Whether your clients are in the consumer, technology or healthcare fields, it’s conference season in the world of public relations.
Just this month, I attended two conferences on the west coast. Customer experience management company SDL hosted its own Innovate Conference in San Francisco, and bio-pharmaceutical services organization PAREXEL exhibited and spoke at the 50th annual DIA Conference in San Diego. While these events are in two very different industries, both allowed me as a PR professional to engulf myself completely into my clients’ businesses and markets.
If an opportunity to attend a client event presents itself, I’d advise you to take advantage of it. Here are just a few of the reasons attending industry and client conferences are beneficial for PR teams:
- Media/Influencer Face-time – As PR professionals, we are constantly engaging with the media and influencers relevant to our clients’ businesses. Events, like the two I recently attended, provide the opportunity to actually meet the people we often speak with, email with and follow on social networks. This can take shape in a number of forms – staffing an in-person media briefing, attending a media/influencer/analyst led presentation and making a quick introduction afterward, catching up over coffee or drinks during any down-time at the event, etc.
- Social Engagement – Just from being in the same physical location as your clients and industry influencers, it’s a lot easier to engage by using the event hashtag. I grew my following significantly by taking photos of sessions, tweeting them out and following new industry experts I saw were following the event on social channels. For the SDL event, we also helped with their social contests, so we were able to see how attendees were engaging with the client, which provided valuable insights as well.
- Client Relations – While we are in constant communication with our clients, we don’t always get to meet the folks on the other end of the phone, if not for quarterly PR planning meetings. And even then, perhaps only the PR and marketing contacts meet with you, not the company executives and experts you’re scheduling interviews for. After connecting with them at an event, you’re not just emailing a corporate email address, you now know this person, making it easier to connect with them when needed. Or perhaps you learned of a new client contact who can help with customer approvals or something else that can be beneficial to your team. These relationships ultimately help grow the PR/client partnership.
- Networking – You never know when handing out your business card (or taking one) will pay off months or years later. When attending a presentation, my colleague began speaking with the woman sitting next to her – only to learn that she is the CEO of a company interested in purchasing our client’s technology solution. Suddenly, we had a hot sales lead for our client. Mingling with industry influencers at a cocktail reception, we learned about what they’re working on, what they’re seeing from other companies and other insights they have on the industry.
- Industry Learnings – Perhaps most importantly, I got to listen in to some of the smartest people in a couple of industries share their insights and expertise. Sitting in on sessions and briefings, I heard from a Forrester analyst, a client’s customer, reporters and my clients themselves. I got the opportunity to ask reporters first-hand what topics they’re focusing on right now at their publications and gain valuable feedback on client news and events. As I head back to my desk, I am a much smarter PR person when it comes to these industries. And really, becoming experts in our clients’ businesses is something we always strive for; it allows us to formulate better media pitches and bylines, flag industry trends and come up with new ideas for campaigns, social content and press releases.
Beyond these key benefits, it’s important to note that the attendance is a mutually beneficial one, for both the PR team and the client. Not only do our clients get the support they need from their PR team – managing social contests, staffing media briefings and helping with events – but the PR team leaves with an increased understanding of their business and stronger relationships with client, media and industry contacts, which will yield dividends in the long run. At the end of the day, the investment in attending a client conference is a win-win that drives results for both the client and PR firm.