- A feature on the keynote speaker
- A breakdown of education sessions
- Top reasons to attend the conference
- Special events, such as happy hours or tours
The best practice at USGBC is to send a promotional email about an event once a week.
4. Make use of your company’s website or blog.
Similar to emails, online articles and blogs can reach large audiences, but unlike emails, can also provide a hyperlink to further information that you can share with your audience or post on social media. To keep content consistent, consider coordinating your blog updates with your email schedule. That way, you can repurpose much of the same content and reinforce your message to your audience.
Blogs also let you expand on the ideas you are promoting in emails. You can publish a Q&A with the keynote speaker, describe education sessions in more detail, provide additional links and resources your audience can access for further information, provide a wrap-up with key takeaways from the event upon its conclusion, and more. You won’t need a new article to correspond with every email you send out, but consider a blog update promoting your event every two weeks.
5. Leverage social media.
In additional to email marketing, social media marketing is also one of the most effective ways to reach a large audience. Coordinate with your social media team to make sure any content you’re sending out by email or through a blog is also making it onto your social media stream.
Social media posts with images garner a lot more attention, so be sure to create graphics highlighting your speakers, education sessions and any other noteworthy events taking place at your conference.
6. Reach out to news media.
Promoting your event through emails, articles and social media is a great way to garner immediate attention around your event, but engaging with traditional news media is also important to continuing attracting attention around your event and organization in the long run.
At USGBC, we often partner with media outlets to help us promote events through digital and print ads, interview opportunities with key spokespeople and opinion pieces or bylines from organizational thought leaders. Reach out to trade publications in your industry, or publications that cover the topics you’ll be presenting at your event.
You should also create a targeted media list that includes journalists who are both regionally located and who write about the topics that will be covered at your event. Inviting relevant media to attend and write about your event also helps in garnering attention during and after the event, and builds goodwill and publicity for your organization and for any future recurring events.
Promoting events, whether they take place in person or online, takes a great deal of coordination and planning. Over the past few years, virtual webinars and conferences have been steadily growing in popularity, but now, in this unprecedented time where businesses have largely gone remote, we still have the chance to meet with our colleagues and discuss important issues that affect our organizations.