Most PR and marketing professionals understand this general rule of thumb for events: "Don't mix analysts with customers, press with analysts, or customers with press." But in the realm of virtual events, those rules can differ.
The virtual event circuit—a growing phenomenon, accelerated by COVID-19 and a rapidly expanding digital landscape—is where media, analysts, and customers come together. With huge prospective business and press coverage benefits, capitalizing on the virtual event opportunity is the next step for B2B organizations.
Now, make no mistake: The virtual working environment has not been without its challenges. Barking dogs, screaming children, and unmuted mics all come to mind. But for the events industry, the benefits have been extraordinary, and companies have reported extensive business growth in industry webinars, roundtables, full-scale conferences, and product launches, not to mention the increased ease of networking and communications.
However, some B2B companies need to fine-tune their virtual event strategy to ensure a good attendee experience. A full 58% of marketers in the US and UK said they needed an events strategy rethink during the move to virtual if they wanted to reach their goals and secure success, research from Integrate found.
Here at IBA, we have been involved in virtual events since the pandemic struck—primarily from the press-list angle. We manage media attendees slightly differently than we do typical attendees, but the principle remains the same: Before, during, and after the event, they still need to be well looked after.
The opportunity to maximize event PR strategies is ripe, so here are four focus areas for B2B organizations to ensure a smooth-running virtual event for media attendees.
1. Virtual events rely on preparation
In-person events often require months of arduous logistics and implementation planning—sometimes for up to six months—in preparation for "showtime." Preparation for online events is dissimilar because there is no complexity of location or logistics. That allows B2B organizations to focus on producing insightful content to ensure good reception from media attendees.
But not all preparation is eliminated. Ample response time from the media must be allowed, so giving a generous 1-2 months for journalist RSVPs should ensure a good number of targets are secured.
Being organized boosts audience retention and even promotes pre-event engagement. Virtual events expand geographic reach and offer widened outreach for journalists who may have never been able to spare the time to attend an in-person event.
Post-registration, sending timely invites and follow-up emails alongside access details as the event agenda becomes more concrete ensures journalists are engaged and equipped with essential information leading up to the date.
2. Technology allows the media to play 'catch-up'
Journalists are known for their tight deadlines and busy schedules, which means live attendance isn't always an option, despite your best efforts to deliver invitations months in advance. Making sessions available on-demand helps those journalists with hectic calendars or short attention spans.
Being able to view the recording at their leisure enables journalists to digest important information, take specialized notes, and familiarize themselves with a topic when it suits them. For international events, it helps widen your outreach even further as journalists in various time zones access sessions at will.
But the benefits don't just stop at the media audience. Marketing departments have the opportunity to create follow-up content for post-event media pitching and can develop various forms of content from live and on-demand events. For example, thought leadership sessions can be written up in blog post or article format, as well as pitched, to create additional event coverage and exposure.
3. Avoid a media fiasco—use virtual dashboards to your advantage
A challenging question from a journalist can lead to an awkward silence, a badly worded response, and an unflattering media story the next day.
To avoid those moments, use a virtual dashboard. Virtual dashboards incorporate spaces for questions submitted offline , so the speaker can read them ahead of time and prepare. Journalists are then more likely to receive a more informed and detailed answer from the respondent, whether a marketing manager, company expert, or PR team.
That's also where message control comes in. Knowing the questions and providing a prepared answer means you can adapt your company message to a specific publication or media.
You can never fully control journalism, but managing the Q&A process in such a way can go a long way in avoiding any inaccurate reporting.
4. It's all in the content
Creating engaging content has always been an event necessity, but in the virtual world it's more than just a matter of enticing and retaining press attention; it's more about creating a thought-provoking environment and sharing knowledge to create a "must have" story for media attendees to write about.
Prerecording content means providing the media with the best experience you possibly can while ensuring you keep control over which messages you want them to hear.
Distractions are a given, especially in remote working conditions. For journalists logged on at home or out of office, a few well-chosen words will go a long way, and it's important that sessions be short, attention-grabbing, and concise.
Easy navigation is also essential; it can help attendees focus on the details that matter most to them and allow for specific questions to be flagged. Keeping things interactive can mean prerecorded videos, animations, and graphics, but making them short and sweet will keep media attendees focused on your message, leaving a lasting impression and generating follow-up interview inquiries.
A solid event PR strategy means more media coverage
COVID or not, virtual events are here for the long run, and their PR benefits speak for themselves.
Message control is improved and extended to a widened media audience that has been presented with extra opportunities to attend and catch up on-demand.
With the complexity of logistics and location removed from the equation, attendees from across the globe can join in, helping stretch media coverage to a wider pool of publications than previously possible.
More Resources on Virtual Event PR Strategy
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