SIPA Rising Star: Simone Bunsen From Chief Executive Group

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Simone Bunsen, marketing and events manager, Chief Executive Group, was honored recently at SIPA Annual 2019 as a finalist for our Andy McLaughlin Rising Star Award. In this Q&A, she reveals the challenges of serving CEOs and how a slight oops can lead to a big victory.

SIPA: Can you tell us about Chief Executive Group?
Simone Bunsen: We’re a small company that makes a big impact by bringing CEOs and public company board members together to share ideas and case studies that ultimately drive good governance, innovation and prosperity for American businesses. We accomplish this by providing real-world best practices, insightful analysis and meaningful peer interactions at our events. CEOs and board members trust us to tell their stories, share their experiences and inspire other business leaders.

What is your role at Chief Executive Group?
Chief Executive magazine and Corporate Board Member magazine serve public and private company CEOs and public company board members. We hold a suite of events for both audiences, and I manage the event planning and marketing for them.

Sounds like it is an audience that comes with challenges.
Fortunately, in my previous job I also planned events for audiences at the senior level. It’s difficult to reach this audience and we’ve realized that our data is a key player in our marketing efforts. We tend to do best with email marketing and direct mail pieces. But it’s a fun challenge.

What makes your audience come to a live event?
That hasn’t changed—the content is really the main reason our audience shows up. Second is networking. We also ensure that the sponsors align with our objectives for each event, so they are treated as “topic experts” rather than advertisements. We want our attendees to trust our brand and appreciate the educational and social experience they receive at our events. I think they come back for that reason.

What else do you rely on?
We’re big on Net Promoter Scores (NPS). We measure all our events with attendee surveys and request that attendees score us on a scale of 1 to 10 so we can calculate our NPS. We always ask for specific feedback about content, speakers, location, etc. so when planning the event the following year, we can look back on that feedback to drive our decisions.

Is there something recently that you had a big success with?
Here’s a fun case study. We sent a personalized marketing email but messed up slightly – we sent the wrong personalized information for one group of names. For example, I might have been referenced as the CEO of Apple, re: “Dear Simone Bunsen, CEO of Apple…” But, of course, I’m not the CEO of Apple. We immediately realized our mistake and decided to send out a corrected version of the email, apologizing for the mistake. Our Subject line started with “Oops…” and then in the body of the email wrote, “Everyone makes mistakes and we’re sorry. To make it up to you, we’re offering an extra $100 off of registration for [an upcoming event].” And surprisingly, we did really well on that email! I think the lesson is to own up to any automation or marketing mistakes. It gives your brand an opportunity to show its human side.  

How big is your staff?
We are roughly 30 employees but our event marketing team is small and mighty – and mainly just me and our event director!

Is it harder finding women to attend your events?
We are very intentional about bringing diversity to our events – through the speakers we secure, the topics on our agendas and our attendees. We are always excited to see more women join boards and jump at the opportunity to reach out to them.

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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…