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  • Richard M. Williams

Reinventing an Established Brand

MEF is a telecommunications association of more than 200 member companies that include the world’s leading carriers, service providers and technology vendors. Connect2 Communications manages MEF’s public relations activities, which includes all media and analyst relations at its annual international conference. MEF members, non-members, media and analysts attend this conference each year to learn and collaborate on the trends shaping the industry. In addition to educational content, the event also presents opportunities for certification, networking and industry awards. MEF found that both MEF association membership and event attendance was down and tasked Connect2 to boost promotions for its 2018 event, MEF18, scheduled Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles, to demonstrate the value of membership and move perception from a members-only conference to the industry’s international event. Connect2 executed a robust, integrated public relations program that focused on press and analyst attendance and engagement, as well as media partnerships.


Research


Connect2 first conducted research to understand how MEF had approached promoting previous events to uncover gaps, identify opportunities and recommend a course of action. The team conducted “primary” research by interviewing MEF staff, existing media partners, potential media and analyst partners, and members to understand expectations, deliverables and how each group would realize value from some level of engagement. Connect2 also reviewed previous press and analyst recruitment efforts to understand where additional engagement could have resulted in higher attendance numbers. Connect2 learned that media felt previous partnerships were one-sided and, as a result, held little value. Another key challenge was many MEF members did not realize the amount of media opportunities available through their membership and events, so they were not understanding the true value of MEF. That also meant a missed opportunity for MEF because more member news means more interest from media and analysts, more MEF coverage, and more buzz around MEF events.


Planning


The PR tactics for MEF18 public relations activities would integrate press releases, analyst relations, media outreach, sponsor engagement, as well as some marketing and promotional activities for media partners. The general PR plan included the following tactics to achieve its goals:


Goal 1: Increase the value of media partnerships and the number of partners secured, with a heavy focus on international media.

Metric to achieve: MEF tasked Connect2 to secure 15 media partners for MEF18.

  • Tactic: Develop targeted list of U.S. and international publications for partnership.

  • Tactic: Offer partners valuable interviews with MEF leadership and members and editorial content.

  • Tactic: Each media partner promotes MEF18 to its readers through suggested event listings, advertisements, social media and editorial coverage. (See Sample MEF18 Media Partner Contract in Supporting Materials Section.)


Goal 2: Increase the number of press and analysts attending MEF18, with a heavy focus on international media, to encourage more coverage of the MEF18 event.

Metric to achieve: MEF tasked Connect2 to “increase” the press/analysts that attended MEF17, which was 44.

  • Tactic: Broaden international media targets.

  • Tactic: Promote the event early through traditional press release announcements, with the first announcement published in January 2018. (See MEF18 Announcement Schedule in Supporting Materials Section.)

  • Tactic: Include MEF18 details in every press release or pitch sent from January – October 2018, offering to register press and analysts.

  • Tactic: Offer on-site interviews with MEF leadership and executive members to encourage coverage of the event.

Goal 3: Increase the amount of MEF member/sponsor event news to drum up excitement and demonstrate the value of being a MEF member.

Metric to achieve: MEF tasked Connect2 to “increase” member/sponsor news at MEF17, which was seven announcements.

  1. Tactic: Provide members/sponsors with written resources online on how to promote their participation at MEF18 through announcements. (See MEF18 Online PR Resources Webpage in Supporting Materials Section.)

  2. Tactic: Host a webinar for members and sponsors to advise them on what PR opportunities exist at MEF18, how to promote their participation at the event through announcements, and best practices for successful event PR. (See MEF18 PR Tips Webinar Slides in Supporting Materials Section.)

Execution


Connect2 promoted MEF18 through formal announcements and targeted outreach to industry press and analysts, and registered editors and analysts from all over the globe to partner with and attend the event. The Connect2 team leveraged a “divide and conquer” approach. Its client relations team members managed media partner contract negotiations and deliverables, as well as member/sponsor engagement to encourage them to make news leading up to and at the event. The team’s media relations member managed the coordination of on-site briefings with MEF leadership and members. The team’s account coordinator tracked press/analyst registrations, sponsor news and event coverage.


Evaluation


When determining the success of Connect2’s promotional activities, coverage alone speaks volumes. By the end of 2018, Connect2 gained 194 pieces of MEF18 coverage (see sampling of coverage in Supporting Materials Section)—that is a 128% increase in coverage versus the MEF17 event. Connect2 met each goal it set to increase media partnerships, press and analyst attendees and the amount of news that members/sponsors announced. More importantly, MEF saw an increase in MEF18 attendance and a boost in MEF membership by the close of 2018.


Specific results for each program goal include:

1. Goal: Increase the value of media partnerships and the number of partners secured, with a heavy focus on international media.

Metric to achieve: MEF tasked Connect2 to secure 15 media partners for MEF18.

Results: Connect2 secured 24 media partners, doubling the number of media partners versus MEF17. Over 50% were international publications.


2. Goal: Increase the number of press and analysts attending MEF18, with a heavy focus on international media, to encourage more coverage of the MEF18 event.

Metric to achieve: MEF tasked Connect2 to “increase” the press/analysts that attended MEF17, which was 44.

Results: Connect2 registered 64 press and analysts to attend MEF18, and 56 attended—a 27% increase in attendance vs. MEF17.


3. Goal: Increase the amount of MEF member/sponsor event news to drum up excitement and demonstrate the value of being a MEF member.

Metric to achieve: MEF tasked Connect2 to “increase” member/sponsor news at MEF17, which was seven announcements.

Results: 32 announcements were made by members/sponsors leading up to, during and after MEF18—that is an astounding 357% increase in member/sponsor news vs. MEF17!


Heading into MEF19, Connect2 has again been tasked to keep the momentum and excitement going for MEF and its programs. With the success of its MEF18 activities, Connect2 has a good understanding of the proactiveness needed to continue and amplify promotions for the annual conference and is already working to develop new strategies to broaden its media partners, draw more press and analyst attendees and generate even more member/sponsor news at MEF19.

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