Do you know the secret ingredient to make messages spread? I’ve recently been enlightened to the SIX REASONS why some things catch on, and others, do not.
The good news is that any product, idea, or behaviour can be contagious. Going viral is certainly not guaranteed, but you now have both the opportunity, and the recipe, to amplify your event. Jonah Berger’s best selling work ‘Contagious’ found the characteristics that make things more likely to catch on.
The elements were neatly packaged for memories sake as the six ‘STEPPS’, and here are the final 3… (if you missed the first 3 – see them here).
We know the power of storytelling. It’s what we like to do, and hear. What Jonah’s research does give us is a better understanding of how we can use stories.
“Stories (not ideas, not features, not benefits) are what spread from person to person.”
Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars
Every event should have a story. This shouldn’t be difficult as we know all events should be founded on a purpose, a theme or topic that connects with people. Every event must have a reason to exist – that resonates.
Stories take information for a ride
Stories are like trains. Information travels in the story and gets off at each destination. Each time the story is told that information is delivered at a new location. To a new audience. So as event people we should build a story around our event that people will want to share. If your event has a story to be told, then your work as a marketer will effectively be done for you. Your event will travel on that story.
Stories can be a Trojan Horse
We can use stories to help our event to spread, and likewise, we can use stories to have our message conveyed. Jonah’s research likened stories to a Trojan Horse, as stories carry information which is revealed in conversations. The information comes out as the story is told. So if the point of your event is conveyed in your event story, if your message, the objective you have for the event (and I hope you have one!) is in the story, the story will do your work for you. If you want to raise awareness of your cause, make sure your primary message is tied up in the event. If it is a charity function, explicitly link the event story back to your cause. If you want to engage with your employees, make sure the event story relates back to your organisations’ aims. If it is brand positioning you seek, or sales you wish want to make, we need to embed relevant information within the event story. When your message is included in stories shared about your event, again, your work is done for you.
The Australian Football Leagues annual ANZAC Day event shares a story, on a powerful storytelling platform.
Stories by association
And we can see this ‘Trojan Horse’ strategy in all successful event partnerships. Any partner brand or sponsor that can link their message to an event can have their message travel on the back of that event story. The connection to the story provides the partner with a vessel for which their message can travel. And, the message gains credence by being connected to a story the audience is connected to.
Destination marketers have used this to good effect across events for many years. Melbourne has presented itself as the sporting capital of the world on the back of many major events. Olympic hosts use the Games as a platform to tell their nation’s story, whether to convince the world the host is a major global player, or coming of age as a nation.
And we know people are more likely to share a memorable story from an event than using most products or services. This is why events are such a valuable vessel, a platform for a message, or a brand to be associated with.
So how do we create stories?
Firstly, what I always suggest is to know who the audience is, and the influence, or point you want to make. Is it a message to engage? Educate? Or celebrate? You need to know what you want to say, and the reason why. And then we can build a story around that. We can map out a campaign, the journey, like you would with any narrative, any novel, blockbuster movie or show. Creating an event experience Journey Map is the ideal way to storyboard your event, and then you can bring it to life.
“Built to show, built to grow”
Jonah’s research found the more public something is, the more we are likely to imitate it.
So how do we make it more Public?
As event organisers, once again we are at an advantage. Often, mostly, your event is for public show. The physical presence of the event itself can be a very public display to leverage off.
I learnt very early in my career that your venue might be your best promo opportunity. When we built a 6 storey ski jump in the centre of town, the construction created a lot of public (and media) attention. We learnt to be ready for the exposure, and start telling the story as we built, with PR teams and branding to tell the story of what was to come (it was ‘Eddie the Eagle’). People are curious and like to know whats going on. So your outdoor gig, triathlon or the meeting set up might be the most shareable prompt within your audience. So leverage the public display, to tell your story, for now, and to build your profile for next time.
Of course, for most events we are seeking exposure much earlier than this, so we can plant seeds in public to prompt discussion around our event.
Movember has a wonderful advantage, with the moustaches on your friends/co-workers faces, very much in your face. Like the LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands, the success can largely be tracked to a very public prompt to tell the story. The event t-shirt is an obvious example, but think about what else you can use as a public symbol of your event. I still remember the talking Boonie and Botham figurines that sat on our TV reminding us The Ashes were on. And an excellent ‘trojan horse’ for VB.
#4. Practical Value
“News you can use”
As Jonah’s research confirmed, useful things get shared.
So how do we create Practical Value?
The more we can package practical information or expertise the more likely it will get passed on. So our event, and the content we produce must have Practical Value. This may be functional, where the event can allow you to do more. It may bring us together to play sport, or allow access to a keynote speaker, or a ‘can’t buy it’ brand experience. And don’t forget the social value, people like an opportunity to invite their friends to do something. And practical value at an emotional level is also very shareable, people do like to have fun after all. If you can focus on offering these types of Practical Value, people will share it.
The more we can create Practical Value, and the more we can talk about in our event Stories, the more likely it is that people will pass it on.
Remember, people like to give other people useful information, and they will target who receives it. Once again, your job is done.
If I have done my job correctly, this Blog is a kind of ‘trojan horse’ – to let you know that I can connect you to info that will make your work easier. If so, perhaps you will share this with someone? Let me know if you do!
This is what I think. Please, let me know what you think?