Welcome back. If you missed part one of this series on the 6 Rs of event growth, check out last week’s blog. We talked about how important it is for your event to be irresistible and indispensable—in a word, Relevant.
This week, we’re going to laser-in on the next big R: Reputation. The title of this blog is from Joan Jett’s 1981 debut solo album Bad Reputation. Unless you’re a 1980’s punk rock star, my guess is that you do care about your reputation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Said another way, you can’t talk yourself out of a situation you behave yourself into. The same logic applies to your event. No marketing campaign, no big name speaker and no registration discount will overcome a fatigued or diminished reputation. I hear it all the time when we do lapsed or non-attendee research. “I used to attend but it’s just the same event it was 10 years ago.” “I go every three years because nothing much changes from year to year.” “There are so many new events that are smaller, fresher and more interesting, so I’ve just stopped going to the ___________ (Association) Convention & Expo.”
One major challenge for association events is that commercial events, corporate events and even local chapter events have improved and are changing the expectations your audience has for your event.
The fact is that your event has a reputation, a brand, an image and a personality; it is known for something. If your reputation is anything less than indispensable and irresistible, how can you expect it to grow? All any of us have in this life is our reputation—it’s hard to earn and easy to lose. PR firms work on reputation management. I suggest we work on “event character development;” that is, making our events awesome. Reputations are earned the hard way, with courage, risk-taking and innovation, and by adding real value.
Have you ever surveyed your industry and learned the reputation of your event? I don’t mean satisfaction; what I’m talking about is this: If your event were a car, what brand would it be? Or what if it was a retailer, a fragrance or a color? Is your event a 1984 Oldsmobile, or is it a Tesla? Are you Hulu, or are you Blockbuster? Is your event a bright, vibrant green, or is it a faded grey? A fax machine or a 3D printer?
There are lots of people you can survey to learn your event’s reputation: exhibitors, sponsors, board members and staff, as well as loyal, lapsed and lost attendees. Then there are the millennials, the media and the many other sub-segments of your community you want to attract. Who are the most influential? What groups are most important to the future success of your event and your brand?
In an era of Yelp, Facebook and Twitter; an unlimited array of websites with names such as “ihateyourorganization.blogspot.com;” citizen journalists and billions of cameras in our pockets, your event’s reputation and brand are on display for all to see and hear about in real time.
Benjamin Franklin said that glass, china and reputation are easily cracked and never well mended. So true. And remember that, just as with each of us, our character is what shapes our reputation. And so you must invest in your event, the value it delivers and the purpose it serves. A great reputation will follow.
Tune in for the next two Rs: Reach and Retention.