Congress Content: The walls are down. Now what?

Jack Health Blog

November 2nd, 2021 By Jimmy Doucette

For a long time, the default congress content strategy was to cast a wide net. Be in enough places, and you’re bound to touch enough people to make it worthwhile.

But that was only true when “those places” were housed in the same location – for example, a convention center. Noise bounced off concrete walls for a week straight; audiences showered with overt and discrete messaging until we caught their attention.

Remove those walls, and we’re making noise in a void – demanding consideration against overflowing inboxes, dogs who need a walk, kids who need a snack, and the next episode of Ted Lasso.

What do we do now?

AMPLIFY THE RIGHT MESSAGE

In building a content strategy for congresses, my best piece of advice for clients is more of a challenge, simple in theory but difficult in practice: Stop competing with yourself.

As marketers, we know how to engage our audiences with precision across a multitude of channels. But with so much to say, so many tools at our disposal, and so many stakeholders involved, congresses can feel unwieldy. And that’s because there is so much going on.

Yes, the exhibit is typically the cost of entry, and as a result, the most visible, measured, and scrutinized vehicle of content. But we engage our audiences in so many other ways for those few days leading up to and during the event:

  • Exhibit, business lounges and hospitality suites
  • Speaker programs and scientific sessions
  • Media opportunities
  • CME programs
  • Product theaters
  • Posters and data presentations
  • KOL / thought leadership engagement programs
  • Association, fellow, and corporate sponsorships
  • Rep / field details
  • Med affairs engagement and reporting
  • Pre-, during-, post-event: social, digital, advertising, direct, and indirect marketing

It’s easy to see how our core messages can get fragmented and diluted, primarily because many of those tactics target different stakeholders, have competing objectives, and get muddled by complicated compliance guidance. And to make things even more complicated, each of these tactics can potentially be found on-site, online, or on-demand.

So, to keep our presence focused, we must hone in on creating a meaningful cadence around even more laser-focused messaging.

What’s the most exciting thing I can tell my audience that they want to hear? If a member of my audience bumps into a colleague, what will make them say, “Hey! You have to check out Jack Health because…?” How will they finish that sentence?

Those key messages become the thread that ties our congress content strategy (and those tactics) together.

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE

The simplest definition of an event is something that happens during a specific time at a specific place.

Like many things, the pandemic changed that expectation, and the concept of an “always-on” event is beginning to enter our lexicon. We’ve attended ASCO from our living rooms without stepping foot in O’Hare, and many of us have crammed in a pre-recorded, on-demand session or two, after lights-out, possibly in our PJs with a stack of Oreos in hand.

Congress content is more available than ever before. And while that aligns with the ways our audiences consume content, it also means we need to think about things a little differently.

First, we must approach in-person, online, and on-demand engagements with our audiences as part of a cadence. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we may engage with a single person all three ways.

Second, we need to produce congress content with a shelf-life far longer than four or five days. Gone are the days where a congress window is fixed in terms of time and location.

And finally, successful marketers will find ways to use in-person and online tactics differently, for the same event. That’s not a contradiction. It’s a real challenge.

Because HCPs engage with content differently, whether they’re in person or online. To be successful, we must become experts in the user experience they expect and the content they may be looking for, based on the platform they’re using to engage.

The teams willing to innovate now will set the bar high and will define what the future will look like. And what’s most exciting than that?

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