Editor’s note: All images vis Matt Tetrault/Pretty Instant
Since its start six years ago, SHIFT has been a proud founding partner of Boston TechJam, an event led by Mass Technology Leadership Council to bring awareness to and celebrate Greater Boston’s innovation ecosystem.
SHIFT’s helps create buzz leading up to the event, to drive ticket sales, sponsorships and exhibitor interest. Amazing event execution and creativity from collaborators, supported by a big PR push, has worked. The event has grown to over 7,000 attendees, exhibitor spaces selling out every year and big-name sponsors (Spotify, Autodesk, Kronos Incorporated, Liberty Mutual and PTC, to name a few).
Being involved in such a high-profile event is a reward in itself, but it’s also been a great learning and networking opportunity. Here are a few strategies we’ve employed throughout the years:
Think beyond traditional coverage
People get news everywhere, so we aim for as much coverage variety as possible. We laid a foundation with 30+ local and national calendar listings, beefed that up with print and online coverage in the biggest local dailies and journals and tapped local blogs and podcasts, with smaller but dedicated followings. Radio and a strong rapport with New England Cable News gave us broader reach of broadcast mediums. Ticket giveaways with local social influencers like @BostonTweet rounded out our “far and wide” approach.
Make “in kind” a tactic
“In kind” partnerships help get the word out in a big way. Using a WIFM approach (“what’s in it for me”) has been key to securing them. When asking organizations to promote TechJam, we always offer to do the same for their initiatives through social and newsletters. In pursuing sponsorship from Boston.com, we brainstormed what value they could get from the event and pitched space to host “Pitch Boston.com,” where local companies signed up to pitch their stories and news, trading event visibility and involvement for online and print advertising.
Know your timing
Just because planning starts months ahead doesn’t mean your audience is ready to share in your excitement. Each year, we compare what announcements we can make with data like when registration and exhibitor requests ramped up in previous years. We sequence out communications – when the audience will actually act on it.
And with events, it’s not over ‘til it’s over. So much coverage came in the final days before the event, thanks to persistence. By continuing to gather resources (like event photos) and pitching the morning immediately following, post-event coverage showed the evening’s success, helping lay a foundation for next year.
Let others inform your strategy
In PR you often want to tell your story. But it’s what happens at the event (not just that the event is occurring) that’s of interest. Let what other people are doing, posting on social, or covering about the event inform your communications. A fun story on “the best swag at Boston TechJam” received great engagement, so we adopted it for social content and pitching in the years following; and a “call” for attendee and exhibitor stories helps unearth interesting activations and giveaways we could spotlight.
Lastly, when it comes to events, anyone in event planning will tell you things change up to the last second. Flexibility, being able to communicate new plans, problem-solving anything that fell through and thinking up new strategies to overcome roadblocks is key.