Engage readers with special events
Whether it's a spectacular party or a unique program, events can serve as a subscriber-building boon for publications. Four experts share their secrets on making a big splash
Gail S. Bower, President, Bower & Co. Consulting LLC
If your publication uses special events just to enlist subscribers, you're missing an opportunity.
The real value of events is in enhancing relationships with readers and potential readers. Building a more engaged readership translates to more loyal subscribers.
In our fast-paced, technology-filled world, promotion via events helps us connect face to face. Use the time to find out what readers have on their minds. What do they worry about? Why do they read your publication? What are their complaints?
The Philadelphia Business Journal hosts monthly events during which readers share coffee and pastry with the publisher and editor. The two take attendees on a tour of the magazine to learn how to use the publication to generate leads for their own businesses. Readers network with each other, pitch stories to the editor, and gain an important business tool.
THE TAKEAWAY: Special events enhance reader relationships with in-person connections
The editor stays current on business issues; the publisher hears feedback first-hand; the sales staff networks with potential advertisers; and the circulation team makes its subscription and renewal pitches — complete with incentives. Everyone leaves, after one hour, with something of value.
For best success, have a protocol in place to receive and address reader feedback. Staff members working the event are your publication's ambassadors. Be sure they're equally conversant about the publication's unique value for the group of readers they'll meet.
Next, imagine the range of questions or feedback staff may hear. How should they address reader questions? How should they collect this intelligence and share it with the larger staff?
Don't recoil if a reader shares negative feedback. Brief your staff on how to handle such situations so that the reader feels heard and your operation improves.
Finally, don't forget your credit card machine. Having created a positive experience of your publication, you'll undoubtedly enlist new subscribers.
Caren Kelleher, Director of marketing and events, Paste
With so many opportunities available to your customers, the most important thing you can do in preparing an event is to differentiate yourself with an intriguing opportunity. With a strategic approach and attention to detail, you can make your customers feel important.
THE TAKEAWAY: Differentiate by offering something unique to make readers feel special
At Paste, we use an ongoing concert series called Paste Presents to reward our readers by giving them tickets to private shows. Since we are competing with other major market events, Paste differentiates itself by withholding information on concert line-up, a risky decision since the line-up is the strongest selling point of a concert.
The series has become tremendously successful. Paste leveraged its relationships with musicians and record labels to attract platinum-selling and buzz-worthy bands. Sponsors soon followed, as did press coverage. Most importantly, customers began to expect a fantastic, intimate show from an artist that was “Paste approved.” An online registration process also helped to build a database of dedicated customers that Paste later used to target audience members.
By positioning your events as exclusive opportunities you can run the risk of over-promising and under-delivering. The first Paste Presents concert featured a performance from Beck. This set the bar high and customers were sometimes disappointed when they did not see a mainstream act take the stage. To avoid this dilemma, find ways to truly engage with your guests. Let them sample a new product that is not on the market yet, or even have your editor or publisher greet customers personally.
Jill Sieracki, Editor, Hamptons and Gotham, Niche Media
Events bring a magazine to life. They allow your advertisers to be right in front of a uniquely captive audience while also giving the reader a chance to be a part of the lifestyle the publication celebrates.
Niche Media hosts more than 350 events a year, all with the same goal: to showcase our luxury advertisers and bring clients, staff, and friends together in a fun, festive atmosphere. Parties can be used to celebrate a new issue and its cover star, introduce new clients or align your publication with big-name gatherings such as the Oscars.
THE TAKEAWAY: Make sure your event is consistent with your mission and brand identity
It's important that each event needs to be different from the last so they remain exciting. Take your time planning the event so as not to miss any element that could make it more enjoyable to your guests. Niche employs a seasoned events team that spends weeks preparing for each gathering — walking through the venue, meeting with vendors, coordinating with clients, perfecting the guest list and lining up extra-special touches that range from aerial acrobats to a custom-designed rooftop dog park.
The theatrics that people remember, or the gifts they can take home with them, are what really make an impression. Everything has to be smart, well-executed, and on-brand, or it won't work.
Even if your title already dominates its market, you should continue to put time, effort and expense into events because they are an important aspect of vertical integration. A great event can be used not only to highlight your magazine's content, it can also win coverage from other media.
Steven Kotok General manager, The Week
Events area critical component of The Week's overall growth strategy – building brand awareness and continuing to increase advertising and circulation. There are four guidelines we follow to ensure events meet our goals: brand, program, audience and value.
THE TAKEAWAY: Memorable details help brands stand out to readers, advertisers and competitors
In terms of brand, a big splash will not be of much value if it is inconsistent with The Week's mission and brand identity. For example, The Week Grand Classics film series is a successful brand-enhancing event for our magazine. We invite noted film figures like Spike Lee to select, introduce and screen a film that they found particularly formative or inspiring. We stay true to the DNA of the magazine and provide the publication with a high-profile event platform.
It's difficult but important to create a program of substance that has a cohesive sense to it and engages your audience. Even if your event is brand-consistent, if it's a snoozer, or a clever concept that is impossible to realize, it isn't worth your time and money.
The Week at Grand Central's debate events invite renowned opinion-leaders to discuss and debate their views on a topic. While it is the stature of the panelists and the importance of the topic that attracts guests, it is our ability to engage our audience once they are there that drives our success or failure.
Once you've come up with a brand-consistent event, you need to determine who you intend to reach. A top-notch event needs to reach an audience of some sort, preferably one that helps your brand achieve its goals. Don't focus so heavily on the program that you neglect determining how to reach the people you are seeking to impact.
The last piece of the puzzle is how your company or brand will benefit from the event. What will it have after the event that it didn't have before? Increased awareness, added revenue, goodwill among readers or the industry? And is that worth the resources you have put into it? A lot of events sound wonderful until you ask the tough questions about the long-term benefits of investing in the effort.