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Embracing media change – could 1998 really shape 2018?

by on January 4, 2018 in Events, Events & Awards, featured item, Latest News, Lead Article, Lead story, News you can use, Nuggets

Embracing media change  –  could 1998 really shape 2018?

Digital technologies have for nearly two decades fundamentally altered the nature and function of media, reinventing age-old practices of communication, challenging traditional media and its privileged role as gatekeepers of news and entertainment.

Change in the media landscape is constant, we are living amid the greatest change in the history of media. The nature and magnitude of this change is immense and difficult to track or predict.

Media owners need to engage with their audiences in a meaningful way, that engagement is dictated by the audiences sought, not the media targeting them.

So how do media owners in 2018 know what their audience want and how can they deliver it?

Denis Sheehan, Publisher at Hospitality & Catering News

The Marketing Blog’s Will Corry spoke with Denis Sheehan, Publisher at Hospitality & Catering News, a media business

TheMarketingblog has followed with interest for some years now, we wanted to find out how they are planning to deal with this dilemma in 2018.

WC: How is the media landscape in hospitality and catering changing and how is your media portfolio changing?

DS: We market map our sector once a year and in recent years not much of any real significance has changed in my view, the only thing that surprises me is how long some of our competitors have clung to print media.

With declining readership and advertising revenues in B2B magazine publishing this seems to me to be ‘costly’ vanity publishing in most instances.

Award events are growing, people like to celebrate success, and with the right awards event proposition sponsorship delivers good positioning.

With revenues flowing from award events, organisers do need to be careful however not to add too many categories. Sitting down and trying to remain interested in twenty plus categories in one evening is a challenge for anyone. Adding esoteric categories just because someone will sponsor them is also questionable and today’s cash cow can become tired very quickly if over milked.

We also have seen over many years that the long established ‘traditional’ cross industry exhibitions in our sector are in decline.

This is through diminishing visitor numbers, and exhibiting companies shrinking stand sizes or simply no longer taking part.

During this period some niche shows targeting specific sectors and sub sectors of our industry have launched and many are doing very well. What the two big cross industry exhibitions seem to be trying to do is maintain ‘their’ age-old proposition to visitors and exhibitors who clearly and in many instances through experience, reject.

Media needs to be driven by understanding what your audience want and delivering just that. Media also needs to be Media Neutral, to use a phrase that was drummed into me over many years at EMAP.

Media Neutrality is simply having a portfolio of products that are aligned to your readers requirements. The key here is in being aligned to what readers want, not what you think they want.

In the case of events it is about hosting features that visitors have told you they want to attend rather than trying to sell people what you think they want.

So, going back to and learning from the niche shows in our sector that are doing well, we survey what our visitors want to attend and then deliver several niche shows at the same time.

For some visitors a golf day is all they want, to network with peers as part of a fun day out. For others it may be conference, or panel discussions, or round tables. Others can attend our Dragon’s Den or arrange one to one meetings with suppliers they want to do business with. It is entirely up to the visitor what they want to attend and take part in, we just need to understand what they want and ensure we deliver it, no more and no less.

EMAP applied Media Neutrality in the 90’s very effectively with brands like FHM making waves and huge profits.

EMAP in the 1990’s was a darling of the London Stock Market and the coolest job in media bar none. Its money-making brands delighted investors with returns creative companies hadn’t previously delivered on the stock market. EMAP was a people business electrifying all within and scaring all without, especially those that dared to compete.

I spent six years at EMAP and was involved in Brand Development at the B2B division where acquisitions led brand development. EMAP would buy a magazine and apply media neutral brand development strategies that multiplied revenues and profits.

In 1995 EMAP acquired New Civil Engineer, the weekly magazine for members of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the UK chartered body that oversees the civil engineering profession in the UK.

New Civil Engineer was at that time a ‘monopoly’ magazine as a subscription was part of the benefits of being a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and every Civil Engineer was a member. Who could compete with that, nobody tried to.

Once acquired media neutral brand development was applied and in 1998 Civils 98 was launched at the NEC Birmingham. It broke every launch record at EMAP at the time, EMAP was also at that time the biggest exhibition organiser in the UK.

At the Association of Exhibition Organisers awards in 1999 I had the privilege to walk on stage and collect the best launch award on behalf of the Civils 98 team, that year the best launch award category was open to B2C exhibition organisers as well as B2B.

The Civils 98 launch plan was then adopted by the EMAP Academy, an internal management training programme, as the template for future launches.

I dusted off the launch plan in 2017 and the first step was to apply research to be carried out with our readership.

As with Civils 98, research was done by getting in a car and driving around the UK visiting market leading companies and spending time talking with people, and most importantly readers/visitors. Understanding what their business issues are to help formulate the fundamental experience and elements of the event the industry wants.

H&C EXPO was launched at the Celtic Manor Resort in July 2017, where people from across the UK and every sector of the hospitality and catering industry attended.

As with Civils 98 we had signed up our launch partners pre-launch of H&C EXPO, the launch partners attended and took part in the launch.

As with Civils 98 we have focused on the event dynamics and ensured that there is a visitor driven format to the event. We leave the detail of the event to the visitors.

The research has continued to date with polls and surveys asking our 74,000 monthly readership, how the detailed agenda is applied to the basic event elements.

We need to ensure that the visitor experience available to visitors at H&C EXPO in July is in line with their business wants and needs. By ensuring that the visitor experience is right we then also deliver the right exhibitor experience.

The priority of visitor experience first and foremost is in keeping with Civils 98 and the exhibitors appreciated that approach through their record re booking numbers.

WC: How can you look to deploy a media strategy that is twenty years old and hope it works?

DS: The strategy being applied isn’t a media strategy it’s a business strategy. What I mean by that is that it applies in my opinion to every business. There is no doubt that the media landscape over the past twenty years has changed dramatically, in too many ways to even try and address, but business basics haven’t. By understanding what your customers want and delivering that you have the best chance of success.

WC: If we accept that, what about recent changes in media, how will your event adapt to these?

DS: We watch what is happening and monitor media spend, on current trends, it is quite possible that by the end of 2018, 90 per cent of new digital advertising spend in the US will go to the two digital giants, Google and Facebook. The US leads the UK and the rest of the world in digital marketing, so we can with some confidence expect the same pattern to emerge here in the UK.

We spend on both Facebook and Google as we can track results in minute detail, knowing exactly what our ROI is. So, for H&C EXPO our Facebook and Google spend will increase accordingly. We follow what media industry research reports and statistics shows to work.

Our social media strategy is also developing, it is always in development, adapting and engaging. Engaging is a term that can easily be overused, thankfully it can also be precisely measured. We monitor our engagement with our social media audience though KLOUT.

Our rolling three-month KLOUT Score is 63 so we know we are engaging with audience well, but this can always be improved, and we are working on that constantly. We are also currently developing our own engagement metrics to further measure effective two way communications.

Google, Facebook and other Social Media channels will be central to everything we do in the lead up to H&C EXPO and used to broadcast everything taking place throughout the three days of the event.

WC: Has the roll out of a twenty-year-old plan brought any surprises?

DS: As I hope is very apparent already, our strategy is to facilitate an event shaped by our readership and visitors. Involving companies that make up these audiences in the event itself is vital. In 1998 we did that with Civils, the only surprise with H&C EXPO is that we have increased that involvement with proactive partners keen to be part of what we are doing.

There is an enthusiasm for a new event in our industry to bring all its constituent parts together once a year, from the feedback received so far, I am confident working together with the industry we will deliver that.

WC: The Marketing Blog will attend and report on H&C EXPO in July, – could make for an interesting report.

Will Corry, Content Curator, TheMarketingblog

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