Surviving Conference Season: How to Thrive Via Digital AR

Digital Board Every summer the conference season kicks off here in San Francisco, prompting many tech communications teams to ramp into overdrive. There are many large conferences every year – prominent examples in the second half of the year being VMworld, Oracle OpenWorld and Dreamforce. It’s a busy time for communications teams.

Digital communications strategies are (rightly) an expected component when it comes to planning communications for an event. Analyst Relations teams have historically been somewhat conflicted about the use of digital within AR events. This is for many reasons, but the main one is cultural: integrating digital into an AR event strategy can feel a little counter-intuitive for AR specialists. This is because much of the critical value analysts provide – candid insights, often confidential - takes place in behind-the-scenes conversations via inquiry calls, in-person meetings and strategic advisory sessions. Nonetheless, analysts are active on online channels and a digital strategy should be something that an AR team considers when planning an event.

Many of the strategies and tactics used by PR and social media teams are very transferable to digital AR plans for events. However, there are some clear differences that need to be considered first in order to run a first-class digital strategy. When planning, the below are essential ‘to dos’:

  • Matrix Participating Analysts: While many analysts are active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – some may be more active on a specific channel than others. Levels of social participation can also vary greatly from firm to firm and from analyst to analyst. If you have key analysts that have yet to catch the social media bug, then set expectations accordingly with your execs. Alternatively, if you know the majority of your key analysts prefer LinkedIn to Twitter, then factor that into the kinds of digital content you prep for your event. Prioritize activity around the analysts who are not only active on social media, but who base their business models and marketing strategies on being seen and heard on digital channels.
  • Assume Nothing, Ask Smart Questions: When prepping digital content, there’s no better way to plan for an analyst event than to actually ask analysts what they want to hear, what worked well last time and then follow their advice.Run a pre-event audit of your analysts – make sure you have the right execs, right customers and right content onsite to meet their research needs. Leverage inquiry access – either your own, or your PR agency’s – to speak with analysts and ensure that you’ve bullet proofed your agenda, topics and digital assets.There’s no better way to get analysts sharing and commenting on digital content than to ensure the topics discussed on the day interest them professionally.
  • Absolute Clarity on Sharable vs. Confidential Info: We’ve all heard the odd horror story about an analyst tweeting out confidential information – usually roadmap details or confidential customer info. It’s an AR pros worst nightmare. There’s no magic bullet here, but comms teams must cover all possible scenarios. Be clear on what’s sharable, and what absolutely needs to stay under NDA. Be sure to reference this clearly on slides and materials and always verbally re-emphasize what’s under NDA.Make sure attending analysts know they have to be on their very best digital behavior.
  • Thoughtful Content and Discussions Generate Online Commentary: This one sounds pretty obvious, but vendors sometimes become so over focused on their own product specific message, that they can accidentally side-step some really interesting industry centric discussions. Make sure you ask the analysts smart questions on what they’re seeing and hearing – and what their customers ask them about. Be sure to also give them relevant data points and graphics that they can share online with their followers. Remember that analysts care most about:
    • Solving the problems that their end user clients are dealing with
    • Successfully predicting trends and demystifying technologies
    • Level setting industry hype, with their own perspective

Digital content that addresses these areas will be intellectually compelling and highly sharable.

Are you running an industry analyst event for the first time this year? Not sure on where to start when executing your digital AR program? Feel free to email me at tris.clark@blancandotus.com