The Future of Hybrid Media Events | The Canadian Press

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The Future of Media Events

In a post pandemic world, what does the future look like for media events?

The Future of Media Events

How have media events changed, and what will they look like going forward?

It’s no secret that COVID-19 turned the world on its head. Event planners were forced to rethink their strategies and pivot from in-person to virtual. The world of media events was no different.

Now, hybrid media events are the new normal. Moving forward, PR professionals will have to ensure that they provide journalists with remote opportunities to attend these events or risk losing opportunities to extend their reach.

Canadian Press entertainment reporter, David Friend, shares his thoughts on the way the media landscape has been forever changed in his discussion with Sylvie Harton from Intrado GlobeNewswire – a news release distributor that has delivered releases over the CP Wire to media across Canada for more than 15 years.

Watch the clips that follow to learn how to approach planning a hybrid media event that will successfully capture the attention of journalists.

During the pandemic, media events moved from in-person to virtual out of necessity. What were the benefits of moving to virtual?
The major benefits of moving to a virtual environment included the ability to open doors to more people and people being more available. It allowed journalists to attend events that might have been impossible because of travel/cost. On the side of the organizers, virtual events are often able to operate at reduced costs.
Were there new challenges to overcome?
Technical issues are probably the largest obstacle for event organizers to overcome. Everything from quotes being ruined because people had their mics unmuted to issues with being seen and getting questions answered. The possibility that someone could potentially ignore a question that they didn’t want to answer and blame it on technical issues, is a real one. Overall, it’s a very different dynamic to being in person.
How should asking questions work in a virtual setting?
In order for this to work well, presenters need to be prepared to tackle the process of answering questions from all angles. Technology and software can change from device to device and event organizers must make sure that any tech information they provide covers all browsers/devices.

It is also recommended that organizers employ several people behind the scenes on the virtual platform who are just there to facilitate questions and ensure that no one is being left out. There should be a ratio of facilitators to participants akin to the student/teacher ratio.
In-person events will return, but virtual is here to stay. What do you think hybrid media events will look like moving forward?
In a hybrid event, the experience may be partially virtual and partially in person, meaning that some people may join virtually, and some may not. The challenges here are always logistics and technology and the fact that, for some, there is something lost in not being in person. That said, the benefits of being able to share an event with a larger pool of people in a more convenient way are certainly worth noting.

Oftentimes, organizers will approach journalists after an event to ask what worked and what didn’t. This can be a great tool to help shape future events. Organizers can glean a lot from journalists.

If an event can be done in a way that both virtual and in-person participants have their needs met equally, then the hybrid event can work well to extend reach. It is important that all elements of the event feel purposeful and well thought out.
Overall, the importance of balance must be stressed, making sure that the virtual and in-person components work in harmony.

How will large-scale business events change moving forward?
Business events, such as annual general meetings, may be a perfect place to blend in person and virtual components. It might be a place where we see the hybrid model tested most frequently.
How far in advance should event announcements and invites go out?
Generally, the answer here is as soon as possible. Research seems to suggest that the larger the event, the more lead time is needed. Three to five months is suggested for larger events, starting with a save the date and following up a few weeks out. For smaller events, five to six weeks can be a reasonable timeline.
What elements ensure that the virtual event is experienced properly?
Anticipate that people don’t know the platform and that journalists aren’t necessarily tech experts. Basically, whatever organizers think is enough prep for people, do more. Organizers need to make sure that they are doing multiple run throughs leading up to an event, with testers joining as panelists and participants to see what issues might come up on all sides of the broadcast. Because technology is constantly changing, and does allow for so much to go wrong, adequate testing and re-testing is key, especially as platforms update and settings are changed. Making the event as seamless as possible will go a long way for those who are attending it.
How should PR pros ensure that virtual journalists get the content (including photo/video assets) they need to tell a story?
It’s important for PR pros to be available for followups after a media event. If a journalist needs clarification and no one is available, it can make telling the story increasingly challenging.

In addition, creating a landing page, online newsroom or hub of some sort as an access point can be very useful to get journalists the information that they need, all in one place.
What's the best way to invite journalists to attend an event?
Simple is best. A direct email with a save the date, followed by the details is still the best way to circulate invitations to journalists.
Is media participation different in a virtual setting? Are journalists more or less engaged? Are more or less questions asked?
In general people are less engaged in a virtual setting, partially because of all the tech that they need to navigate and the additional distractions that might be going on around them.

Journalists have noted that they have become more aware of the backgrounds of people’s video spaces and that sometimes things seen in the background could end up in the story if it was relevant. This is just one way that media are participating differently in a virtual context. People are perhaps better to keep things simple in their backgrounds to avoid being distracting. At the end of the day, don’t show anything you don’t want people to see.
Should there be different tactics for encouraging remote participation?
Engaging journalists to participate can be challenging. The use of breakout rooms to place people in small groups is highly recommended. The idea is to rotate journalists through these different rooms to create a more intimate setting where it is easier to have questions answered and where faces don’t fade into a sea of hundreds.

In addition:
  1. Have a clear plan for the event and be thoughtful in knowing the audience
  2. Keep the event on the shorter side for a virtual audience
  3. Consider an unexpected guest speaker etc.
  4. Integrate offline experiences that add to/support the event
  5. Focus on conversation, not presentation
  6. Develop the agenda with attendee feedback
  7. Actively monitor the chat or Q&A windows
  8. Work with a professional platform

It is worth noting again that, yes, virtual events will allow you to increase reach but the larger the virtual event, the less engagement you will likely have. Organizers should not always gravitate to the largest volume, but instead offer a balance of event sizes to encourage more active participation.

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