Corporates call for smart planning

The latest Thought Leadership event, the think tank organised by London agency First Protocol, saw corporate planners agree that while C&I had become more strategic, it still had work to do to be recognised alongside mainstream marketing. The quarterly event was attended earlier this week by organisers from the likes of BT, Yahoo, JP Morgan and BAE Systems with event measurement the key theme for the evening. “It’s a cop out to just say ‘[events] need to have clear objectives’”, said Alan Matthews, head of marketing at international property consultant EC Harris. “As marketers we need to be involved from the outset in defining our organisation’s objectives and planning how we can meet them.” BAE Systems events and protocol manager Deborah Littell added that for her the key was to move on from the narrow financial constraints of showing return on investment to proving return on objectives (ROO). “It is achievable, but you do need to be absolutely clear what your objectives are and exactly how you are going to measure them.” There was general agreement on ROO, but Matthews warned that event planners had to avoid the easy options if they are going to gain acceptance at board level for the concept. “Sure, we need to segment our audiences, deliver specific messages and set key performance indicators to drive the right behaviour, but the trick to making it work is not to just choose what is easy to measure but measuring what matters. That is the challenge we face.” Meanwhile Yahoo marketing director (R&D, Europe) Debbie Brown warned against the sector getting too parochial as it looks for greater recognition. “Overall it’s about integrated marketing, not just one discipline. You can turn the volume up and down on the marketing used depending on what kind of event being organised.” First Protocol managing director Richard Waddington, who chaired the event, said that while events had moved further up the food chain in recent years, planners still had to fight hard to be heard. “Experiential marketing has been huge in the consumer world for some time and what we’re seeing now is that shift happening in business marketing. But some people still don’t have time to evaluate and plan events properly and end up being reactive. The challenge is to take the time to take a step back.” The next Thought Leadership workshop is scheduled for the end of January. The destination is still to be decided but Berlin and London are both currently being considered.

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