The reality of COVID-19 is hitting companies from all sides. With restrictions on travel and large-scale gatherings, some companies are scrambling to figure out how — and if — to keep an event strategy.
Developing a virtual event strategy can be intimidating. According to research from Socio, an event technology platform, 64% of event professionals have never planned a virtual event before. But that shouldn’t be a reason not to execute a virtual event — nor to pass up PR opportunities around your events. In fact, as both user conferences and industry events shift to a virtual experience rather than in-person, PR can play a role accordingly.
How PR can support your virtual user conference
User conferences and customer summits are fairly similar and often used interchangeably. Both are meant to bring together current and potential customers to educate, inspire and encourage networking among them. It’s an opportunity to highlight customer success and case studies to build awareness of your product and help customers determine best practices. Attendees often walk away with new strategies and other ways your product or solution tackles their key issues.
In most cases, you shouldn’t invite media to user conferences — either in-person or virtual — where there will be open conversations among customers. They may be hesitant to share insight if they think they’ll be quoted on the record.
That being said, PR can support a virtual user conference in other ways. For example, issuing a press release with a speaker lineup in the weeks preceding the event is a way to generate interest from media and your target audience. Your sales and marketing team can also use it as collateral to generate invites to customers and partners. If you’ve recently decided to pivot your event strategy from in-person to online, a press release can be one way to inform your audience and the industry about the shift and what they can expect from a virtual event instead.
In addition to supporting your virtual user conference, media relations can help keep people talking about your company after the event. Following the user conference, issuing another press release consisting of key findings or data gathered at the event can position your company as an industry leader. This shows your customers, investors and competitors you’re paying attention to customer pain points and how your solution can solve those pain points. Data can help secure both interviews and contributed content in top tier and trade media, and data can also be referenced in content and interviews in the months following.
Another way to leverage your event after it ends is to collect customer stories. Customers willing to share their story about what they learned with the media can round out your PR strategy alongside thought leadership content and interviews and can be used for future events to attract attendees.
How PR can support a virtual industry event
Unlike user conferences, industry events encompass multiple topics and feature experts from various companies. Traditionally, trade organizations and other event groups held industry events, but today many companies also hold industry events for professionals outside of their userbase.
Supporting industry events — whether in person, like Hubspot INBOUND, or virtual like Microsoft Build — with PR differs from how it might support user conferences. A cadence of press releases, similar to what we recommend for user conferences, can still benefit virtual industry events by helping to generate interest and communicate your message. However, these industry events are also an opportunity to invite media to attend and network with other professionals, your team and potentially your customers to discuss new ideas and hear real use cases to develop a larger industry trends story.
Having media attend can also lead to them sharing their own key takeaways as a follow-up article — like Forbes contributor Dan Gingiss did after attending Hubspot’s INBOUND conference — to continue generating momentum even after the event is over. When people search for your event online, they may come across these articles, adding even more value and third-party credibility to your brand.
We’re experiencing a lot of “new normals,” and virtual events will likely fall into that category. As you adjust your event strategy accordingly, contact Lindsey Groepper to see how PR can support your short term and long term goals.
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