Editorial-Driven Events Can Connect Readers With Need-to-Know Topics

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Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events for Education Week, works closely with editors to get the most out of their brand's events.

"[The company] relies on me to build event content topic by topic, whether it's teachers, government, leadership—whatever the area might be," said Cibellis, who will lead a session titled Editorial-Driven Events at the SIPA Annual 2017 Conference, June 5-7, in Washington, D.C. "I begin with [editorial] immediately for buy-in. I'm busy drafting scripts [and] bringing that to them to edit. Then it's, 'How are we going to bring sponsors to the dialogue?'"

They identify an assistant managing editor for each event, with that person being well-versed in the subject. Cibellis will then work with that AME to develop the event descriptions from a deeper, more reader-focused perspective. "If it doesn't look like a deep dive, generally readers won't pay to attend," he said. "This way we mix up descriptions, make them not too marketing-ish and promotional. This seems to work for us. [Our events are] content rich and reader engaging."

Other advantages of having editorial drive your events include:

  • Your reporters are the people talking to industry leaders every week. "The editors and myself are the ones closest to the market [and have the best] understanding of what resonates with [our audience]," said Mike Grebb, publisher, Cablefax Group, an Access Intelligence division. "We'll also do surveys before our conferences to see what the hot topics are and what people really want to hear about. We shape a lot of [an event] based on that kind of audience feedback—rather than going [first] to people with money to spend and cobbling together a conference. That wouldn't bring attendees. I like the way we do it."
  • To build the profiles of your editors and reporters. Editorial people are getting better at being out front, said Florence Torres, group show director, Penton. Have them host online forums, idea exchanges. "Allow editorial and content teams to be a front face and voice. That will make it a little easier for them to transfer to the world of events." Often, these are the people tweeting and posting on LinkedIn and other social platforms; they are the ones connecting with your audience and building followers.
  • A quiz can show readers how much they don't know about a subject that has an event coming up. In February, Pat DiDomenico, editorial director of Business Management Daily, published a quiz titled, How Much Do You Know About Employment Law? "...uncertainty and all the looming HR-law changes is why we'll have a record crowd next month at our annual three-day Labor and Employment Law Advanced Practice (LEAP) conference..." he wrote. "So how well do you know employment law? To see if you need to do a little LEAPing this year to take your employment law knowledge up a notch, take the Soapbox Employment Law Quiz."
  • To introduce your brand to a new audience. The New Yorker [Magazine] Festival is entirely programmed by editorial staff. "It's an editorial outgrowth of what we do," said publisher Lisa Hughes. "You gotta believe that [our] editorial staff has their hand on the pulse of what's cool. Our writers are out there, they know what's coming up and what's interesting."

    Only a quarter of the event attendees subscribe to the magazine. That leaves a lot of opportunity for subscription growth. "For many people, it's how they get introduced to the brand," said Hughes. "It's a mix of the avid reader and fan, and someone who comes because they're a big fan of the person that we're interviewing."
Start with a special print or digital publication, get sponsors involved and then build out an event. The San Francisco Business Times, one of American City Business Journals' many publications, stages an event in June called The Business of Pride where they "honor the companies and leaders being recognized in our June 2 Business of Pride Special Edition."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…