“Live” to Virtual Shifting

The pandemic known as COVID-19 has already disrupted many events, spring expos, conferences and other plans for large gatherings. In addition, more city and state governments are capping the number of people who can gather together so as to minimize exposure to the virus. Consumers like to be personally engaged with a brand, but the ban or cap on large assemblies of folks precludes this for the indefinite future. What are the options in this case?

One viable strategy is the virtual event. Organized and done properly, brands can still reach their target audiences with much success. Brands can learn a thing or two from recently cancelled “live” conferences that transformed themselves into virtual events. One such event was the 89th annual Geneva International Motor Show originally scheduled for March 5-15.  Rather than displaying the latest luxury and everyday cars, its promoters allowed attendees who originally signed up the opportunity to view pre-recorded previews of the latest vehicles as well as briefings. They were also invited to participate in “live”-stream press conferences. Open Compute Project, a leader in sharing data center design products with leaders like IBM, Facebook, Dell, Cisco, the Ali Baba Group and many others, is also turning its May 11 conference into a virtual one. Conferees will be able to participate online in individual sessions, as well as many other planned activities. IBM’s May 5-7 Think Conference will also be virtual. Brands, especially those that sell apparel, can also benefit from virtual shows in place of large presentations. But to be successful, there are several things to consider and plan for.

Necessary Steps

As in any marketing plan, a goal or goals first need to be set. Analyze the brand’s target audience as to their favorite days, times, and platforms they’re online and select one.

Historically, the most popular virtual events have included one or more of the following: pre-recorded videos, “live” streaming, forums and/or panels, and animated content that educates. Another option is to  empower participants to choose what they wish to do or discuss with a panel of the brand’s experts.

The next things to think about are the kinds of powerful stories and messages that might  be employed with lots of thought and planning on how these will heighten the consumer experience. At the same time, plan on weaving some of these into high-quality videos.

Gather the most often asked questions from previous “live” events and be prepared to answer them. Gather with staff to flesh out other potential questions and answers.

Virtual events actually are more time-consuming that “live” ones and require more thought and planning. In order to get the most out of it, brands must adopt a strategy that lines up with their goals. They need the proper digital tools that will help deliver their message. In addition, the stories that are created must be captivating. Those told from another customer are extremely powerful. And participants must be absorbed in and occupied with video that is highly engaging.

Brands that have “live” shows, exhibits and exhibitions scheduled for the next few months should shift to virtual and negate last-minute scrambling if the event is or must be cancelled. Announcing the shift beforehand also signals a strong concern and respect for  the consumer and helps to maintain their interest and loyalty.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations, a leading digital pr and influencer marketing agency.

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About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals.

Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions.

Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR.

Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller.

A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities