Today’s Brand Advocacy: Influencer Marketing

August 29, 2017

Buzz. All brands need it and events are no exception. Attendees put a lot of faith into their peers’ opinions, putting a level of trust in their perspectives that is higher than any brand could hope to earn independently.

“Brand advocates have become increasingly important within the marketing mix for all events,” said Ed Several, senior vice president at Reed Exhibitions. “Today, the customers we serve often look to influencers within their industry to understand how best to participate in an event.”

Renee Lewis, an event designer who works with the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives’ (CESSE) event, ACCESSE, referenced the fact that most people check out online reviews for products, service providers or restaurants now before making a purchase.

“Brand advocates can act much like those online reviews, providing credibility and first-hand accounts to those considering to attend and are the most powerful way to convince new attendees to attend,” she said.

According to Bob James, president and chief storyteller at Bob & David James, events need to address brand advocacy in two ways: old fashioned word of mouth and modern influencer marketing.

The first approach, getting your customers to talk about you, requires that you deliver an experience that assures people will talk about it, while the latter involves targeting and cultivating influencers within the industry. Influencer marketing is the more powerful tool because these individuals reach more people than your average attendee, offering a stronger, more credible voice to these larger circles.

To expand word of mouth, Lewis recommended starting with the leadership, because they are typically the most engaged individuals in the organization.

“We have each of our board members call the leaders of 20 organizations,” she said. “We provide talking points and list of organizations to call.”

Engaging other stakeholders such as exhibitors, sponsors, planning committees and past attendees can increase the numbers of advocates. Lewis suggested obtaining video testimonials, having them write blogs and social media posts, or sending personalized emails.

In terms of engaging industry influencers outside of immediate participants, show organizers can establish strategies to engage influencers. A few ideas include:

  1. Identify, reclassify and cultivate them.

“CES has been a leader in the field when it comes to this,” James explained. “They began admitting bloggers in 2008 (before that time, bloggers weren’t considered “journalists).”

He added, “Set up blogger lounges, offer discounted/free admission like press and profile, or spotlight them by quoting them on your blog or sharing their material.”

  1. Make friends with bloggers.

Know who they are and befriend them (as done with publishers in the past, when organizers would trade ad space for exposure at a show).

  1. Think like an old-fashioned press secretary.

“Be ready with soundbites, avoid jargon, and help them shape the narrative,” James suggested.

  1. Allow access at the event.

“Brand Advocates are influential because they are trusted by your customers,” Several explained. “To maintain that trust, advocates must know “why” certain decisions are made, feel they can offer opinions on improvement and learn about changes directly from the organizers. The more connected the brand advocates feel to the people producing the event, the more trust they will feel and more valuable they will be.”

  1. Amplify the event through influencers.

Give them plenty of opportunity to broadcast their perceptions and opinions. They will reach a lot of people globally.

“Work with your decorator and get creative,” James said. “Think about photography for social media. What opportunities can I provide at my show for backdrops that speak louder than words? What if an influencer videoed their experience with their phone—what would it show?”

For example, in 2015, as the culmination of a #WhyIWeartheBadge campaign launched during Police Week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) set up a graffiti wall and “Why I Wear the Badge Walkway” at its annual conference. This was a place where people could take pictures, post messages and share on social media. There were 9,725 mentions by 4,500 users in the five months leading up to IACP 2015. The hashtag still gets used today.

  1. After the event, don’t go home and take the year off.

Influencer marketing strategies do not follow a typical event marketing cycle.

“It’s critical to follow influencers, get engaged and comment – feedback is encouraging,” James stressed. “Influencer marketing is year-round.”

According to Several, it’s important to identify the value that’s important to each influencer, continue to nurture the relationship and ensure it is a “two-way effort.”

“You need to share details from your event and be open to listening to ideas from the brand advocates,” he suggested. “This will provide important insight and build trust between your event and the ambassadors.”

In summary, think about brand advocacy in a multifaceted way: attract them, build relationships, feed them your narrative, provide them love and provide creative settings to tell your story.

“The keys to maintaining relationships with brand advocates are to keep them informed about the event, let them know the success of their efforts and thank them in multiple ways,” Lewis said.

With this effort in place, show organizers can find increased success.

“They’ll say things about you, you won’t say about yourself,” James added.

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.