Each year, the Experiential Marketing Summit gives attendees a chance not only to rub shoulders with industry thought leaders and experiential gurus, but to glean meaningful insights from them. Like Helen J. Stoddard, head of global events at Twitter, who on day two of the summit delivered a luncheon keynote that addressed what defines success in the modern event marketing space.
A passion for the industry is imperative, says Stoddard, who went from event planner to event marketer and never looked back. “All of a sudden, it was about the connection, the message, the story,” she says. “The challenge I put to all of you is that you are where story meets experience. When those things come together, you’ll find success.”
When it comes to storytelling, it’s important to first define the narrative by establishing why the brand is telling its story, what the strategy is and which tactics will be implemented to map back to the original goal, says Stoddard. Brands should also stick to the basics by keeping it simple, working for an emotional connection, being truthful and keeping it real. “The only way [attendees] are going to relate is if it’s something that connects with them,” she says.
But storytelling isn’t enough; you have to tie it to an experience, says Stoddard. And to build a successful experience, brands need to take three critical steps: make it unique to the company by showcasing the brand’s personality, amplify it and implement a call to action through meaningful engagements that sell the product.
Twitter has found its stride over the last few years by first defining itself (“Twitter is what’s happening”), then creating hang spaces where attendees at events like this year’s CECS, Mobile World Congress, South by Southwest and beyond could discuss current events and be part of “what’s happening.”
“The first thing we wanted to do was create really cool chill spaces. Some of that’s just practical, but when you think about it, in these chaotic environments, don’t you just want to get a drink, hang out and talk to your friends?” says Stoddard. “Our audience came back regularly and often. After a while, they were our friends.”
Strategic partnerships, building programs that vary by day and night, and boosting product awareness are also key parts of Twitter’s event strategy. The idea? Make engagement “the star.” Communicate your brand story by making attendees a part of it.
“I often go to events and no one asks me to do anything,” says Stoddard. “Ask me to do something. Ask me to participate. Ask me to engage.”