Your organization has an event coming up – lucky you! Whether you’re hosting an experiential event, participating in a conference or putting together a pop-up shop, there’s still work to be done ahead of the big day. This isn’t Field of Dreams, after all …

Sorry, Terence Mann, but you’ve got to do a whole lot more than simply throw together an event, open doors the day of and hope and pray that people will flock to your location. It’s time to create a thought-out event marketing plan that will help you connect with your audience, garner their attention and get a buzz going about your event.

The power of a successful event

Hosting or participating in a live event is a beneficial opportunity for any organization, but particularly for those that may not regularly be able to connect with their audience in person. Now that so much of the business-to-business or business-to-consumer relationship takes place in online channels, it’s important that decision-makers not overlook chances to cement the loyalty of existing customers and potentially grow their reach through live channels.

event marketing plan

That’s why more organizations are looking to foster these types of in-person connections:

  • The number of companies taking part in 20 or more events annually increased by 17 percent from 2017 to 2018.
  • Currently, 84 percent of C-suite execs consider in-person events a key part of their business success.
  • More than 40 percent of marketers view live events as the most effective marketing channel, even over traditional channels like content marketing and digital advertising.

Businesses are also allocating more of their marketing spend to support in-person events: Today’s B2B software & services companies regularly dedicate more than 21 percent of their overall budget toward events.

Once you’ve put the work in to plan key elements like the date, location, purpose, speakers, activities and beyond, it’s time to get the word out about the event and help make sure that all of your efforts truly pay off.

What’s included in an event marketing plan?

There are a handful of essentials that your event marketing plan will cover, including things like:

  • The types of content you’ll create to support the event, such as an initial press release announcement, blog posts leading up to the big day and more.
  • The platforms on which you’ll distribute your content, and the ways content will be used as part of social media and other marketing campaigns.
  • Unified event messaging across all of your content and communications promoting the event. In this way, your audience and other potential attendees get the right feel for the event and a clear picture of what’s to come, whether they read a blog, listen to a pre-event interview or see a social post.
  • A collaboration strategy that helps solidify your marketing efforts with other event sponsors and exhibitors. This is key for joint events or conferences that involve lots of different companies.
  • Evaluation metrics. It’s important that you and your marketers are able to gauge your overall success so that you can leverage the elements that worked and other key insights on future event marketing campaigns.

Content creation: What to consider

Content is one of your greatest weapons. There are few better ways to support your event messaging, get your audience excited and describe what’s to come on event day.

That being said, there are a few important content types that you should consider creating as part of your event marketing:

  • The classic press release: This one’s a standby, and for good reason. A short-and-sweet press release is a great way to get all the essential details out about your event. This is also the ideal place to share contact info for internal marketers, making it easy for interested parties to reach out for more details. A press release helps inform your audience with the basics, and professional circulation means major outlets like PR Newswire help with the heavy lifting of promotion. The general rule of thumb is that you should stick to about one page in length, or around 400 words, with your press release.
  • Expand on the details in a blog or two: Although it can be tempting – not to mention easy – to go over press release word count targets, it’s good to save some of the more juicy details of your event for subsequent blog posts. This way, you can expand on the basics from your release in a longer blog, and couple this content with images and even an embedded video. Post this blog up on your website and share on social leading up to event day.
  • List out the details on a dedicated web page: If your business takes part in an annual event, or is hosting something especially large and newsworthy, you might consider creating a dedicated web page on your site to provide details and generate traffic. You can even add a registration form fill to enable participants to sign up then and there on your site. You can also leverage this page after the big day, and shift content to post-event coverage.
  • Consider a podcast interview: Another content strategy to consider with your event marketing is an audio interview with a keynote speaker or other sponsors/participants. You can use this content in all kinds of ways, including leveraging the entire interview for a podcast or taking smaller quote snippets for use in a blog or social post.
  • Provide a sneak peek through video: Video content is particularly well-suited for event marketing. You can provide a look at the event location and preparations to get people excited for the big day, or record your pre-event interviews and put together a video featuring some of your speakers. Similar to audio content, you can also use smaller snippets of a video for social posts or create an eye-catching gif to share.

Tips for distribution

Event content provides a lot of opportunity to repurpose, including using quotes and other snippets to garner your audience’s attention on social. Here are a few other strategies to consider with your content distribution:

  • Don’t put everything out there at once: First things first, it’s helpful to create a schedule for your event marketing content. This way, you can release your content elements in a step-by-step manner that helps maintain your audience’s attention. For instance, start with your event web page and then link to it in your press release. From here, provide more event details in a blog post as the event date gets closer, and then expand even further in a podcast or video just before the big day. Putting your content out there one piece at a time will systematically grow your event promotion, support brand awareness and help you reach your audience through different and interesting content types.
  • Promote before and during: A lot of time, the focus of event marketing centers around the days and weeks leading up to the big day. This makes sense, as you want to create a buzz, boost ticket sales and encourage people to show up. But it’s also important to promote during the event itself. Video is particularly good here, including live streams of especially exciting event activities or unveilings. In addition, leveraging user-generated content from event attendees is a great way to showcase the event from participants’ points of view.
  • Use marketing automation where you can: Your event marketing plan is critical for informing distribution. While some marketing elements will need to be manually updated as event details come in, it’s helpful to use automation wherever possible to keep everything on schedule and prevent things from falling through the cracks. Automation is particularly helpful for annual events.

Event dos (with examples)

I’m always a fan of using the examples of others to your advantage, and this is especially true with your event marketing efforts. As we saw in our above statistics, businesses are throwing events more often than ever before, providing some great examples of successful strategies that work, as well as some really stellar examples of failure (which we’ll delve into more below).

In that spirit, let’s take a quick look at some events that went well, and the takeaways you can leverage in your event marketing tactics:

Use your theme as a common thread

People love an event with a well tied-together theme. Depending on the purpose of your event, your theme can extend to all different event elements,and provide memorable (and Instagrammable) moments.

Tech giant Oracle provides a good example within its Code One user conference. The company decided to include an environmental theme to support its new green initiative. Event planners took this theme and ran with it, and even included special touches like a plant-conscious menu, presentations focused on reducing carbon footprints and the ability for attendees to make charitable donations.

This is an interesting example for a number of reasons, including the fact that Oracle was able to support its own environmental initiative, while also establishing a conscious brand image.

Incorporate trends: Experiential events

Looking to create a splash with your event? Consider the trending experiential approach, which takes traditional event presentations and activities, and turns them into an immersive experience that truly involves participants.

Experiential events are also particularly great for promotion during the event itself. There are all kinds of examples out there, but one of my favorites is JetBlue’s Ultimate Icebreaker event. This event publicized the launch of the airline’s direct flights from New York to Palm Springs and included an ice-wall installation filled with different warm-weather travel items.

Event participants were invited to break the ice in any way they could, enabling them to walk away with prizes. The event – held outside in New York, during the winter to keep the ice from melting – was a fantastic way to support JetBlue’s target messaging: that warm weather was only a flight away.

Tap into local influencers

Another trend picking up steam in event marketing is the use of influencers. We recently explored the positives and negatives of this approach and how it differs from other, more traditional marketing styles.

Leveraging the power of local influencers isn’t as difficult as one might think: It can be as simple as sending a specific invite to a local influencer and asking them to share their experience on social if they enjoy the event.

Event don’ts (with examples)

Some events don’t exactly pan out as marketers and planners expected, but these examples can still provide us with some valuable lessons.

Don’t forget to do your research and bring in the necessary experts

Jagermeister learned this lesson the hard way with its pool party event in Leon, Mexico. The plan was to add liquid nitrogen to a swimming pool at the event to create a cloudy, smoky effect. However, as those at event soon discovered, nitrogen and chlorine do not mix well. The result was a poisonous cloud of nitrogen trichloride gas, which made several event attendees very ill and in need of medical attention.

As this example shows, it’s important for marketers to do their due diligence, and be especially careful about planning for large-scale stunts like this. It’s best to bring in subject matter experts for particularly lofty or ambitious event plans to make sure nothing is overlooked and everything goes off without a hitch.

Don’t overpromise: Make sure the actual event lives up to the hype

There’s nothing worse for attendees than showing up on the day of, only to discover that event marketing was vastly overstated, and the event itself can’t deliver. One of the best examples here is the now-infamous Fyre Festival.

Event planners did almost everything right leading up the festival – marketers tapped into influencers and launched one of the most successful social campaigns ever. However, organizers broke one of the most cardinal rules of event planning: they didn’t provide anything close to the luxury experience they promised. After hearing for weeks about high-end accommodations and food, attendees were treated to a “festival” that was anything but fire.

The takeaway here is simple: Don’t overpromise. Your marketing efforts should paint a true picture of what participants can expect at the event. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for failure, and something like a Fyre Festival-esque marketing miss will surely impact your brand image.

An in-person event is a powerful way to foster an emotional connection and create memorable experiences for your audience. However, pulling this off requires the right planning process and key pieces of marketing collateral alongside successful distribution strategies.

Now, get out there, build it, market it and they will definitely come.

Jessica Wells is a senior writer and editor at Brafton, working remotely from Hawaii. When she's not writing, Jessica enjoys paddle boarding, snorkeling and enjoying the view (and a cocktail) from her beach chair.