BEHIND THE SCENES: What does social media strategy for a live event look like?
One of the common misconceptions about PR is that we attend a lot of events for fun because of our clients or relationships,
an idea which I previously discussed on the blog. As I shared, we do have the opportunity to attend many incredible events, but we are often consumed by logistics, running around making sure everything runs smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, we love working events. In fact, I would argue, it’s one of our favorite services we offer as a company. But, they also require an intense amount of preparation, which I think many people don’t understand. We don’t just show up and take a few pictures here and there. One of the tasks we get approached about often is running social media for a particular occasion. In today’s culture, social media can have a huge impact on an event and its growth. It simultaneously captures the moment while also piquing a curiosity in those who are not attending. Managing social media for a client is something we have a great deal of experience with and frankly, enjoy.
This year, it was our honor and privilege to manage social media for The Warburton Celebrity Golf Tournament, benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The Warburton is also known as “St. Jude Week in the Desert” and includes Songwriters Night, featuring some of Nashville’s top songwriters including Kelley Lovelace, Jessi Alexander and Tim Nichols sharing the “stories behind the stories” of country’s greatest hits; The Rush, a celebrity race and driving experience at the BMW Performance Driving Center; Rheneypalooza Jam, a four-hour jam session with a variety of rock-and-roll artists including Tom Johnston (The Doobie Brothers), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Richard Marx, Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra), Jason Scheff (Chicago), John Elefante (former lead singer of Kansas), Steven Stills and many others; the Saturday Soirée with a red carpet, silent and live auctions, music and a moving message from a former St. Jude patient; and two days of golf with picturesque Palm Springs as the backdrop. It is the second highest grossing event for St. Jude nationwide and has raised more than $9.8 million for St. Jude to date, $2.5 million this year alone.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving pieces that go into a fundraiser of this magnitude. So, how does one begin to approach a plan? For us, we have to break it down into three separate, easily digestible categories:
- Pre-event tasks. Prior to the event, our number one goal is to map out exactly what the event/week will look and feel like. What kind of tone do we want to set for the audience on the receiving end of the social channels? Our first step is to conduct a great deal of research. Where do we need to be? What do we need to capture? What is going on every hour of the day? What is happening simultaneously? What celebrities and people of note will be onsite? In the case of The Warburton, we knew there were specific moments we wanted to capture: BMW racing, live music, auction items, action shots and behind the scenes sneak peeks for those not in attendance. We also knew which celebrities would be present. After conducting a comprehensive social media analysis, we determined who would be beneficial to feature on The Warburton’s social media pages that met our desired outcomes. Dividing tasks so each team member knew their very specific responsibilities while onsite was critical to plan ahead of time. As with anything in life, preparation is a big key to success and we like to be as proactive as possible. Plus, let’s be honest, many of us are 1s on the Enneagram – so we’re organized to the point of being anal on most occasions. This organization included a very thorough, very specific master schedule with every detail included.
- Onsite during the event. While preparation is key, there are also many things that happen in the moment where we have to be reactive. Catching those organic moments between celebrities and participants as they happen make great social media moments. Of course, so much planning sets you up for success during an event, but sometimes the best moments, like in life, are those that happen spontaneously. Don’t get so caught up in a plan that you can’t react to what’s happening live, being truly present. Video and visuals are the most critical component of social media currently. So, we’re constantly looking for moments to catch. We learned quickly that, for The Warburton’s audience, a video posted after the fact received many more views and engagement than a live video. We adjusted our strategy accordingly following that discovery. We also were constantly monitoring social media for posts from attendees or celebrities and resharing. Our job is not merely to capture the weekend for posterity. If we’re doing our job well for St. Jude, then we’re moving the needle on the visibility of The Warburton, the exposure it’s receiving from a new audience, and ultimately bringing new donors to the table who may be invested in helping St. Jude. So that may mean we totally throw out the plan we’ve mapped out if it’s not working, or something we discover in the moment is working better. As we’re working these events, we’re looking for content to post live, but we’re also looking to capture images and videos that can be used weeks, months, even years from now. What are people going to be talking about next year that they remember being a part of or seeing?
- Post-event tasks. No matter how long you’ve been doing your job, there’s always room for improvement. This phase of event planning includes evaluating what could have been better, what we can do next year to improve, what we wish we had known before the event, what worked exceptionally well that we want to repeat, and so on. Part of our post-event evaluation includes a post-mortem document where we file all of our notes from the event, so we can reference them for later. One of the final phases post event is to share an event recap with suggestions to the event contact and/or organizer. This document includes year-round suggestions and thoughts for improvement moving forward.
I think anyone on this team would agree that our favorite projects, and the ones that remind us why we chose this profession, are the ones where our skills meet a deeper cause or purpose. Having the opportunity to serve St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through The Warburton certainly hit that sweet spot. What are areas in your life where your passions and skills meet? How can you pursue those either professionally or personally?