Tips can help planners build authentic connections.
By Kim Benjamin, Untangled
To create and sustain an authentic community, event planners are said to need a place where they have a voice and can be heard, and where all opinions are considered.
Monika Adelmann, operations manager at BCD Meetings &Events, says she believes it’s important to focus on shared experiences when creating a community.
“Introduce communication channels that promote and facilitate ongoing dialogue for groups with common interests,” she said. “These channels can include social media, forums, and focus groups. Balance the sense of community both virtually and face to face. The key to authenticity is to create and encourage safe spaces with continuous touchpoints.”
But experts warn that while a community may have marketing advantages, if you make it only about brand building, it will die as quickly as it was born.
“Target it properly and identify how and when to reach your community,” said Marine Debatte, head of event solutions at agency BI Worldwide. “Take time to set it up, nurture it, and make it evolve if need be.”
To illustrate one example of an authentic community, Gregory Crandall, director of brand engagement at Pico+ Hong Kong, recalled when he headed a society magazine in Hong Kong. The high-end readership included a database of several hundred top executives, with the main asset being the bond between readers, the editorial voice, and the advertisers, which created a distinct community.
“Our priority was to create a platform where these executives could share their experiences and ideas and interact with the editors, the brand, and its advertisers,” Crandall said. “Using the platform, we could invite the resulting community to events. It was about engaging with them all for long-term ‘stickiness.’”
The same principle, he said, applies to how event planners need to build communities, adding that planners should engage with conference delegates or event attendees and understand their preferred mode of communication.
“Create platforms for engagement before and during the event, and ensure you have a long-lasting multi-platform relationship with your attendees after the event,” Crandall added. “Done well, you will have created a business community with strong personal ‘buy in’ with your brand.”
To boost internal and external brand engagement, Debatte highlights how BI Worldwide bases its programmes and design on behavioural economics — the study of psychology as it relates to the decision-making behind an economic outcome.
“This precisely explains why we make certain decisions and several principles have been formulated: Idiosyncratic fit, hierarchy of choice, goal gradient theory, for example,” she said. “Whether we realise it or not, we are not ‘homo economicus’ and don’t make rational decisions. So, let’s build on that and give our audience a good reason to be engaged.”
Whether you use gamification, incentives, or perks to deepen internal and external brand engagement, different outcomes call for different solutions, experts say adding that the key is to use them when and where they are relevant.
Adelmann suggests encouraging brand interaction through engaging sessions and platforms that require continuous collaboration and follow-up assessments. Audiences will engage more with a brand when they feel that it is investing in them.