SHIFTxSW Part 1: Recapping Media Driven Content at SXSW 2017

Another year goes by and another SXSW has come and gone. With a few days to digest all that we saw, we are ready to recap this years’ experience. For 10 days, the city of Austin becomes a conference center, a concert hall and a movie theater all rolled into one. With so much content and activities spread across the convention center, hotels and businesses many attendees go crossed eyed trying to figure out what to do and where to go next.

Those that look for help are typically met with a sea of “experts” that quickly jump into a list of where to eat and drink in Austin. As we have said year over year here on this blog – that is not event expertise, that is a someone looking for a free trip to eat and drink across a city with a fun nightlife. When you look at the value of an event like SXSW you must look at content and networking. Although SXSW offers a rich array of sessions and various meet ups, what may be the most valuable events for badge holders are those being held “on campus” by the media itself.

Here are the top three media-driven performances we saw during the festival:

Mashable House

Last year this house was relatively forgettable; this year the outlet made sure it’s venue was ‘can’t miss.’ Located on 6th Street in the crossroads of film, music and interactive the Mashable House made a concentrated effort to rise above the noise at SXSW and dedicated this year’s House to “the super fans.”

In addition to giving fans a place for whack events like professional wrestlers showing a proper bodyslam or a Guinness book attempt involving tortilla stacking, what stood out in terms of onsite activity was in the live streaming content created by the Mashable Team. They partnered with Twitter to stream “The Mashable Show” delivering a lively stream of “obsessive SXSW coverage, focused on the best of Interactive, Film and Music.” The 90-minute show streamed exclusively on Twitter and featured a who’s who of guests ranging from the muppets, to Nick Offerman, to Cory Booker.

National Geographic Further Base Camp

With National Geographic having one of the leading Instagram accounts, I suppose it should be expected to see the publication take a visually stunning setup at SXSW. Just a few blocks from the Mashable House on 6th Street National Geographic created an event that included augmented reality, interactive robotic art, inspirational talks and interviews with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jason Silva, Cory Richards, Steven Kolter, David Guttenfelder, Aaron Huey, plus a Birthday Party & Pi-Day Celebration for Albert Einstein.

However, what stood out to us as attendees was a unique partnership between media brands to create content. Onsite at the Base Camp were daily recording of podcasts The Vergecast, Decode, Too Embarrassed to Ask and Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. I recommend taking a look here at Recode’s interview with Mary Lou Jepsen from SXSW.

Fast Company Grill

This event is now a staple for many SXSW visitors. Located at the Cedar Door on Brazos, the event focuses entirely on the Interactive crowd offering an invite-only experience for “leading innovative thinkers to connect, create, and kick-back in an exclusive, relaxed setting.” What stands out with Fast Company over the Mashable and Nat Geo events is the dedication to technology with content ranging from B2C brands like Samsung and AirBnB to B2B brands such as Salesforce, HP and Slack.

As PR professionals, we are intrinsically drawn to reporters at events by the very nature of our business. As much as you may brainstorm ways for your client to promote themselves onsite, don’t forget about events that will allow them to hear original content directly from the media they want to speak to and better understand.

Matt Trocchio
Vice President


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