Time to re-establish events in the marketing mix – Sam Coates of Thomson Reuters shares her journey of establishing a global event programme
A move away from logistics and a redefined strategic marketing approach is paving a change in skill set required by event planners at Thomson Reuters.
It was clear that this was going to be no ordinary table discussion as Meeting Professionals International were treated to the insights of Sam Coates - Global Head of Events for Thomson Reuters at their quarterly Corporate Planner Forum last week. The forum took place in the amazing Garden Room at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower and was again sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Alongside Sam was Niru Desai - Director of Strategy and Planning for worldwide communications group George P Johnson. GPJ we appointed as a strategic communications partner for Thomson Reuters earlier in the year and were happy to provide the agency perspective.
Sam's insight was lapped up by her fellow diners of corporate event professionals from companies such as Lloyds TSB Private Banking, Deloitte and Canon Europe.
So Thomson Reuters is only three years old and as with most mergers there was a hangover from the age old problem of duplication of event teams and resources. With both companies having previously managed event and exhibition activity on a global scale it was clear that duplication of people was not the only problem...in one country it was discovered that there were no less than 4 separate warehouse of exhibition branding.
Thomson Reuters had no clear landscape on how much was being spent on events, whether the money was being spent well and whether the activity was actually generating any benefit for the business.
So what approach was taken to consolidate and globalise the approach?
The first step was to research the potential models and partners for moving forward the global management of events. It was clear whatever approach was taken there would need to be a clearer understanding of what events were taking place, why they were taking place, whether the right types of events were talking place and what the overall spend actually was.
With GPJ selected to partner Thomson Reuters an initial process of analysis began in order to gather a better understanding of what portfolio of events were actually taking place. This required a top down approach with the process offered high level support by the Chief Marketing Officer for Thomson Reuters. As Sam explained ‘people can be reluctant to share details of events that they manage for fear of the activity being scrutinised and budgets cut.’ To ensure that everyone was bought, in Sam set about assembling a Steering Committee with representatives from all areas to be effected and this helped to shape the approach to be taken.
According to Niru the portfolio analysis involved an honest look at the role of each event, an understanding how each event fit into the marketing mix and finally a challenge to the business to consider whether the events truly aligned with business objectives.
Thanks to the work with GPJ, Thomson Reuters are now on the road to discovery and real change. ‘Our 12 month calendar has sharpened focus and understanding of what we’re doing and why’ remarked Sam. Events are continually assessed alongside a scorecard to determine value and to evaluate whether the right decision was made in proceeding with the delivery of an event.
The process of portfolio analysis is not a quick fix and Sam admits that it had taken a good year to gather the understanding that was required to effect change.
The skill of an event planner can sometimes be undervalued and in addressing the time, effort and experience offered by her team, Sam has sought to re-address the perception of value by imposing a suitable internal charge for her teams support. With hours spent managing the events fully recorded, the various internal clients are now developing a better appreciation of what each event entails.
Feedback at events is a full 360 that considers the views of the sales and marketing teams as well as the clients themselves. With lead generation systems that can effectively assess the events’ impact of the clients’ interest in the company.
So what have been the key learning points of the new approach?
‘I wished I had the benefit of having attended a forum like this from the outset’ was Sam’s opening statement at the forum. However in essence her key advice to other planners is
‘Don’t go big bang’.
In her view any change in the way in which events are managed is probably best tested on a regional basis before embarking on a fully globalised model.
Liz Rice, Director – Metro Broadcast
Education Committee – Meeting Professionals International