At the end of the 19th century, a press agent named Ivy Lee organised a journey from New York to San Francisco in order for a group of journalists and opinion leaders to discover at first hand the new railroad line that was to connect the two cities. Although at that moment few people could imagine the impact of that action, the fact is that it signified the birth of the organisation of events as a strategic communication tool inked to an institution.
Corporate and institutional events, traditionally associated with Public Relations, are nowadays an extremely powerful tool in any communication plan. The versatility, the creative possibilities, the fact of targeting “captive publics,” or the fact that the success of the plan does not necessarily depend on large budgets, are some of the key factors that have made this type of events truly essential for companies and institutions that seek to create, change or consolidate a brand or product image, among others.
Trade fairs, exhibitions, open days, congresses, conventions, incentive trips, presentations of products or social events, among others, are just some of the possibilities offered by the organisation of events to companies and institutions in order for them to connect with their various publics.
Going beyond the diversity of formats and typologies, the truth is that the social networks have become indispensable allies for promoting and enlarging the effect and repercussion of any event. In this way, a 2.0 communication strategy linked to the planning and management of corporate or institutional acts is essential for sending out messages, generating a sense of community, stimulating interactivity between target publics or giving added value to the brand or product image on the basis of an event.
The generalist social networks, like Facebook, have evolved from having an exclusively personal use to being exploited as a key element in the organisation of this type of events. The management of advertisements, the possibility of reporting in real time from the wall or creating a sense of community among the participants, all with no additional cost for the advertiser, are just some of the factors that have contributed to the popularisation of this type of social networks in the organisation of events. Others, of a professional category like LinkedIn, those specialising in the sector like Nextt or SocialSharedCorporate, or those specifically focussed on content formats like Youtube, Slideshare, Flickr or Instagram, are the most used, not forgetting the use of blogs created specifically for the event.
But the multiple possibilities offered to us by the social networks are not always a guarantee of success. It is essential to take into account that speaking of organisation of events means speaking of strategic communication, and that therefore we must consider certain aspects before integrating the 2.0 format into the development of any event.
Firstly, we must define rigorously and exhaustively what is our target group: its characteristics, interests, and so on. It is only on this basis that we will be able to consider the social profiles and consequently the networks through which we will reach our target publics. Once these have been determined, it is essential to provide the user with contents of value, always in accordance with the event around which the community is created.
The second element to be prioritised is the time factor. In an environment so voracious and ephemeral, the information we broadcast via the social networks must be permanent, tenacious and, above all, constant. If the event is public, the communication in social networks must be started months in advance; if, on the contrary, the event is limited to a specific public, the attendees must form part of those communities several weeks beforehand.
Integrating various social networks into the 2.0 communication strategy linked to the event is another point to be taken in account. The “enlargement” or viralisation of the event via various channels has to be one of the fundamental goals when defining its communication strategy. In this way, the integrated use of Twitter (with the corresponding creation of #hashtags in order for the attendees to viralise the event), Facebook, Slideshare, Youtube or Instagram, among others, it is of vital importance to disseminate the event, thus promoting the image of the company or institution organising it.
Once the event has concluded, the community created around it tends to remain alive for some time. Consequently, it is necessary to continue sharing material between the attendees, but also to gather their opinions on it. This information will serve us, in part, as a base for analysing the achievement of the goals set out at the beginning, in addition to introducing improvements into the management of upcoming events.
On this point, emphasis must be placed on the importance of following, as far as possible, the participants’ blogs or pages. This monitoring process is vital for obtaining a perception of the event’s impact and the fulfilment of its expectations.
Finally, as with any tool used in the field of Public Relations, we must carry out an exhaustive analysis of the evolution of the data we can extract from the social media: number of followers, comments, shared information, etc.
Only by receiving responses to these quantitative data with those of a more qualitative nature – attitude in comments, evaluations of participants, etc. – will we obtain a reasonably precise idea of the success or failure of the event, above and beyond what may be stated by conventional media communications.
Nowadays, the strategic use of social media in the organisation of corporate and institutional events is an essential factor for connecting with target publics. In the words of Ivy Lee, who we mentioned at the start of this article, “the role of communication is to carry the public from where it is to where it has never been.” There is no question that, more than a century after the birth of the author of this declaration, the organisation of events is an extremely powerful vehicle for mobilising the public’s perception of a company or an institution. The social media are the essential route for this journey.