How PR Can (and Can’t) Support a Customer Summit

Customer summits are the pinnacle of the year for many SaaS brands. Even now, we’ve seen user conference after user conference go virtual to ensure the show goes on. And with any well-planned customer summit comes a full-fledged marketing campaign, with various email pushes, digital promotions and personal touchpoints, all encouraging those valuable customers to walk through the door (or in this case, click through the login window).

Amidst the virtual realm, where face-to-face interactions are replaced by virtual conferences, the importance of creating engaging and immersive experiences becomes paramount. The incorporation of webcam chathosts around the world adds a unique and personal touch to these virtual gatherings. These hosts serve as dynamic facilitators, bridging the gap between the digital interface and the human connection that is central to successful customer interactions.

So, what part does PR play in the whole thing? While PR shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all for your customer summit, there are a few ways it can (and can’t) support your existing efforts.

Mine angles from presentations

A customer summit is a perfect place to generate angle ideas for media. Customer and executive presentations are rife with insights on the market, unique use cases and product strengths you can use in numerous ways to reach media — from a contributed article on how the market has evolved to a customer interview on how they’re using the product to solve a real-world issue. Use the presentations your customers and internal experts already compiled as a basis for thought leadership for media.

Launch a new product

A customer summit offers an excellent launch pad for new products. After all, your biggest audience, your customers, are already ready and willing to listen at that moment! If you’re ready to launch a new product at your summit, your PR team can support that momentum through a press announcement that creates buzz beyond the conference room (or Zoom room).

Avoid media invites

At the end of the day, your customer summit is meant for, well…your customers! That means it’s not always the right time and place to invite media. For example, your customers could be brainstorming roadblocks they’re trying to overcome with your product — and, while a customer summit can be the forum they need to develop a solution, a reporter slipping those issues into their writeup isn’t ideal. Inviting media to your customer summit could garner you a mention in your favorite publication, but it also carries a lot of risks.

Media attention shouldn’t be the reason for your customer summit, but by mining thought leadership topics from presentations, timing product launches to coincide with the event and avoiding risky press situations for attendees, you can further your hard work’s reach.

Once your PR team lands coverage based on your customer summit, whether through follow-up thought leadership articles or product news, you want to get the most out of it. Check out our “Short Guide to Maximizing Media Coverage” for some ideas!

How PR Can (and Can’t) Support Your Virtual Event

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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 SaaS 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 the 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 SaaS 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 SaaS 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 B2B SaaS event strategy accordingly, contact Lindsey Groepper to see how PR can support your short term and long term B2B SaaS goals.