virtual events

Olivia F. Scott Talks About How to Maximize Media & Virtual Events

In an Ask Me Anything live session at the virtual event of Inbound 2020, Olivia F. Scott, founder and principal consultant of Omerge Alliances, talked about how to maximize media across paid, owned, and earned channels. She also discussed the importance of reflecting diversity in advertisements and the steps you can take to ensure it. And we’re here for it.

Scott has about 25 years of experience in the marketing industry and knows what she’s talking about when it comes to managing media or virtual events. She’s also an agile associate professor at NYU, where she’s taught classes like campaign management, media, and competitive strategy for 11 years. 

Let’s see how we can best use her advice to better manage our media and virtual events as marketers and content creators. The answers to the following questions are based on the words of Scott and how she responded.

Q. What do you think events in the next year may look like?

They’re probably going to be limited and relatively small for a while, such as only having a 50-person capacity while others watch from home. So, it’s likely that the next year’s events take on a hybrid approach, incorporating physical and virtual features into them. Also, virtual events may become more common and relevant, especially because they have global audiences. Like Inbound 2020, they bring people together from all over the world and allow them to connect in meaningful ways. And that’s what we all want right now!

Q. For virtual events, what are the best practices around choosing one day vs. multiple-day sessions?

To answer this, Scott uses the example of how her firm, Omerge Alliances, handled the Essence Festival this year. A wellness-focused, health event was Essence’s last live gathering, hosting about a thousand people in Atlanta. But it was only a week after that when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and physical events became impossible. 

So then, the Omerge Alliances team created a wellness-house event for Essence virtually. 

Whether you choose a one day or multiple-day virtual event depends on the content. How long would people be able to sit through the material of your event? Let that be your guiding factor in deciding how long it should or could be.

Meanwhile, talking from her own experience hosting five virtual events this summer, Olivia talked about how they adjusted the number of hours and days as the pandemic dragged on. 

At the start of the global crisis, most people were under a lot of stress and in need of companionship. So, hosting more extended virtual events was a success back then. However, after that, as everyone started operating digitally and virtually (and hosting events), there was a lot more competition in the market. People had (and still do have) a lot of choices in media events. 

So, the solution was providing people with bite-sized content that would help them through this difficult time. The material also needed to be focused and streamlined. 

Therefore, the length of your virtual event should depend on the content you’re offering and what forms you’re using for it. For example, your virtual events should ideally be a combination of one-on-one talks, panel sessions, games, fire-side chats, etc. The key is to diversify the forms of content within a day. It helps people feel that the event is moving fast and is easy to keep up with. Otherwise, the same mediums of content are repeated over and over, which can get mundane. So, the trick is to maintain people’s interest and keep them engaged.

Q. How can we be different from so many other companies conducting virtual events?

Lately, everyone has been pivoting to virtual events. To compete with other brands, you should focus on two primary things: your programming strategy and what consumers want.

When it comes to programming strategy, don’t have the same format as others. As mentioned before, you should spice up the forms of content you use to keep things interesting.

Meanwhile, virtual events aren’t a lot different from marketing campaigns; they should meet and deliver customer demands and expectations. So what you can do is find audiences or sub-cultures that are perhaps not being spoken to, and target them for your events. You can create content that your audience wants to hear from you, e.g., maybe a transparent conversation with your CEO.

By diversifying the content you offer, you can provide people with something unique, and that’s what makes all the difference. 

That aside, another strategy you can use is to offer a live component to your events. You should remember that most people watching your content are stuck at home. So, they need events where they can interact and network with other people.

Q. How can we maximize user engagement from a media perspective given the current situation?

For the time being, in Olivia’s words, we need to give more than we’re getting back. It’s the time to build brand loyalty, to show your audience what you stand for, and drive advocacy. You can also show them what causes you’re aligning with or the ways you support them. Hence, no matter whether your media is paid, owned or earned, you can only maximize user engagement through loyalty and advocacy right now.

Q. The “live” feature in social networks has taken a more critical role since the pandemic. How can we get the most out of it?

Conducting live sessions is essential, but an excellent way to keep people’s attention is to keep them short and concise. You can also turn your live sessions into a series. Currently, it’s an optimal time to turn your social network into your brand’s media platform. That aside, create a schedule for live talks and then stay consistent with it. Lastly, always have a Q&A session. It allows people to interact with you and builds loyalty. You can also ask people what they want to see in content and then deliver accordingly.

Meanwhile, from a technical standpoint, you should ensure that your ad designs (for live sessions on Instagram or other similar platforms) are immaculate from a technical standpoint. In other words, they should show the time and the topic of discussion precisely.

Q. How can you stay in touch with the subject of social justice as a brand during this time?

You should begin by conducting an in-depth analysis of your organization and look into all the advertisements you’ve created in the past. Assess how you conveyed your message and then ask yourself whether you’ve represented marginalized communities in a fair and just way. You can even bring in outside people to analyze these things honestly and openly.

Then, based on what you want to offer, you can create a way for your brand to stand up for social justice. Olivia suggests representing such issues in a very natural, organic way. It shouldn’t be forced or overdone.

That aside, you should also have the empathy to realize that you may not have the depth of experience that allows you to relate or talk about some social issues in the way you should. So, bring in external people – people who have been through what you want to talk about – and let them take the stage.

Key Takeaway

When it comes to virtual events & media, you should diversify your content and use different forms of conveying it (such as panels, live sessions, one-on-one, etc.) to stand out from other brands. You should also prioritize what your consumer wants right now and try to be there for them as a brand. 

The more you do this right now, the more loyal they’ll be to you later on. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to stand up for social issues and let your customers know that you’re genuinely listening to them.

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