FSI’s Director, Marketing & Communications Describes How to Leverage Technology as Events Take on Virtual Dimension
With the advent of COVID-19, the landscape for events changed permanently. In the financial industry, large in-person gatherings faced cancellations, delays and restrictions, causing organizations to leverage technology and move towards virtual events.
As events turned virtual, the marketing and promotion of events also adopted a greater usage of technology than ever before. As the Director, Marketing & Communications of the Financial Services Institute (FSI), WSR Pathfinder Awards – Top Women Rising Stars winner Allison Kuehner Mutschler led the charge to adapt the marketing of some of the largest events in wealth management.
For 2021 and 2022, FSI’s flagship OneVoice event occurred in a hybrid in-person and virtual format, and FSI conducted its 2021 FSI Forum event in a virtual format. In addition, FSI conducted many virtual meetings between industry and legislators, a measure that led to increased attendance due to the elimination of travelling costs and inconveniences.
Following this shift, Mutschler steered FSI’s marketing and communications efforts towards increased online activity, including a refresh of the website granting members access to virtual workshops and webinars as well as bolstering the online functionality of FSI’s member publication FSIVoice.
WSR connected with Mutschler to explore how the marketing and promotion of events changed during the pandemic, as well as the key elements of an effective communications program on industry advocacy issues.
WSR: How is technology changing the post-pandemic landscape for marketing and promotion of industry events?
Mutschler: Technology played an increasing role in our lives even before 2020, but the pandemic put it into hyperdrive. The use of virtual collaboration tools such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams was growing in workplaces, but the pandemic made them essentially a necessity overnight.
The same is true for digital marketing. You have to reach people where they are. With everyone at home and not going into the office, that place is online and on social media platforms.
At FSI, we ramped up our digital marketing by incorporating targeted ads and increasing messaging and promotion on social media. With increased social media usage, creating shareable content for attendees to use and engage with helps amplify your message.
WSR: What elements of marketing and promotion contribute to a successful virtual event that engages key industry audiences?
Mutschler: Incorporating previews of the virtual event experience into your marketing plan helps give your audience a sense of what they can expect when attending your event. Many in the industry have participated in in-person events, but prior to March 2020, few had participated in a virtual event.
This was true for our annual OneVoice conference, which had always been in person, and we transitioned for our July 2021 and January 2022 events. We included short videos that demoed the event platform’s features throughout our marketing, giving prospective and registered attendees a chance to see how they will be able to engage with other attendees, participate in sessions, connect with exhibitors and more.
Also, a unique aspect of many virtual events is that access to the virtual event platform can extend beyond the listed event dates. Add content such as session recordings, handouts and message boards on the virtual event platform to keep attendees engaged with your event and each other as part of your post-event marketing plan.
WSR: What are the key factors in good communications and messaging for advocacy issues?
Mutschler: There are two key things I keep in mind regarding communications on our advocacy issues. First, keep it simple – but also accurate. Legislative and regulatory proposals are complex, broad and full of legalese.
My goal is to translate it into plain English and boil it down for our members into a message that is easily understood. However, the devil is often in the details, so it also needs to accurately reflect all the nuances, which I work closely with the experts on our advocacy team to ensure.
Second, make it personal. Show how the issue impacts independent financial advisors’ businesses or their Main Street clients’ access to advice and ability to save. In addition, receiving first-hand insights from our members on how proposed legislation or rules would impact their business and clients is always valuable. Those stories help equip our advocacy team with impactful, real-world messages to share with lawmakers and regulators.
Janeesa Hollingshead, Senior Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org