Chuck Underwood is President and Chief Creative Officer at Metro Productions, an integrated marketing and communication company delivering print, design, web and video services. Chuck knows first-hand that the way you market, promote and manage an event has changed a lot throughout his 30-year career. He has helped clients with events ranging from large-scale arena-style events to small, intimate meetings. Based on that experience, he knows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to event marketing success, but has some great advice to offer when it comes to marketing your event.
WorkTrip: With all the focus and excitement around experiential and digital marketing, it might be easy to forget about or dismiss the importance of print marketing. Do you think print is still relevant and effective when it comes to event marketing?
Chuck: Absolutely! I was actually just reading a report from the US Postal Service, where they partnered with the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business on a study to gauge responses to physical and digital advertising pieces. It talks about how effective print is for marketing to Millennials in particular, which may seem surprising. It cited that 84% of Millennials take the time to look through their mail, and that 64% would rather scan for info in printed mail than email. It digs into the neuromarketing research and science behind how our brains react to print vs. other types of media. It’s really fascinating, but the bottom line is that print is definitely not dead.
I know from personal experience that a good printed piece can set the tone for an entire event. For a high-end fund-raising event for example, a printed invitation with foil stamping or a cool, edgy look and feel can make a powerful first impression. That theme can be continued throughout the event, in both print and other formats.
WorkTrip: While we are on the topic of print, what other trends have you seen when it comes to using printed material?
Chuck: Personalization is making a huge impact through print. Creating high quality, custom pieces such as personalized event programs with the attendee’s name and other relevant information can be really effective. We did this recently for a client’s charity auction. Each program was personalized with the attendee’s name and bid number. We also carried a form of personalization into table pieces and placements featuring families supported by the charity, creating a direct emotional connection to the people they served and impacts they have made.
Video is also a great way to make an emotional connection, through testimonials, stories, etc.
We are also big fans of using digital technologies to facilitate interaction at events. Everyone has their phones at these events, so we want to make it as easy as possible for people to donate, inspire or simply share from the event. That can include the creation of custom hashtags, snapchat filters or any number of step and repeat banners, props, etc. Be sure to highlight all of those opportunities in your printed materials as well.
WorkTrip: What advice would you have when it comes to planning for an event?
Chuck: It really comes down to all of us (Metro and our client) getting a handle on the size and scope of the event. As I mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
I recommend putting your big stakes in the ground from the beginning and working around those. To start, what are your big deadlines? Once we know those, we can develop timelines for when we need to get pieces designed, printed, mailed, etc.
Of course, we have learned from experience that timelines rarely work out the way you planned. You have to be prepared for things to change, and plan for last minute pieces of information.
WorkTrip: What advice do you have for event planners when it comes to working with a partner like Metro?
Chuck: This may sound like a plug, but there is a benefit in working with one partner to design, print and mail all of your materials. It makes it much easier to accommodate last minute changes or demands, and eliminates a lot of unnecessary admin time. It also makes it easier to carry themes, messaging, branding, and design assets throughout every piece of your event marketing. Once you have your invitation designed, you can easily translate that into all of your other pieces including video, social media, etc.
Creating a shared drive for everyone involved is also a huge help. It makes it a lot easier to manage those assets, ensures that everyone is working from the latest version and lets everyone know when something was updated or changed.
I also want to emphasize how important it is to set clear expectations on both sides, when it comes to timing, budget, direction, communication, etc. The more you clarify and agree on things upfront, the smoother the process will be. It’s also important to think about recovery. How will you handle things when they go wrong, and they will! It’s important to recover in a way that makes your client feel valued.
WorkTrip: What advice do you have for event planners trying to determine what channels might work best for them?
Chuck: It really comes down to understanding your audience. For example, if your audience is older, digital may be less important. I rarely recommend putting all of your eggs in one basket. An integrated, mixed approach is typically most effective.
As I said earlier, don’t dismiss print. Print is definitely not dead; it is just different. Here at Metro, we are printing more than ever before, but the way we print has changed. Today, our print jobs are lower volume, higher quality and more targeted. That takes me back to the personalization we discussed earlier. Another great example of that was an invitation we created for the Jimmy V Golf Classic. Our mailing to sponsors highlighted the person’s name on the front of the piece, and their picture from the previous year on the inside. It created a huge emotional connection.
When it comes to printing, I would also encourage people to take advantage of the many creative options available today, including special printing effects, fabric papers, substrates, die cuts, etc.
When thinking about your event, think about all the different touch points. At a trade show for instance, you want to reach your audience prior to the event; once at the event you want to direct them to your booth; once in your booth, you want to make their experience comfortable and engaging. A short video that catches their eye is a great way to draw them in. Die cutting might be effective here too – you could use a die cut border around the video monitor, a die cut invitation to look like an event ticket, die cut masks for them to carry throughout the event, etc.
WorkTrip: What other advice do you have for event planners?
Chuck: I can’t emphasize enough how important messaging is, and how you convey that messaging is key. I can’t help but think of Donald Miller, the author of a book called Storybrand. He wrote a book about creating a screenplay, which turned into a really effective marketing concept. Basically, Miller says all movies are the same, with a hero, conflict, resolution, and a guide that leads the hero to a successful outcome. In business, you have to remind yourself that you are not the hero. Your client or their constituents/donors are the heroes. You are simply the guide. You need to understand the conflicts they face, and what their idea of success looks like, to get the best results.
With that in mind, everything we do at Metro (as reflected in our tagline) is built on the premise of Reach, Connect and Inspire – with every communication.
WorkTrip was created to lessen the pains associated with planning, executing and traveling to trade shows, meetings and events; and very importantly, to free you up to focus on what really matters. Let us know what else we can do to help.
If you would like to learn more about how other event planners are using WorkTrip, check out our case studies at https://www.worktrip.com/posts/tag/case-studies. To learn more about what WorkTrip has to offer, visit https://www.worktrip.com/features.