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Covering Your Own Event—Better than Anyone Else - 3/16/2010 -

No matter what form your event coverage takes, here are some best practices to ensure members will get the most out of your efforts.

By Amy Freed Stalzer

IF YOUR ASSOCIATION IS LIKE MINE, your annual meeting is the biggest event of the year, the key gathering place for industry members to attend speeches and presentations, view and market products on the exhibit floor, network with peers and more. With so much happening in such a short span of time, it can be a challenge to cover the highlights and package the information in a way that's appealing and useful to your members.

In addition to reporting on the meeting in the association's flagship magazine or newsletter, many associations also take control of the message by printing and distributing a show daily, providing on-site web coverage, using social media tools like Twitter, or all of the above. What and how you publish depends on the needs of your audience and your purpose, not to mention the size of your budget. But no matter what form your event coverage takes, here are some best practices to ensure a successful outcome.

Focus Your Coverage

Clearly defining the goals of your association's coverage up-front will help focus the staff's efforts on-site. At the National Business Aviation Association, we don't print show dailies, but instead set up an "online news bureau devoted to the event on our website that houses stories and multimedia released during each day of our three-day convention. We focus specifically on covering our own speakers, sessions, board elections, award presentations and other association announcements, not only to better communicate with members, but also to provide content that can be easily picked up and re-distributed by the industry press and others.

Of course, there are many other news stories being generated during NBAA's show, such as announcements about new aircraft or aviation products, but we purposefully leave that market news coverage to the printed show dailies put out by the industry trade press; they're better equipped for it. Taken together, the NBAA and industry press coverage is complementary and provides a full picture of what took place during the event.

After the event is over, associations can also provide post-event reviews and analysis via their own member publications in a way that the trade press can't duplicate. Such event-focused issues are often viewed by members as a "keepsake or something they will refer to throughout the year, for both memories of the meeting and the speakers' content,” says Kathryn Furtaw Keuneke of the Million Dollar Round Table, an association for financial professionals.

Expect the Unexpected

Those who provide online coverage know that the work begins long before the event does. In fact, it's not uncommon for most of the writing published on-site to be completed in advance of the show. That said, on-site editors should be prepared to accommodate any late-breaking news.

"No matter how hard we try to prepare well in advance for all of the stories we think we'll need to cover, there is always something that unfolds on-site,” says Kate Conley, who publishes the ISTE Daily Leader show daily for the International Society for Technology in Education. "You need to be flexible enough that you can bump a story to make room for something hotter that happens at the show.”

Use Online Options Effectively and Creatively

Online event coverage can go far beyond boilerplate marketing language to include not only staff-written articles and multimedia postings (photos, video, podcasts, etc.) but also live blogging, Twitter postings or other social media initiatives that invite members to contribute commentary as the event takes place.

Some organizations use content from their printed show dailies for web postings and e-mail blasts as an easy way to offer live coverage of their event to an expanded audience. Mary Ann Porucznik, who produced the show daily for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons held this month, says, "This year, we made extensive use of web promotions, including two dedicated event sites. Articles from the show daily are posted to the website on the same day, so those who don't attend have access to the information.”

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) launched an extensive social media effort at its annual meeting last October with all postings rolling on their meeting website. "Pre-meeting, we reviewed the session topics we would cover and any events as well. We then tweeted from those events and posted photos to our Flickr account,” says ACC's Kim Howard, who relied on several staff members to post many of the tweets.

When using Twitter, associations can assign one or more staff members to tweet as the official voice of the association, but still permit other staff members to tweet their own, more personalized commentary as a way to help generate buzz about the event. No matter what your Twitter strategy, your association will benefit from having a formal Twitter policy that outlines what's appropriate for staff members who tweet.

Invite Member Feedback

If your annual event is one of the few opportunities your staff has to interact with members face-to-face, make the most of it by featuring those members in your on-site coverage.

Jeffrey Lee, who publishes a daily newsletter at the National Apartment Association's event called UNITS Today, makes a point of interviewing members of the audience after each session because "they often have interesting commentary or can speak about their favorite take-aways from the session.” Profiling or interviewing your members on-site can also help put a face to your industry by providing a positive, real-world example of who's working in your industry and why.

Amy Freed Stalzer is director, publications at National Business Aviation Association and serves on the Association Media & Publishing Final Proof Committee. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for volunteering to write this article for the membership.


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