Taking an Event — and its Marketing Strategy — Fully Online

Author: Casey Gale       

RSNA session

David Saef from Freeman (left) moderates a Convening Leaders panel with Marissa Ritter (clockwise from center top) and Adrianne Glowski, RSNA; Eric Joseph, Freeman; and John Jaworski, RSNA.

When meeting organizers for the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) took their planned in-person event online, Nov. 29–Dec. 5, 2020, they recognized that it was all the elements of the event — not just the program itself — that needed rethinking. In the PCMA Convening Leaders 2021 panel session “Tech Talk: How One of the Largest Medical Conferences Broke New Ground Going Virtual,” RSNA team members Marissa Ritter, director, meeting and convention services; Adrianne Glowski, MS, director, marketing; and John Jaworski, director, meeting and exhibition services, spoke with Erick Joseph, digital producer at Freeman, about the challenges and benefits of taking RSNA 2020 digital.

“From the first day that we dedicated to going completely virtual, we knew we had to complete something from the ground up,” Ritter told session moderator David Saef, senior vice president of strategy at Freeman, which served as the platform for RSNA’s digital event. “This was designing something completely new.”

Key to designing a completely new digital event, which featured more than 200 on-demand sessions that are available to registrants through April 30, was taking a fully digital approach to marketing, Glowski said.

“Usually with our physical meeting, we do various print mailings, postcards, brochures, etc., through the registration cycle. But with the shift, we knew we had to change that up,” she said. It wasn’t just that they thought an online event should be marketed online, the frequent mail delays that have occurred throughout the pandemic, Glowski said, created a real concern for them over whether materials would reach audience members on time.

Email was RSNA’s primary acquisition method during the registration process, including different campaigns targeted at key demographics and “demonstrated interest” follow-up emails that reminded those who opened initial emails about the event to register. Additionally, RSNA used pay-per-click ads, paid digital ads in online publications, and social-media marketing to further promote the event. According to Glowski, approximately 45 percent of total registration came in the last few weeks before the event started and continued throughout the week of the event due to continued promotion that week. As of Nov. 5, more than 16,000 had registered.

“Every day, we sent acquisition emails to people who had not yet registered,” Glowski said, “and we saw a huge bump during the live week of the meeting in registrations.”

Post-event, the acquisition strategy shifted once again. “We didn’t stop,” she said. RSNA quickly launched its post-event acquisition campaign to continue promoting the event’s on-demand content. “Over 90 percent of our audience wants that extended access, to be able to go and watch that content,” Glowski said. “Our marketing doesn’t stop just because the live event is over.”

Convening Leaders 2021 On Demand

Want to learn more about how RSNA navigated the digital space, including how they made difficult decisions about content, format, and production? This session is available on demand to Convening Leaders registrants in the CL Library until March 15. Visit conveningleaders.org to learn how to register for this and other on-demand CL21 sessions.

Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.

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