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When Sponsored Content is a Bad Idea

Earlier this year we wrote about how to increase the value of your sponsored content. Newsletter, webinar and podcast sponsorships certainly do help event organizers offset some of their costs, but that doesn’t mean you want to turn all your content into pay-to-play opportunities.

Many event organizers have been told to think like publishers and produce content all year long, and in many ways that is great advice. Except when it comes to this idea of sponsored content with which so many publishers are struggling.

Publishers are seeing a significant drop in revenue from advertising. To solve that problem, they are monetizing their content. If brands want to publish a solid thought leadership piece or how-to article, they’re going to have to pay for the privilege. Because that content is now considered advertising, brands are inserting more of their sales and marketing messages into those pieces. Everyone is happy. The publication is making money again, and the brands are getting the great exposure that a traditional ad could not give them.

Everyone is happy that is, except the reader. They are feeling duped.

Event organizers, more than anyone, know what a slippery slope this practice is. Education committees closely monitor the content vendors present at events. Vendors are allowed to teach, but they cannot sell. We do this because we know our attendees do not want to pay for an event filled with sales pitches.

Event organizers need to deliver content all year long if they want to keep their attendees engaged, but often lack the resources to produce all that content. Your exhibitors and sponsors, however, are in an excellent position to provide that content.

Organizers need to keep in mind that it’s valuable content that benefits everyone. If event organizers convert those content opportunities to sponsored content and monetize them, they are sacrificing value and long-term revenue, for a bump in advertising revenue. Instead, why not position these opportunities as a value add for supporting your event?

How do you collaborate to produce the best possible content?

Role of the event producer

You know what your audience wants; it’s in your data. What sessions were the most successful. What problems do your attendees struggle with? What are your attendees’ day-to-day issues? What career advice are they seeking? What new product categories are they most interested in?

The same content that is popular in your educational sessions is the content you should be providing to attendees and members all year long. Your sponsors and exhibitors are in the best position to provide you with some of that content. Think of your role as the editor. Work with your exhibitors and sponsors to make sure the content they are providing is valuable content, not just a long-form sales piece.

Role of Sponsors and Exhibitors

Because your exhibitors and sponsors work with a variety of customers in your industry, they are in a good position to write about industry trends they are seeing. They can help tell stories of how their customers have solved problems. Stories where their customer is the focus of the story and the vendor’s solution is just one of the many tools they used.

But there are other stories your sponsors and exhibitors can tell. Give them exposure by offering them the opportunity to give advice. Tap into your sponsors’ HR departments for career and interview tips. Talk to their CEOs about what qualities they are looking for in a manager or executive.

The content you deliver year round represents the content attendees can expect to get at your events. If your content adds value all year long, attendees are more likely to register for your event year after year. Don’t sacrifice that long-term value for short-term advertorial revenue.

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