Keystone Posts by Katherine Hesketh

For many organisations, an annual conference, seminar series, or awards ceremony has always been a key date in the calendar. A chance to get in front of clients, prospects, members and stakeholders; to shake hands, meet old friends and make new connections. And for many businesses, a revenue-generating activity too.

Unsurprisingly, virtual events have become a much bigger entity in the last 12 months. Event organisers and businesses have adapted quickly to create online events that deliver the goods in replacement of the traditional face-to-face activity.

As the communications lead for membership body National Enterprise Network, Keystone has supported the delivery of its flagship event for many years – the NEN Annual Conference and Awards.

For obvious reasons, the 2020 event required a new approach – and here we share some of those top tips and tricks that made the event so successful. And not just because we say so, in the post-event feedback, 91% of delegates rated NEN’s “What’s the Future” digital event as Outstanding or Good!

 1. Serving your audience matters the most, so prioritise this to be the best host

Ask yourself – Why is this event important to this audience and what are their expectations? Answering this is absolutely essential. Virtual events risk a lot of distraction and disengagement. For NEN, we knew exactly what delegates expect from the NEN Annual Conference and Awards – high energy, motivational contributors, and unbeatable networking opportunities. Above all, our delegates expect to leave the event feeling inspired and motivated. We needed to translate that online. And with this showcase event taking place annually, there is always a need to excel on each year’s successes, so that was in our mind too.

2. Teams, Webex, Google or Zoom… are you addressing that elephant in the room?

It’s important to acknowledge and mitigate for key online event challenges:

1. Screen fatigue

2. Physical disconnect

3. Potential technical difficulties

3. Don’t send your delegates off to sleep… Keep it short and keep it sweet!

It’s obvious that interactivity is crucial for making an online event successful. But what might be less obvious is how quickly delegates start to switch off – literally in some cases! What works for a face-to-face event doesn’t necessarily fit as well for online. Ask yourself how you can break content into bite-sized chunks to reduce audience switch off.

4. Mix it up, split it up… And use a host to pep it up!

Don’t give your delegates the chance to zone out. Keep the programme constantly moving with short segments and mix it up with live and pre-recorded footage. Use online “rooms” to run breakout sessions with small groups if relevant. Consider the role that chat functions can have to build networking and engagement. And tie it all together with a host who can tread that fine line between bouncy enthusiasm and gentle humour.

5. Not all your script needs writing… impromptu can be much more exciting!

The “live” nature of an event may feel amplified when it takes place online, so it can be tempting to script and rehearse every moment. Your audience isn’t really there, so you can just read from notes right? Wrong. Keep it natural where possible to create a deeper connection, to build anticipation, and create joy.

6. A group ticket price is a great way to entice!

Pricing online events is tricky, especially when so many events are offered at no cost. Online events may not incur venue hire or catering costs, but don’t sell yourself short. Planning and delivering an event still takes time, and if the event is usually a revenue earner for you, you may still need to sell tickets. Just think carefully about pricing. With no travel times or expenses to worry about, an online event is suddenly accessible to more people than ever – so why not encourage whole teams to attend?


Virtual events aren’t going anywhere any time soon, but event management expertise is still important.  We can help your next online event make a big impact.   

Ask us how

What have you discovered about your colleagues and clients during the last 50 days of the UK lockdown? How has this new information changed the way you feel about them?

I’ll share my findings.

1. I’ve had confirmation that Hayley’s house is as stylish as her personal presentation (enviable wallpaper, intriguing collection of mini plates hanging on the wall).
2. There’s no better ice breaker during a client call than the unexpected appearance of a pet or a child.

And what’s changed as a result? Primarily, this little peep into the “home” window of my colleagues and clients has resulted in me feeling closer and more strongly connected to them.

Who do we thank for this? Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and all the other video call platforms? The great levelling effect of the pandemic? The impact of enduring collective trauma? Or perhaps a heady combination of all these things, which has created a huge blurring of boundaries.

I think the biggest reminder we’ve had is that we are all human. I’m not suggesting that robots have been walking amongst us, other than those food delivery robots in Milton Keynes!

But I wonder whether those erratic, unfathomable days in March, which flipped our lives upside down and inside out, left us craving, on a primitive level, human connection, at the very same moment we were urged to literally step away from one another?

At the heart of all this came a big reminder that it’s not just that the technology that has brought us closer. It’s the fact that as humans, we take comfort from one another. Not because we want to, but because we need to.

What remains when the barriers come down?

In our pre-Covid lives, our society generally revolved around a set of unspoken, but very conventional boundaries. Home life and office life were separated quite neatly. It was very easy to control how you presented your preferred version of your “self”.

This ability to “mould and manufacture” applies to brands just as much as it does to people. Fake. Genuine. Filtered. Natural. Staged. Freestyle. Curated. Organic. This infinite flexibility came at a cost – it became really hard to tell whether something was authentic or not.

How can you trust something when it’s hard to see what really lies beneath all that polish and shine?

The silver lining hiding in plain sight

We’re all looking for silver-linings at the moment, and I think we’ve got one right in front of us at the moment.

The resurgence of authenticity.

This unique situation we’re in is truly awful, but I defy anyone who isn’t searching for positive outcomes. With these boundaries (temporarily) down, there’s a freedom to gain a new level of openness and honesty. If you haven’t done so already, I’d urge you to grab this opportunity. Connect with your colleagues, employees, customers and clients, and grow deeper bonds.

Just keep communicating

Communication is playing a huge role in this pandemic. From a marketing perspective, it’s been quite a journey so far, and there’s a long road ahead. But for now, my advice is to relish the opportunity to be authentic. Don’t worry about letting down some of those barriers, there is far more to gain than there is to lose. Take this golden opportunity to learn more about your customers, colleagues and clients – the better you know them, the better you can serve them.

Do I really have to reveal everything?

One last thing – I know there’s one thing playing on your mind. Yes, you are absolutely allowed to strategically angle your webcam so your dirty dishes/laundry/children/pets/secrets are hidden! Full exposure is never usually a good thing! Have a read of this great article about the “two yous” which can exist while you’re working from home.

On the completion of a campaign that drew on a client’s key network, Keystone Marketing Manager Katherine Hesketh reflects on a network’s impact and importance.

“nepotism”: Noun – the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends. In short – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

“networking”: Noun – the action of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

Are these two totally different concepts? Do we network in order to benefit from nepotism? Love it or hate it, most people recognise that networking can be a very positive activity that can lead to constructive outcomes.

Humans have an innate desire to make connections with other people, in order to learn from one another, to socialise and grow communities. Whichever way you look at it, your network – be it personal or business – is really important.

3 things you should always do with your network
How much time are you spending on your network?

  1. Are you growing it?
  2. Are you staying connected to it?
  3. And (here comes the one that might make you feel uncomfortable), are you maximising it?

How to grow and stay connected to your network
This is so simple. Get out there, either physically or online, and meet people. Make introductions, ask for recommendations and make new connections. Once you’ve made connections, keep them informed by communicating with them – talk about your business, share ideas, and collaborate.

The secret to maximising your network 
Why is it so hard to ask for help? Maybe it’s just a British trait, but it can feel hard asking others, especially those outside your organisation, for help can’t it? But what if you knew that the person you were asking wasn’t going to think of your request as a chore, or an inconvenience? Here’s a secret – if you grow your network and keep them up to date, your network will be packed with advocates who are informed, and (with a bit of luck) only too happy to help when you ask.

Our experience of maximising a network
We recently ran a campaign for a client who wanted to sign up new members to their membership organisation. On the face of it, it was an easy sell. Membership fees were £0 for the first year and the target audience was huge. But there was a big sticking point – there was no central database containing the contact details of everyone that we wanted to reach. So in this new GDPR world, how could we reach them?

The answer lay in the existing members of the membership organisation – we had to maximise the existing members, and use them to our advantage. “Member get member” is by no means a new concept, but it’s a good one! And here’s why – because your existing members already know people, like them – you don’t have to go out and find them. And here’s the crux, they’re much better placed to do the ‘selling’ because they’re impartial. They can speak from the heart about what they perceive to be the benefits, because they believe in them, and have already signed on the dotted line.

In our case, we were selective. We didn’t run the campaign as a complete MGM scheme, with incentives. We kept it small and personal. We built a personal relationship with each advocate through a detailed phone call and provided them with everything they needed to support the campaign.  As for the result, well I’m delighted to report that we smashed our KPIs!

You’re human – look after your network and it will look after you
Is spending time on your network high up your priority list? It should be, because that need for connection is hard-wired into our DNA – you can’t escape it, it’s what makes us human! Just remember, when you lay great foundations in your network, you can build great connections on top of it.

Drop us a line to find out how we can help you fully utilise your networks as part of your marketing strategy…

Content marketing… oh no, not another thing to spend time and money on?
Don’t panic! Content marketing is nothing new. It’s simply information which is of use to your customer/client/stakeholder/prospect/peer. In fact, whoever you have identified as being important to your business. No matter what your business model, these people are your VIPs. They’re your business’s past, present and future – so making yourself useful and opening up the lines of communication with them is so important!

“Acquiring a new customer is anything from five to 25 more expensive than retaining an existing one. Don’t spend time and resources going out and finding a new client — just keep the one you have happy.”

Harvard Business Review: The Value of Keeping the Right Customers

It’s likely that you’ve been producing some form of content marketing since Day One – without even realising that it had a special name. Panic over.

Is content marketing just another buzz word?
In some ways – yes it is. As we’ve said, the idea of content marketing is nothing new. What is new, is the fact that today there are lots and lots of different types of content that you can create for your VIPs. From podcasts and infographics, blogs and vlogs through to the more traditional email marketing, brochures and websites – it’s all content. If you spend time and money on producing any of these things, you want to make sure that it reaches all of your VIPs, don’t you?

Quality over quantity, every time!
Before you get carried away writing, blogging, filming, recording your every breathing moment, there’s a really big lesson to learn here about what useful content is. If you want to be sure that your content is useful, don’t do any of these things:

1. Useful content is not about making noise!
If you’re constantly churning out something that sounds like ‘blah, blah, blah’ there will be only one outcome – shutdown. Your phone calls will not be returned and your unsubscribe button will get a good work out.

2. Don’t talk about yourself all the time
No one likes to be bombarded a sales pitch day in, day out. Where’s the value in that?

3. Don’t bother if it’s not relevant.
You need to show your VIPs the value, otherwise they will feel like you’re wasting their time.

Shout it from the rooftops, or maybe Twitter and Facebook if you suffer from vertigo!
Brilliant, you’ve prepared something useful that your VIPs are going to love, so how do you get it to them? The main thing to remember here is to make sure that you share your content across all of your different channels. You’ve crafted a fantastically useful blog? Excellent. Make sure you give it a plug it on your website and all of your social media channels, drop it into your email newsletter, and add a link to your email footer. Drop it here, there and everywhere! Don’t worry about banging your drum too loudly – remember, this information is highly useful to your VIPs – they will want to hear about it.

Don’t be shy – if you want something, ask for it
One other tip, if you’ve written something shareable, ask your VIPs to share it! Your content will travel even further, and in doing so, so will your reputation as a producer of useful information – reaching those all-important eyeballs of future potential VIPs. Ready? Let’s get creating some new content marketing!

Not sure where to begin? There’s good news here! The list of things that you can create for your content marketing is endless! (A little nudge and a wink here as we share the secret that this blog that you’re reading right now is a piece of content marketing!)

So what are your other options?

  • Case studies – write about the experience of your current VIPs, tell their story and the role that your organisation played – we do this in our case study pages.
  • Blogs – stuck for ideas? A quick re-write and update of an old blog will save you time, and still be useful to your VIPs.
  • Data and statistics – whether you’ve sourced the data yourself, or you can provide comment on some new research, everyone loves a bit of number crunching.
  • How to/a guide to… – got some expertise to share? It can be on something niche or mainstream, so long as it’s useful, it’s worth sharing.

If you’re still stuck for ideas – take a peek at your competitors and see if that helps you generate your own ideas.

Freddie Star ate my hamster and the issue with short attention spans
You’ve got only 37 seconds – go! According to NewsCred’s data, the medium time that people devote to reading an article is less than a minute before they get distracted and leave. Multi-tasking, and sensory overload has led to laziness. So what can you do? Hopefully we’ve achieved it here! See the numerous sub titles and attention-grabbing headlines, they’re designed to keep you going right to the end of the article. We have it on good authority, that good, compelling content can beat this 37 second barrier.

Time to give your email marketing the kiss of life
Need to talk to a big group of your VIPs, at a low cost and in a way that shows them how much you know about them? Then make sure you keep using email marketing as a core way to deliver your content marketing. It might no longer the new kid on the block but it’s certainly not worthy of an obituary yet.

“Every $1 spent, email gives back a whopping $38 in ROI, and offers the broadest reach.” CampaignMonitor

Keystone’s 3 golden rules for becoming a content marketing pro

1. Don’t be the annoying self-centred friend
No one wants a friend that only talks about themselves! So don’t just talk about products and sales to your VIPs. Remember, the content has to be useful. Show your VIPs that you care, that you understand their issues and you can help solve their problems – everyone wants a friend that can empathise and help!

2. Don’t take a vegetarian to a steakhouse for dinner
The content that you produce must always match the type of VIPs that you’re talking to. You want them to engage with this content, so don’t produce a sleep-inducing 15 minute how-to podcast if your VIPs are bright young things used to self-educating from snappy 1 minute YouTube videos.

3. You need to keep looking back in order to move forwards
It will take time, but by keeping on top of what content is loved by your VIPs and what isn’t (track, measure, analyse and REPEAT), you’ll soon be able to fine tune your content marketing. Your VIPs will thank you for it, and you’ll feel like the Content King of Your Castle as you will know that you’re allocating your resources in the best area and getting the biggest return on your spend.

If you’d like help from Keystone to take your business’ content marketing to the next level – get in touch!

More juicy statistics
If you’re still craving more proof about the value of content marketing, check out this article looking at 10 statistics that proves its value.

What does the phrase ‘a strong community spirit’ really mean? Is it something to do with knowing your neighbours? Or is it more about taking pride in your home town? There are many things which make up a community spirit. And when it exists, a positive sense of community spirit is a great asset. It can act as a glue, bringing together a whole community, disregarding the usual things that can cause division, like age and social, economic and political factors.

When Neighbourhood Planning was introduced by the Government, the main benefit of the policy was to enable “communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work and in supporting new development proposals”. Strengthening the sense of community spirit wasn’t formally acknowledged as a benefit, but there’s no doubt that it is one!

Here at Keystone, we are great advocates of the power of a Neighbourhood Plan. We’re proud to be working with our local councils, enabling them to create their own Neighbourhood Plans, which can make such a positive impact on their (and our!) local communities.

Last year we worked with St Neots Town Council to encourage locals to get behind the St Neots Neighbourhood Plan and vote for it in the referendum. We have recently completed a project with Huntingdon Town Council as part of the development of their Neighbourhood Plan. This campaign focused on getting out into the local community and encouraging them to share their thoughts on what Huntingdon’s Neighbourhood Plan should include. We developed a marketing strategy, at the heart of which was a series of community events where locals could talk to the council, and share their thoughts about what should be safeguarded, improved, protected and maintained in Huntingdon’s Plan. A set of supporting marketing materials were created for the events, to help communicate the key campaign messages. We also engaged with local press and key stakeholders, asking them to share the details of the campaign in order to make sure that we reached the whole community.

So did our campaign help to increase the sense of community within Huntingdon?
We’d like to think so – and anecdotal feedback from the residents that attended the events certainly suggests so! But for Huntingdon Town Council, the project isn’t quite finished yet. Once written and approved by an external examiner, the Plan will be put to public referendum, where over 50% of the town’s residents have to vote ‘Yes’. But of course, running such a public and successful campaign at this stage will make the referendum stage that little bit easier. It’s much easier to ask someone to vote for something, when you’ve involved them from the start. And there’s another thing that makes up community spirit – feeling that you’ve been given the opportunity to have your say on the things that matter to you.

Igniting audiences and engaging communities is a huge passion of ours. If you’re thinking about how you could strengthen stakeholder relationships with a clear strategies – let’s talk!