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In Conversation

In Conversation: Adapting Your Live Events

The future of in-person events may be uncertain, but there are still ways we can reach and engage with our audiences.

June 18, 2020

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The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, SHIFT - In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the SHIFT - In Conversation podcast here.  

Rembrandt Flores - Founder - Entertainment Fusion Group
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - SHIFT 

Grace:
I'd love if you can start us off by telling us a little bit about Entertainment Fusion Group and what you do.

Rembrandt:
Entertainment Fusion Group is based in Los Angeles. We are a full-service communications agency. We mainly do PR and entertainment marketing in three areas: entertainment, consumer, and lifestyle brands. We have three categories of focus at the agency, and that is PR, celebrity influencer outreach for brands, and last but not least is experiential. 

Grace:
I want to dive in specifically to the event piece, can you talk a little bit about the importance of live events in the day to day work that you do?

Rembrandt:
It was obviously super important, it was about 50% of our business. It's a great way for these writers and these editors to see the brand up close. There's only so much you can do when you're just talking about it, or email pitching them or sending them the product. It's great for them to meet the founders of the company, and to see, feel, and touch the product. They want to be around people so they can all relish together how amazing the product is and try the product in person. An important part of events is having that one-on-one interaction with that brand.

An important part of events is having that one-on-one interaction with that brand.

Grace:
Can you talk me through the realization that you and your clients went through when it became clear that live events would be cancelled?

Rembrandt:
We were actually in the middle of launching a tech product. We already had our list, we already had an invite, we had sent out the save-the-date. Two weeks prior to the event, we decided to pull the plug. And then the client was asking, what do we do with the money that we allocated to the event? I came up with the idea of an influencer launch, to target celebrities and influencers to talk about their real experience with the product, and then share it socially. It's been hugely successful, it really worked out for this specific brand to do a digital campaign versus a traditional, physical one.

Grace:
As you’re working with your clients, how do you make that decision in their best interest to either go virtual with the event or to pivot entirely to a new campaign?

Rembrandt:
It does have to be a team effort and everyone has to agree. I have the perfect example of this, I am an advisor to an ethical fashion company. They were always going to launch April 22nd because it was Earth Day. There was just no way to do a physical event, which was what they were supposed to do, so they decided to do a virtual Earth Day summit on April 22nd. They had a panel, a bunch of celebrities, and then they even had a sound bath session for 15 minutes to start it all off. Over 1,000 people RSVP’d and just under 1,000 all joined in on the Zoom for this two hour event. It was the perfect example of how successful an event can be in this new world, in this new normal. We can't not launch a brand because of this. It's just finding smarter ways, finding alternative ways to launch under these very unprecedented times.

We can't not launch a brand because of this. It's just finding smarter ways, finding alternative ways to launch under these very unprecedented times.

Grace:
How do you redefine your measures of success to make sure that the brand is seeing a result from a digital campaign or virtual event similar to what they would see from a live event? 

Rembrandt:
In terms of the example I gave with the tech product launch, these questions are the same ones we asked. If we did the event, which we're obviously not going to do, there would have been about 150 people there. And those 150 people have how many followers if they were going to talk about attending the event and then put it on their social feeds. So we calculated that out and that became X amount of impressions. Using that number, how do we reach that same amount of people by doing a social media campaign? All that money that was supposed to be for the physical event, we need X amount of influencers and celebrities to be able to put this on their socials that are going to reach X amount of people. And now we are able to craft the message directly with those influencers and celebrities, so we know exactly what's going out and how it's being positioned. There was now a way to track it because we know how many followers they have, we have the analytics after the fact, and there's a swipe-up feature with a dedicated link, so we know how many people downloaded it. 

Grace:
Internally as a marketer, how have you changed your own marketing strategy to make sure that you're still staying in front of your desired audiences?

Rembrandt:
I think a lot of it has to do with staying in communication with your audience, and that's what we've done. Another thing is just by doing good work. Obviously we can't do events right now, so we really need to focus on the rest of the business which is the talent outreach, the virtual events that we can do for our clients, and the traditional PR. At the end of the day, we still need our clients out there. We still need to break through all the noise that's out there, but do it in a very respectful way.

Grace:
When we think about the future of events six months or a year from now, is this a fundamental change? Is this a before and after scenario where it's never going to look the same?

Is it going to be weird? Yes. Would we rather have this than not have an event? I would.

Rembrandt:
I do think that we will go back to normal in that old way of having big-scale events once there is a vaccine. But until then, that's when we have to ask, why are we doing this event? Do we need to do this event? How are we going to do this event since we've chosen to do a physical event? Or we could get ahead of it and be smart about and go, forget that huge event. I'm going to do a smaller, intimate event with 10 people and maybe spread it out over a couple of days. These are the 10 people I'm going to invite on Monday, here are the 10 people I'm going to invite on Tuesday, here are the 10 people I'm going to invite on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. So at least you have those 50 people that you wanted to invite, you're just spreading that one event into five different events. So they're all having that very safe experience and they're all getting that one-on-one with the brand. I think that's how our events are going to be until we get back to a way that we can be in close contact with one another. Is it going to be weird? Yes. Would we rather have this than not have an event? I would.
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Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information. 

Grace Amodeo is a program manager at SHIFT, where she oversees the annual SHIFT Creative Fund grant program. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
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