Going to HiMSS 2016? Proven Communications Strategies for Success

Dan Martin

With HiMSS only two short weeks away, it’s time to stop the runaway train for a moment, pause and assess your communications strategy for maximizing the conference and achieving the results you—and your management team—are hoping for.

In a sea of 40,000+ HIT professionals, clinicians and executives and close to 1,400 vendors from around the world and with a plethora of renowned speakers and keynotes, cutting-edge products and educational opportunities all vying for attendees’ time and attention, it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle. To help today’s marketers and PR professionals make the most of their time and investments, we’ve put together a few tried and true strategies to help you realize that return on investment you are hoping for.

Content that Counts

Put in place a well-rounded content strategy that starts to target your key audiences and stakeholders well in advance of the show—and that not just pushes information to people but drives engagement and action. As we all know, content comes in many forms. Determine the best formats for your company’s audiences (premium content pieces such as studies, surveys and whitepapers, or other content such as social media, news releases, blog posts, HTML email newsletters, to name a few), spend time carefully crafting the message you want people to take away and the imagery around it to make it “pop” and gain eyeballs, and outline a timeline for distribution to ensure a steady stream leading up to, during and, even, after the show (without making it seem like you are “the boy that cried wolf”). Also, if you are a user of HubSpot, Marketo or any other inbound marketing platform, be sure to integrate your content efforts for added impact.

Keep in mind content should be more about quality than quantity. If you have different messages that you are trying to convey to different audiences, take the time to develop specific content pieces that are individualized for each audience. Content that is relevant will be better received—and more appreciated, likely gaining deeper engagement—than generic content that is simply content for content’s sake.

 If you have significant news to announce at the show, use it as an opportunity to create an integrated campaign. Consider a news release but also think about how the release becomes one tactic in a larger arsenal and not THE tactic you are relying on to raise brand awareness and drive booth traffic.

Attendee Engagement & Experience

Speaking of booth traffic, there are a lot of companies out there that strive to drive as many people to their booth as possible…which is fine, but they measure success by how many business cards are dropped into the ever present fish bowl (you know the one I’m talking about) or how many badge swipes they get over the course of a show. They equate contact info with success. But why? What if the person was walking by and stopped because they saw your pen give-away and thought their 8-year-old son would like it. Or they wanted to get a pink koosh ball for their daughter. Or, a company salesperson working the carpet threw them a complement about their suit and they felt obliged to stop and talk and share their information. There are a ton of ways and reasons why a company gets attendee information, but it doesn’t always mean that it is good info. Also, in the race to get as many feet to the booth as possible, many companies also don’t consider the question: “What do we want them to do when they get there?”

It’s important to consider both of these issues when mapping out a strategy at HiMSS (or any tradeshow for that matter). Especially when you factor in all of the noise, distractions and other opportunities that await people around every corner, true engagement and a memorable and relevant experience are critical. Sure, there are the typical collateral pieces, presentations and videos the sales people can take visitors through. But, think creatively. Knowing your audience, what would they find of value and what would interest them in not only stopping by but spending some quality time to acclimate themselves with your brand, your people and, ultimately, your product/service? And, is there a way you can use their presence to create value for your company, visitors and the market? For example, perhaps you have them take a quick survey about a timely topic via iPads that you have designated for just this activity. Everyone that fills out the survey gets entered to win a grand prize (an iPad or pair of Beats head phones or other unique and prized gift) and they are also sent the final results and full report with analysis. For those not at the show or able to stop by the booth, the survey results can be housed on your website and require people to provide their contact info to download. It can also become a part of your content strategy coming out of the show—the key findings can be packaged up into a news release, white paper, and/or blog post to give it additional legs and shelf life.

Screen_Shot_2016-02-16_at_9.50.24_AM.pngImage from: unsplash.comused under CC license.

Build Relationships

Another important component to work into your overall HiMSS efforts is relationship building with key influencers and/or media on the ground. Whether you have big news or not, take time to schedule appointments onsite. These meetings can be an ideal opportunity to update media and influencers on your business strategy and recent successes, lay the foundation for future news and plans and build new or fortify existing relationships which will lead to coverage, joint collaboration opportunities (i.e., speaking engagements, co-authored bylines, etc.) or both. Schedules fill up fast, so do this, at least, several weeks in advance. It’s also a nice way to get your executives some visibility and position them as thought leaders and future resources down the road.

These are just a few ways—content, engagement and relationship building—that you can help bolster your and your company’s investment at HiMSS. We all know that HiMSS can be overwhelming, but if you take the time to clearly and carefully map out what you are hoping to accomplish and build a plan that maps to your overall business and marketing objectives, you’ll find that the experience and the results will be better. At PAN we’ve worked with clients for more than 20 years helping them to craft strategic communications programs, including event presence and activation. If you’d like to talk more please don’t hesitate to reach out. We specialize in working with healthcare and healthcare IT companies and would love to put our experience and expertise to work for you.

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