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July 2009

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UST MBC Director’s Memo – 7.09

Having long been a fan of partnering on communications and promotions, I am currently engaged in an effort to bring together a number of organizations for an event here at St. Thomas. The process reminded me of the layering necessary for all the parties involved to get “value” for contributions to the effort.
While cash contributions to a partnership are great, particularly in the current economy, my counterparts at other organizations want to be involved, but find it easiest to make in-kind contributions of time, expertise or other resources. I’ve done many partnerships on a bartering basis and have friends who have practically made a science of the skill.
Regardless of whether the exchange on the front end comes in the form of money or other assets critical to successful implementation, everyone involved will still be looking for some tangible pay-off. This is where the layering comes in. Knowing what kinds of “return” each partner expects should help drive the essence of the plan. For some this means mainstream media coverage, while others hope for trade journal visibility. Every organization seems to be looking for these efforts to drive Web traffic and most want to know how to leverage social media as well. Your event or promotion will likely also include one or more core audiences on whom the activities are primarily focused.
Each layer of outcomes calls for a layer of planning within the event or other promotional activity that directly connects the essence of the core messages with the expected outcomes. For instance, if you have partnered on a “Green” event that includes kids cleaning up a park, you want to make sure it is impossible for the media to cover the story without connecting it with the partnering organizations.
This all becomes more complicated when the number of partners and audiences increase. Many of these initiatives end up off message for some partners or audiences simply because not enough thought was put into how things might be perceived. In other words, just because an event is “cool” doesn’t mean you can make it link appropriately to the “value” partners seek. Carefully select the partners and elements of the tactics to maximize the return for all involved.
When we manage to pull off this new event, I promise to revisit this layering topic again with details.