Now that social media such as blogs have filtered into the mainstream when it comes to politics, news, and the technology and entertainment industries, conference organizers are beginning to pick up on the trend--and so they should, says Dmitriy Kruglyak, publisher of The Medical Blog Network and chair of Healthcare Blogging Summit 2006. I spoke with Kruglyak recently to find out why (much more on how it can benefit healthcare organizations specifically is in the September/October issue of Medical Meetings, which will be up online as soon as I can get to it.)
Me: How can conference organizers use blogs in conjunction with their events?
Kruglyak: Before the meeting, use blogs to create buzz and build anticipation. Create an “official” conference blog to publish regular updates. Point your target audience to your blog to engage them interactively. The publicity that blogs can generate for a conference has the potential to positively influence the attendance. Blog posts can highlight the expertise of speakers or the importance of certain workshops. Blog posts can also cover the "prerequisite" information needed to catch people up on topical issues. This will enable participants to glean as much useful information from the conference as possible.
When blogging during a meeting, it is important that you think about "next year." You want to highlight all the good stuff that people are missing. It is also an outward demonstration that the conference organizers value the altruistic aspects of pure education. Now, one does not want to give away everything. Blogging during a conference should cover enough information to set the stage and whet appetites for the next conference. Important or memorable speaker quotations, pictures, and abstracts of workshops/seminars are good ways to do this.
Just after the meeting, highlight participant experiences and share important links and resources that will assist participants as they take their new knowledge and begin to apply it. Blogging after the meeting can also provide a forum where the organizers can glean information on the learning needs of the potential participants. This information will assist in program development.
Me: How should conference organizers handle outside bloggers who post about their events?
Kruglyak: Conferences are all about facilitating interaction between people by getting them to meet face to face. Blogs are all about democratizing interactions and breaking down barriers-for better or worse. There are plenty of blog search tools, like Technorati, to look for existing conversations about your meetings. Expect to find frank and unvarnished opinions and be ready to engage these new influencers in conversation. Your reputation is online for everyone to judge.
Treat them as members of the media and industry pundits. Reach out to key bloggers covering your subject matter. Request interviews, invite them as press and speakers, and use your official blog to engage in conversations already happening elsewhere.
Conferences are all about facilitating interaction between people by convening them face to face. Blogs are all about democratizing interactions and breaking down barriers-for better or worse. There are many blog search tools, like Technorati, to look for existing conversations about your meetings. Expect to find frank and unvarnished opinions and be ready to engage these new influencers in dialogue. Your reputation is online for everyone to judge.
My partner on a blogger research study, Fard Johnmar of Envision Solutions, likes to emphasize to his PR clients that connecting with bloggers can help encourage dialogue about the conference and ensure that bloggers have accurate information about the proceedings. This is especially important if some aspect of the meeting is controversial. If a blogger is covering a meeting, conference organizers should:
Additionally, it is easy to research certain blogs and understand their readership enough to determine if they might be targets for a simple banner ad campaign. Placement of banner ads on blogs is relatively inexpensive, while allowing you to reach a highly targeted and influential audience. However, placing ads often requires directly contacting the author.
Me: What do you envision the future of conferences to be, given the growing influence of blogs and other social media on everything from politics to the marketing of products?
Kruglyak: Over time conferences will deeply integrate blogs into every aspect of marketing and operations, just like they have integrated every other type of media before. Interactivity and participation afforded by blogs and social media will raise expectations of both attendees and speakers. Savvy meeting operators will use new tools to better connect with their constituents-improving both educational opportunities and financial metrics. Those who try to ignore the new media will find themselves publicly questioned by independent bloggers who can influence the hearts and minds of their audience. Do not wait for a real crisis to erupt before formulating your blog and social media strategy.
Kruglyak, who says The Medical Blog Network's goal is to build a hub connecting bloggers, audiences, and healthcare organizations, has several projects lined up that he hopes will do just that, including the Healthcare Blogging Summit in December; and the Healthcare Blogger Survey, conducted over August/September with Fard Johnmar of Envision Solutions, that will produce a blogger opinion statistics report. His organization also is organizing a healthcare blogging education program to provide a year-round opportunity for healthcare organizations staff and medical professionals to get hands-on training on engaging blogs and social media. Also in the works, he says, is a conference resource center designed to help meeting planners find and invite bloggers, as well as promote their conferences online. For more information, e-mail Kruglyak.