How PR News Increased Its Social Shake-Up Attendance by Almost 50%

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If you managed a conference and trade show called The Social Shake-Up, what would you call your weekly, content-driven e-letter?

What's Shakin', of course.

That e-letter helped Access Intellligence's PR News team to increase direct traffic for the show's site from 50% to 63% last year and led to a 118% positive change in average article views. Even better, it ignited an attendance jump from more than 400 (in their first year) to more than 600 last year. (Access Intelligence bought the show from Industry Dive in July 2016.)

"We designed [What's Shakin'] to send to our email database each week, highlighting new content on the site, both editorial and marketing," read their 2018, 1st place-winning SIPAward entry for Best Web Traffic Driving Campaign.

Their second main strategy for generating web traffic was to encourage—and make it easy for—their speakers and sponsors to spread the show's merits. Already this year, the Social Shake-Up show, set for May 6-8 in Atlanta, has 10 sponsors/media partners listed including Verizon, Pillsbury Law, Business Wire and the Social Media Research Center. Even more impressive are the 79 speakers they have pictured for this year's show!

If you start tasking 10 sponsors and 79 speakers to talk up their audience and send out your e-letter for you, a lot of ground will get covered.

"We do indeed have a huge speaker roster for the Shake-Up," Sophie Maerowitz, programming and editorial for PR News & The Social Shake-Up, wrote me in an email this week. "As the lead programmer on the event, I spend a lot of time sending out invites, moving pieces around in order to get the right speakers assigned to the right sessions, and leveraging the great network of communicators and social media marketers that PR News and Social Shake-Up have access to as premier brands in that space.

"It's also a lot easier to get someone to agree to speak when [she or he] knows that the roster is filled out with likeminded storytellers at brands from Arby's to Xerox. But we always search for quality over quantity—speakers from brands who are doing great work on whichever topic they're slated to cover."

For the 2018 Social Shake-Up, the PR News marketing team designed and distributed email HTML, social media graphics and text for each partner and speaker. Discount codes were also assigned to track conversions. The partnerships resulted in 15 conversions (about $18K in attendee revenue) in just the first couple months. They clearly saw spikes in web traffic on the days that partners sent out the newsletters or used the HTML email templates that were provided.

What's Shakin' is a one-page run-down of curated articles with some promotions mixed in. ("Become a Shaker.") The articles in the issue I looked at—from exactly a year ago—ranged from Why Podcasting Is the Most Intimate and Captivating Platform to Driving Toward Smarter CX: How a 118 Year-Old B2B Company Leveraged Social for Sales. And there are calls-to-action for sharing the newsletter, signing up for the conference and becoming a sponsor/partner.

Each Thursday, the day the e-letter goes out, site traffic spikes from an average of 2,500 page views in a day, to 13,000. There's also a What's Shakin' section on the show website, with an e-letter signup followed by a huge archive of stories categorized by topic. The content adds gravitas to the What's Shakin' brand. There's also a blog with occasional posts.

"It's definitely a team effort," wrote Maerowitz. "We [again] expect over 600 attendees this year—hopefully 650. It's sold out both years we've had it as part of our portfolio, so I'm optimistic."

Awards are also given out at the event—called what else but the Movers and Shakers. (I like the Rabble Rouser Award. Individuals who in the past year have defied conventional wisdom about where social media fits within a brand, and who have influenced others to follow their leader award.)

Partnerships, with speakers and sponsors and local institutions, take time to form but can be win-win-win undertakings. Do you have any initiative that could be entered in this year's SIPAwards? Take a look at the categories

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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…