Using content marketing events in outreach strategies

Content marketing events are a great way of building relationships with influencers and make you more likely to be recommended (linked to) when you launch new content or products.

There’s a common misconception that link building is an inpersonal affiar in which influencers are incentivised to write an article before being dismissed for future campaigns as ‘previously contacted’. Whilst some companies still take this approach, most SEO’s are wise to the flaws that this strategy encounters longer-term. Additionally, Google is hot on the case of incentivised links (see my recent article on identifying paid links).

Relationship building is the 2016 equivilant of Link building, and whilst the end game is very much the same (acquiring links and online exposure) the method of getting there is very different. Link building has connotations of payments and incentives. Relationship building focuses on personal relationships between companies and influencers so that when a new peice of content is launched influencers are more likely to naturally talk about (and recommend, via a link) that content.

Relationship building is great and proven to get results. It is a staple part of outreach in 2016. And what better way to build relationships than to meet people face-to-face? As SEO’s we spend way too much time in-front of a computer screen (I know I do!). Hosting content marketing events (an inward-looking, industry specific term) is a great way to build relationships with influencers and can result in both short-term and longer-term wins. In this article we’ll explore what makes a good content marketing event and what to avoid when hosting (or attending) events such as these.

Defining a content marketing event

A content marketing event is a seminar, webinar or physical event in which influencial audiences are invited to experience something on offer from a company or individual. They’re pretty popular within the blogging community. Content marketing events are generally self-aware, that is to say the audience have some understanding of marketing and their purpose or roles at such events.

Content marketing events vs traditional marketing events?

There is generally a clear difference in the audience, purpose and outcomes of different marketing events. For example, a B2B marketing event and B2C marketing event have very different expectations – To gather new sales opportunities and generate sales, respectively. Content marketing events are equally as different, focusing on relationships and the resulting long-term exposure.

The table below shows some of the generalised differences between B2B, B2C and Content events.

Traditional B2B marketing event Traditional B2C marketing events Content marketing event
Attendees End users and media Consumers and media Bloggers, Journalists & Influencers
Host’s purpose Gather new leads Sell or launch products Build relationships with audience
Attendee’s purpose Meet new contacts Purchase or learn Network and build relationships
Expected outcomes New sales opportunities Media coverage or sales Further communications & exposure

Content marketing events are sort of like ‘trade’ events, specifically aimed at building relationships and showing off (aka marketing) new and exciting stuff (aka content).

Thorntons Content Marketing Event

Let’s take an example. You may remember I recently wrote about Thorntons interactive chocolate factory, a CGI-based peice of content allowing consumers to explore the inner-workings of their mysterious chocolate factory. Creating that content was a great first step, but getting eyeballs on it and the subsequent exposure (and links) that followed is what was really required in order to see significant search visibility uplift.

With the campaign focused around the factory, we at Thorntons thought it’d be fun to invite a group of influencers to their factory to experience the real-life version, so they could make comparisons to the CGI content. The day consisted of a factory tour, some first-class lunch, a session with Easter egg personalisation guru Nathan and finally a chocolate making experience in the chocolate kitchens.

The event focused on meeting new influencers and starting off new relationships, whilst giving everyone involved a chocolate-filled experience that (hopefully) people would naturally want to talk about. (This is important, we’ll cover it in more detail later on).

Thorntons tour outreach - factory

A group of influencial bloggers being taken around the Thorntons chocolate factory as part of Thorntons Easter content marketing event in March 2016

6 tips for hosting content marketing events

Let’s take a look at six tips for SEO’s and Content Marketers who want to host their own events.

Create audience-specific events

It may sound obvious, but considering your audience is one of the key elements of a successful event. At content marketing events your audience are likely bloggers from a particular niche. The content that ‘Mummy bloggers’ talk about is likely to be different to that from ‘Craft bloggers’, for example. By doing thorough outreach you should be able to group similar influencers together, ultimately resulting in a more niche and granular event strategy.

By then tailoring the event to the audience, you’ll ensure that you’re ticking all the right boxes and not only satisfying half of your audience.

Don’t make it all about SEO

Again, this is probably a fairly obvious one to most, but focusing your event on the gains you’re expecting is defiantly going to turn your audience off and make them feel like they’re being used to simply benefit yourselves – Which is completely not the purpose of content marketing events! If your audience asks about the ‘requirements’ of their articles (many audiences will… As they’re savvy to link building and SEO techniques) remind them that the event isn’t about gathering links.

Again, if you do content marketing events correctly, your audience will want to talk about (and maybe even link) to your website. Never force it on them.

Let attendees create their own content

Providing your audience with lots of useful content is great. But if you’re inviting the right people, they’re probably going to want to put their own spin on things. They’re probably going to want to show their own audience what they’ve been up to. By giving attendees the opportunity to create their own content (say, for example, the chance to create their very own chocolates) they’ll be much more likely to share content with their followers.

At the Thorntons Easter event attendees were able to create their own chocolates, and many were posting pictures of their creations in real-time!

Influencers creating their own chocolate creations at the Thorntons Easter event

Influencers creating their own chocolate creations at the Thorntons Easter event

Offer something unique, every time

We’ve already covered tailoring your events to the audience, but ensuring that each event is unique and offers a slightly different experience will give you the best chance of a variety of content coverage. The audience is one element that can be used to tweak the event, but there’s many others too, including seasonality, location and topical focus. Each event should be different enough so that influencers don’t feel like they are following the footsteps of previous attendees.

For Easter, Thorntons offered their audience the chance to personalise their very own Easter eggs, something that was specific to that time of year.

Thorntons Easter event - Influencers being shown how to personalise Easter eggs

Thorntons Easter event – Influencers being shown how to personalise Easter eggs

Follow-up with more information

Once the event has finished, that doesn’t mean the relationship building is over. On the contrary, it actually means the relationship building has just begun. Always follow up the event with additional or requested information (and don’t forget a simple “Thank you for attending”!). If you’ve taken photos or video on the day be sure to get your media over to your audience within a few days, and write your own article on the event, too.

Be sociable during and after the event

Encourage social media during the event by posting yourself. Real-time social is growing in popularity (especially on Twitter) and your audience will love the opportunity to show where they are to their followers, too. Continue to build the relationship over whatever channels suite after the event. Thank you attendees publicly on social and don’t be afraid to engage with your audience as they start releasing their own content, too.

4 tips for attending content marketing events

Here’s four tips for anyone attending content marketing events (yep, less than hosting because I’ve hosted many more content marketing events than I’ve attended).

Create your own content

As a host, I can honestly say that we don’t just want you to use our (probably quite corporate) content – We want you to create your own, add your own personality and create something that your audience will love (you know them best, after all!). Never be afraid to ask for the opportunity to create your own content, be it a video, photograph or access to some new information. Creating your own content means you’ll never be using duplicate content on your blog or website.

Of cause, content provided by a host can most usually be edited to meet your individual needs, too.

Ask lots of questions

You want to get as much content as possible out of the day, and you’ve probably got a very rare opportunity to almost interview someone from within the company or organisation who’s hosting the event. Use this to your advantage by asking as many questions as possible and making a note of their answers for use in your own articles. It’s this sort of unique (non-duplicate) information that’s not available anywhere else on the web thats great for search.

Don’t forget, the host may not know the answer but you can always ask them to follow-up after the event.

Be sociable

If nothing else, these events are a great opportunity for you to network with a like-minded audience and new contacts, too. This networking doesn’t have to exclusively be in person, though. Get other attendee’s social details and build a relationship with each other (if you don’t already know each other already!). You’ll find it mutually beneficial as your new friends will have a following who are going to be interested in your content, too.

Tweeting each other during the event, for example, is a great way to start new relationships.

Don’t expect payment

Paying for links is bad. Fact. ‘Paying’ doesn’t just cover direct payments either. It also covers gifts, loans and even taking someone out for dinner. Yep, they’re strict (for good reason – A link should be considered a recommendation, not simply navigation). For more information on paid links, check out my article on using surprise as a gauge for paid link building.

Although content marketing events aren’t directly related to links, there’s always going to be a correlation. So, if a host were to pay for attendees (and those attendees then linked to the host’s site) then Google may consider that a paid link.

Isn’t this just another way of paying for links?

Remember when we said it’s important to create an experience that influencers want to talk about naturally? That’s really the golden chalice of content marketing and link building – Creating something that people naturally want to talk about. It can be a product, a service, an interesting piece of research or just a cool piece of content like an interactive chocolate factory, but if people don’t want to talk about it naturally, you’re going to have to influence them (aka pay, as defined by Google) in order to get coverage.

Offering a unique experience to an audience is not the same as inviting influencers to link to your site. It’s not treating them differently in order to gain new links. It’s simply showing an audience some unique content that they couldn’t have experienced otherwise. If the audience chooses to link, then that’s up to them. And if they choose to link to other pages in the future, that’s their choice too.

How to host a content marketing event

Hosting your own content marketing event requires a number of steps to be carefully thought out in order to make it a success.

Define your audience

The first step in creating a content marketing event is to ensure you’ve got a defined audience – Be as granular as possible here in order to ensure that you’re able to talk specifically about what interests them and their followers – It’ll make the day much more rewarding for all parties.

Complete your outreach

Once you know who you need to talk to, start to reach out. Email or social is the typical method employed here, but a personalised invitation through the post can add an extra sense of occasion, too. However you choose to reach out, make sure you record the respondents & don’t invite too many people at once.

Plan you event’s agenda

The last thing you want is for the day to over-run, or for lunch to be rushed. Plan plenty of contingency into your event, ensuring that you’re trial-ran the event beforehand to check timings. Logistics are important too – You don’t want to be walking miles or sitting in the same room for hours on end.

Debrief after every event

After every event try to get feedback from all involved, including the audience themselves. Sending a survey or asking for open-ended feedback is really valuable, and can be fed into the next event. Of cause, get feedback from your team to see what they think could be improved, too.

Use your audience to promote your next event

Finally, for your next event it’s a good idea to showcase the content that previous attendees have created. By showing potential attendees the fun that previous attendees had, you’re much more likely to get an “I’d love to come!” rather than “How much to attend?”.

John Alexander Rowley

An enthusiastic digital marketing professional passionately dedicated to increasing the online presence of businesses and individuals in order to improve engagement and ROI.

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