“Just be Willing to Believe:” An Interview with Digitell’s Jim Parker

Procast, a "webinar on steroids," lets associations and business media companies monetize convention and conference content—without an upfront investment.

Available to associations and media companies through our agency, Procast is the brainchild of the Digitell’s CEO, Jim Parker, a pioneer in learning management systems and event livestreaming.

Recently, Bob James interviewed Jim about the new product.

BOB JAMES: Why Procast—and why now?

JIM PARKER: Eighty percent of our clients who livestream content are enjoying success, but the barriers for many prospects are lack of resources, lack of a dedicated budget, and fear of the unknown—which is ironic because, in reality, most of those organizations have been doing webinars for years, and Procast is nothing more than a webinar on steroids. When I started Digitell in 1985, I approached associations and publishers with the concept, “Let me audio-record your educational sessions, duplicate the recordings, and sell them; and I’ll pay you a royalty.” The organizations had a better than 80 percent chance of driving more revenue to its bottom line as a result. I see a similar opportunity today to help organizations enter the online event space by giving them a no-risk option. In five years’ time, a revenue-sharing option like this may go away, because associations and niche publishers will be confident in their ability to do this on their own.

BOB: So, Procast is a limited-time-only opportunity?

JIM: It could be. Savvy organizations with too few resources in place to execute online events know it makes no sense to try to run them on their own. Niche organizations with niche content have communities of people across the world, and for those types of organizations, Procast makes perfect sense. We can engage every human being who has access to the Internet and may want to consume the content. That's an incredible market! It blows me away when I see comments like, “I'm in a tiny village in New Zealand, I don't even have cell reception and here I'm watching a livestream from Washington, DC.” Pretty exciting.

BOB: What’s the revenue opportunity for an association or niche publisher?

JIM: I think the revenue opportunity is as big as the organization's creativity in leveraging itself across new communities. With online events, it is looking across the entire world, and the organization has a new value proposition for industry partners, members, non-members, subscribers, students, and affiliated organizations. All those audiences could drive new revenue—five to ten times more than the narrow opportunity realized when you engage only your members or subscribers. The opportunity’s even greater when you look at how we can help an industry partner leverage an online event to engage their communities of customers.

BOB: And you’re not limited to English-speaking audiences, either, correct?

JIM: Not at all. Think about it: if we convert a course into Spanish, we can drive another significant segment of revenue by delivering it to the South American community. I think we're in the infancy stages of understanding the value of convention and conference content in engaging niche communities. If you're not sure that how that works, look at history—at how magazines, newspapers and TV found business models based on the delivery of content. The only barriers are creativity and a willingness to explore.

BOB: And, as far as overseas markets go, the 900-pound gorilla is China, correct?

JIM: Truthfully, it’s probably both China and Brazil. Of course, there’s money in to be made in China, as there is in our own country. But people often overlook Brazil.

BOB: You mentioned a five X return on investment. But with Procast there’s no investment necessary, right?

JIM: Just the videotaping. The reason there's so much opportunity is that the investment has gone down to the point where you can ask, “How can I not do this?” Let’s say you videotape eight lectures at your live event, and that costs you $8,000. If you sell registrations for the online version at $300 each, you only need 30 people to sign up to better than break even.

BOB: What kind of advice do you give people about video production values?

JIM: Everything you’re doing online around the video—the MC’ing, housekeeping, speaker introductions and so forth—is as important as the actual video itself. You also want your video to convey as much emotion as possible—emotion’s even more important than the content. So, whether you have a live moderator, and then the speakers come on live in between or after their sessions, you must create emotion, and emotion is conveyed through facial expressions. That's crucial. You also want someone from your organization involved in the online event in some capacity, to relate the organization’s commitment to the viewers, who are using their own precious time to join you on line. Now, that person doesn't have to be a rocket scientist. But it needs to be somebody who’s able to convey they care about the viewers who just gave them $300 each and who are spending a day, or two days, on line with them.

BOB: Could that be done with a proxy; in other words, paid talent?

JIM: Absolutely. It could be practically anyone. I would say if you think of any TV talk show today, the talent can almost be as exciting and engaging as the guests, if they're intelligent.

BOB: What about the recorded speakers? What's minimally acceptable production quality?

JIM: Good quality audio, and an awareness on the speaker’s part that he or she is talking to people on line. A fairly clear HD webcam representation is good enough.

BOB: What commitment does the association or publisher have, other than turning over the video over to us? What else do they have to be willing to do?

JIM: Just be willing to believe. They need to believe that content delivered on line is an asset of tremendous value to audiences. Every single client who's told us up front, “This is something we need to do to provide our audiences options,” has been successful.

Want to learn more? Go here.

Nine Keys to PR Success

Edward Segal, CAE, contributed today's post. He helps associations generate publicity about their events and activities. Learn more about Edward here.

An important part of any effort to generate publicity about your association is understanding and knowing how to get along with reporters.

I’ve created a list of nine essential pieces of advice about the media you can use to help you achieve your organization’s PR goals. The advice is based on my experience as the CEO of an association; a director of communications for an association; a PR consultant to several associations; and a practicing journalist.

Do Your Homework. The easiest way to find out what stories reporters are most interested in covering is to ask them, and study the stories they’ve already done. To ensure a reporter will use your press release, write it as though it’s a newspaper story, and include the 5 Ws and the H of your announcement: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Be Newsworthy. Have something newsworthy to announce or talk about. Study different news organizations (print, online, broadcast, etc.) to find out what kind of stories they are covering, and what they consider to be news.

Remember the Reporters’ Role. Reporters want to satisfy their own needs, not yours. They wear the shoes of the readers, viewers or listeners. While you may have a burning desire to tell journalists about your association, their task is to gather as much information as possible and produce a story that will hold an audience’s attention. Reporters are neither your friends nor your enemies. They are professionals trying to do the best job they can.

Limit Your Points. Prioritize the three most important things you would like to see in the story about your association, then keep your copy and comments focused on those points.

Be Brief. The average sound bite is about seven seconds long (and shrinking). If you cannot answer a reporter’s question in the time it takes to read this paragraph aloud, it is unlikely that you response will be used by television or radio reporters.

Prepare for Questions. Before talking with reporters about your announcement, make a list of every possible question they might ask about it, and prepare a brief and appropriate answer for each question. Don’t try to wing it. If you don’t know the answer to a reporter’s question, say so. Then tell him or her that you will find out the answer and get back to them as soon as possible.

Know When to Call. Most reporters do not like it when you call them to find out if they received the news release, e-mail, or text you sent them. But most of them will appreciate it if you let them know ahead of time that you are sending them a story that you think they will be interested in covering.

Be Careful. Assume the microphone is always on when doing media interviews and that every word you utter may be recorded, broadcast or posted online. Weigh everything that you say very carefully, because there is no way to call anything back anything you say.

Learn from Yourself and Others. After each interaction with the media, think about what worked, what didn’t, and what you will do differently or better the next time. Study the successes and mistakes of others in the public spotlight to help improve the effectiveness of your association’s public relations activities.

Want PR for your event? Through an exclusive arrangement with Bob & David James, Edward Segal can promote your next conference or convention. Our PR packages range from Silver and Gold to Platinum; and include news releases, backgrounders, white papers, videos, expert interviews and more. Call 202.810.9568 to learn more.

New Survey Shows Exhibitors Believe Pre-Show Marketing to Grow in Importance

EXHIBITOR Magazine recently asked over 100 corporate exhibit managers whether they think pre-show marketing will grow or decline in importance.

63% of exhibit managers said pre-show marketing's importance will grow in importance; and nearly one in five said it will "grow significantly."

The reason? Exhibiting budgets are under the microscope, as the many advantages of proprietary events continue to outstrip those of traditional tradeshows..

The other key findings of the magazine's survey reveal:

85% of exhibiting companies do at least some form of pre-show marketing. The campaigns include many channels: web ads, print ads, postcards, emails, microsites, outbound phone calls, and social media posts; some companies use novel tactics such as "lumpy mailings," as well.

Of the companies that do preshow marketing, 89% spend up to 10% of their exhibiting budget on the effort. In addition, 71% are spending more than they did three years ago; and 91% expect to spend as much or more on pre-show marketing next year. Currently, one in 10 exhibiting companies invests over 10% of its exhibiting budget on pre-show marketing.

32% of companies set measurable goals for pre-show marketing and 82% say they have increased booth traffic as a result of their efforts. Other pre-show marketing goals that exhibiting companies set include: increased awareness, increased leads, increased sales, increased ROI, improved in-booth engagement, improved customer relationships, and increased media coverage. And when setting goals, 49% of companies target specific audience segments.

"Every exhibitor knows that the battle for attendees' attention begins long before the show floor opens," EXHIBITOR says.

So why doesn't every exhibitor promote itself in advance of the show? We believe there are two reasons: lack of time and corporate "silos."

Corporate exhibit managers often have their "hair on fire." Who, frankly, has enough time to plan and execute a time-sensitive, multichannel marketing campaign, on top of everything else that needs doing?

Corporate exhibitors are often marginalized. Due to lack of frequent contact with sales managers, exhibit managers aren't often sure what's the right message to send prospects and customers weeks before a show.

For today's under-the-microscope exhibit manager, we think PLAYBOOK is the answer.

PLAYBOOK is a six-part, lead-gen system that takes the uncertainty out of exhibiting, by assuring you a critical mass of ready-to-buy leads.

It’s designed to drive highly-qualified traffic; engage prospects through gamification; identify ready-to-buy leads; and provide valuable, actionable business intelligence.

Call 202 810.9568 to learn more.

8 Ways an Association Event Organizer Can Serve an Industry in Decline

Michael Hart contributed today's post. Michael is an accomplished consultant and business writer who focuses on the events industry. He also emcees conferences and conventions. His experience as a reporter makes him the ideal facilitator, moderator, and host for B2B events. Call us at 202.810.9568 to learn more.

Not every association event organizer gets to run CES for the consumer technology industry.
Some of us – and you know who you are – manage events for trade associations whose industries have seen better days, industries that have hit an economic rough patch.

Budgets for association member companies are tight, sponsors ignore your voice mails, event attendance drops off and everybody you talk to is grouchy. What’s more, traditionally the annual convention and trade show has been the association’s cash cow and suddenly your president and board are looking to you to do even more to cover the deficit created by declining membership and dues revenue.

And your association has bylaws that say there will be an event every year – no matter what. What’s a flailing association event organizer to do?

1. Knock off the self-pity. This isn’t about you, it’s about your association and its industry. There may never be a time when your association’s members need a quality event more. Turn your meetings into clearinghouses where attendees can get the information they need to improve their businesses and provide them a venue to interact with each other.

2. Make your association leaders understand. This is a new paradigm for them too. Association presidents and boards can easily turn a crisis into an opportunity to tell members that “everything will be all right,” when it’s just not true. You must make them understand that this is the time to redouble your efforts to help your membership.

3. Abandon the annual meeting. Diversification and shifting consumer trends are hitting many industry associations. Maybe a series of smaller events that cater to unique interests will better serve your industry than a one-size-fits-all annual blow-out.

4. Give your members research they can use. Commission a high-profile industry research company to compile a report on where the industry is headed and what they can do to get there in one piece. Then make the presentation of that report the highlight of your event.

5. Let people talk to each other. One of the worst parts of an industry downtrend is the feeling that you’re going it alone. Your attendees need those networking events and roundtable discussions now more than ever.

6. Ditch the motivational keynote speaker. Especially if they’re a hired gun who knows nothing about your business. Instead, recruit one of your highest-profile industry leaders, the CEO of one of your top companies, to talk honestly about the situation and provide some perspective.

7. Don’t be afraid to cut expenses. Now is not the time for a golf tournament at a PGA course in Arizona or Florida. Even if your attendees can get their bosses to sign off on the expense, it won’t look good to their shareholders. Stick to the low-cost meeting alternatives and give your members the steepest registration discounts you realistically can.

8. Turn the crisis into a positive. Your industry will survive, in one form or the other, and, if it perceives that you stuck with it through thick and thin, you’ll have their loyalty for life.

Associations: We're Sending Too Much Email

Digital marketing firm informz has released its 2017 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

Association marketers would do well to consider the key findings:

  • Email volume is rising fast, up 12% in 12 months. Nearly 90% of associations worry they're sending too many mass emails.

  • Most subscribers (86%) get 10 or fewer emails a month. (NOTE: The report fails to clarify whether the majority of mass emails are being sent to subscriber lists or prospect lists.)

  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays see the highest email volume, accounting for 64% of emails sent.

  • Emails sent in the late afternoon have the highest open rate. Emails sent midday have the highest click-though rate. Emails sent Friday have both the highest open and the highest click-through rates.

  • Mobile is the dominant email client type. Desktop email client usage is dropping rapidly. The good news here: over 67% of mobile readers spend longer than 10 seconds reading emails, compared to 60% of desktop readers.

  • The report also included benchmarks for delivery rates, open rates, and click-through rates.

    Compare informz's findings to those of our own recent survey.

    We found that 62% of associations rely on email to market products and services, while only 27% use direct mail; and only 12%, telemarketing.

    Association marketers indeed are too reliant on one channel!