Events as Content Publishers – the Changing Tides

Posted on February 20, 2012

I am very happy to announce that Served Fresh Media has officially launched Content Publishing for Events.

Our new Content Publishing for Events services for conferences, trade shows, expos and other B2B events is much more than “content marketing” (the new digital media buzz phrase).  Content marketing is creating and distributing premium content to a highly targeted audience that will carry that content to a broader audience through various digital media channels. Content marketing also involves a fair share of search engine optimization (SEO). Indeed, the best way by far to get high page from Google and other search engines is to create and market compelling content regularly.

Our Content Publishing for Events certain includes all of this (the potential for gaining broad brand exposure and for deeper connection with Users through content marketing is invaluable). But we also wanted to take the content marketing paradigm one giant step further in order to address some of the broader issues Events Managers face producing and creating content for digital media with shrinking budgets and smaller staffs.  We wanted to do this in a way that will help everyone (from managers, to attendees, to sponsors) contribute to (and get more out of) the event experience as a whole. Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel but to assist an industry feeling the strains of transitioning to the new and complicated digital world, to innovate further (or more thoroughly) through content publishing.

Events offer a special challenge with regard to content marketing. Unlike traditional businesses that are constant in their production and marketing day-in and day-out, conferences are a year-long build up to one, spectacular moment. The life-cycle of an event, and how that event engages its audience throughout the year-long buildup to the event, is more like a tv or film production (development, pre-production, show time, post-production).  Often times the full conference agenda isn’t confirmed until only a few months before the event. It’s hard to generate content for an event that has an incomplete agenda (the whole point of creating content for the event is to get people inspired enough by the content to discuss it and purchase tickets attend the event). The burden of creating quality content has always fallen squarely on the shoulders of Event Managers and their teams with an occasional featured blog post by a guest speaker (usually yielding timid results).

Rebecca Lieb from research firm Altimeter Group recently gave a very good breakdown of  the difference between traditional advertising (which marketers are far more comfortable) and content marketing (the following is a paraphrase of her comments):

Advertising happens on a campaign basis in 6-week bursts. Content marketing is a sustained effort.  It may have a beginning but it doesn’t have a middle or an end. Good Content Marketing keeps on going forever (more challenging than traditional advertising).

“Going on forever” is great for a traditional business whose goal is to do just that, but events have a definite beginning middle and end (and the end is usually followed by a cooling-down, regrouping period for the event).  Perpetually understaffed and working on increasingly shrinking budgets, event Managers face seemingly insurmountable obstacles when with content marketing.

Personally, I don’t believe it’s enough for events to have a content marketing strategy — to create and distribute compelling content (though that’s a good start, these days, it’s not nearly enough). If the events industry (and conferences specifically) is going to feed the demand for quality content that exists with their audience (and that is inherent in the digital media model as a whole), without breaking their budgets in the process, they’re are going to have to substantively tap into their own event ecosystem for help and strategic partnerships. Perhaps just as important as feeding the content beast is the need for innovation in the very structure of corporate events (from the uninspiring agenda format to the worn-down, tired panel format).

Conferences, expos and trade shows have, built within their ecosystem, an extremely valuable network valuable to any Events Manager developing a content strategy (more valuable than I believe most of them realize). There is a golden opportunity here that we believe Events Managers will seize whole-heartedly (one that we have based our new services on).

Attendees, exhibitors and guest speakers at these events are professionals who are experts at what they do, curators of content, and voracious readers of content. They are first and foremost specifically attending the event to get and share new information. They are also there to gain invaluable and otherwise hard to obtain industry exposure. By creating a platform for the attendees, exhibitors and guest speakers to play a crucial role in creating compelling content, Events Managers co-create the event’s agenda discussion with the community rather than merely dictating the discussion themselves.  This is a huge shift.  It is also a very necessary one.  We need to usher in the era of true collaborative content. Events need to become serious content publishers or risk being irrelevant to the very audiences they serve.

A change is coming in the events industry. I believe many of us have felt it coming for some time.  We’re excited at the possibilities and believe that content (not just technology) will play a big role in that coming change. We’ve begun working with conferences on helping them transition from passive, one-dimensional information broadcasters to Content Publishing Platforms of premium, collaborative content. I’ll be writing about it once a week here at Served Fresh Media. I welcome and look forward to your feedback in the comments section below.

Keep it social,

Charlie Oliver
Dir. Digital Media Strategy


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