Meetings PR has changed significantly since the pandemic and lockdown began. This is partly to meet the different needs of clients facing issues as meetings and events have been put on hold, but also to adapt to the altered needs and operational changes of the industry media.
What has changed? And what does that mean for meetings PR?
As meetings PR specialists working with destinations and venues, event organisers and associations, the Clareville team spoke to three meetings industry editors, from C&IT, Conference News and M&IT, on how the current situation has impacted on their work, on their lives and on their content needs – and how audiences have responded.
Calum Di Lieto, editor of C&IT
Since the lockdown began we have placed a greater emphasis on online content, as other projects, such as live events, have been postponed. A lot of business and HR-related content has been called for and, thankfully, because we have a number of different brands under the Haymarket umbrella, we’ve been able to collaborate very effectively across these titles to deliver the answers our readers need.
At present, the aim is to achieve a balance between Covid-related stories and non-virus ones. We’re also launching a podcast that will have nothing to do with coronavirus because we believe that those consuming content via a podcast will be looking to escape the doom and gloom. What hasn’t changed is our interest in unique, original and provocative (exclusive) content, and surveys and data are always useful.
As the pandemic is uniting everyone, we’ve seen greater engagement from our global audience and our online web traffic is up 80 per cent year-on-year and increasing month-on-month. There is also a very strong appetite for digital events – I hosted a live webinar recently with more than 2,000 people.
I’m optimistic that this situation will impact us positively. We hope that it will result in a continued level of high-engagement longer-term. It’s also forcing us to improve our broadcast offering (webinars, podcasts etc.) and our online content (through brand collaboration and increased surveys and polls), which again is a positive going forward.
Martin Fullard, editor of Conference News
Journalism knows no holiday and certainly Covid-19 has kept us all on our toes, albeit in our homes. Primarily my work has been impacted through the necessity to broaden the scope of the type of news stories I am reporting. In normal times, government-related stories relevant to business events and business travel don’t pop up with such associated importance very often. Covid-19 has necessitated that we cover a wider field of news for the time being.
Suddenly, the industry’s lack of identity – and even acknowledgment – has been laid bare, and we have found ourselves not only reporting to our audience about their own plight but also trying to get the national media to pay attention too. Never has B2B journalism been so important.
As with Covid-19, journalism coverage moves in stages and at one point I stopped taking any opinion pieces and suspended all the regular columns. Too many opinions can be dangerous in matters like this and there are certainly no virologists among the B2B events industry. I opened the channel for opinion, or rather factual updates, to the industry’s trade associations only.
I get quite annoyed with people who come to me saying they want to share their good news, but don’t want to talk about serious numbers. Our audience wants to know and to compare – just saying things are ‘good’ without backing it up is hollow PR.
We have cut our print run as many people aren’t at their offices, but subscribers will receive a digital version instead and we will still reach over 30,000. Since mid-March, web traffic is up around 400%, and I have connected with about 1,500 more people on LinkedIn in the last month.
Fiona Keating, editor of M&IT
Day-to-day, I am busier and working harder, as one of my team is on furlough. I haven’t needed to adapt to working from home because, as a travel and events publication, our team is often working remotely. I enjoy working from home although I miss going to events and meeting event organisers.
During this period, our web traffic has increased dramatically – it has almost doubled. Our focus is on producing content such as knowledge-based sharing and how to have good online events etc. Our audience’s needs have changed slightly – there is a stronger thirst for how to improve their knowledge and tech skills.
At first coronavirus stories were popular, particularly silver lining-style stories where event organisers are doing positive things. We are crying out for strong opinion pieces and non-Covid-19 stories, as well as case studies and interviews with event agencies and organisers on how they are working currently, coping financially and how they are working towards the future when all this is over. Our publishing strategy hasn’t really changed overall. It is a challenging time for publishers and all sectors but there will always be a need for niche publications in the B2B world.
Thinking about the longer-term impact, I believe the events industry will recover, but it will be around the turn of the year.
So, three interesting views from the editors – and valuable insight into meetings PR now.