Diversity people with social media network symbols. Vector flat cartoon illustration, isolated on white background. Men and women with hashtag, map pin, chat message, like and follow me icons

Associations and Publishers Look to ‘Unify the Experience’ by Going Beyond Content Offerings

Welcome to the age of the experience. Associations and publishers are not just offering content anymore; they’re selling an entire “experience”—especially as we all look to move forward from the past 16 months.

“The future of news media is one in which we deliver more than what subscribers [and members] think they paid for,” wrote Renée Kaplan, head of digital editorial development of the Financial Times, in NiemanLab’s annual Predictions for Journalism 2021. “We compete with not only other similar news media but every kind of frictionless and dynamically adaptive content experience that users get from all the other content apps on their phones. As always—for better or for worse—excellent journalism, even the perfect customized mix of journalism, isn’t enough anymore… We need to learn how to anticipate a specific kind of content need and develop an adapted editorial product for it: the capacity to offer our journalism in a content experience suitable to any (ideally all!) of a user’s needs.

Customer experience is emerging as a top driver of growth and brand differentiation for organizations in the post-pandemic world, a Forrester-led webinar recently concluded. Content may still be king, but all the better if part of an overall experience. Here are more examples:

Sell your event as an experience. The Professional Convention Management Association’s EduCon: We Are Better Together began yesterday both in person in Phoenix and virtually. “EduCon will show the world how business events can be a catalyst for bringing us back together to create deeper, meaningful, and safe interactions through a fusion of both in-person and digital experiences.” In fact, the headline for the virtual portion is EduCon Digital Experience. “…participants aren’t getting the full experience that could be created in the virtual medium,” Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of PCMA, told Informa’s MeetingsNet. PCMA also has a VP of knowledge and experience design.

Bundle to add the experience factor, part 1. CEO and founder Jessica Lessin (pictured) of The Information, told Axios that they are launching a new standalone publication about batteries and electric vehicles. “It’s the first time the high-end business and tech media company is charging for content separately from its roughly $400 annual subscription fee,” writes Sara Fischer. “’The Electric’ will consist of a weekly newsletter and email updates, as well as possible industry briefings, conference calls, events, and more—all geared toward a specialized business audience.”

Keep the conversation going. The National Council for Behavioral Health launched a hashtag alongside its conference hashtag to enforce the message that the content presented during the event is designed for discussion 365 days a year. They held Twitter chats with speakers and assigned staff members and volunteer “ambassadors” to keep conference content in circulation. “We learned that people were craving that year-round conversation around behavioral health,” said Alicia C. Aebersold, senior vice president of communications and strategic development.

Bundle to add the experience factor, part 2. “Even Disney now is adding perk benefits to Disney+ because they know you have to integrate the experience layer with the content layer,” Robin Thurston, CEO of Outside, said in a business article in The Washington Post this week about Outside Plus, his company’s new $99-a-year bundle. “I felt like there was an opportunity to bring it all together under a single umbrella and really unify the experience for the consumer. When you combine the services like Gaia GPS, and the discounts to events, and you add in video-on-demand courses and all of the premium content, I felt like this was an offering for consumers that truly could be a foundation for their active lifestyle world. It really is about creating a completely new consumer experience….”

Make virtual an experience, part 1. A 2021 Neal Awards finalist for Best New Product was FreightWaves Virtual Events. In a promo video on their site, CEO Craig Fuller says that “the idea of the FreightWaves Live Experience is to bring you into the action, make you a part of the experience—letting you see how technology is going to shape the future of our industry.” They must be successful because virtual events are planned through this year and even into 2022.

Make virtual an experience, part 2. The chief marketing officer for Reuters, Josh London, told The Drum that the high level of interest in their Reuters Next event—which debuted in January and is scheduled again virtually for December—was a culmination of a strategy which “all stems from customer experience… Thousands of hours’ worth of research [was conducted] to understand the needs of the delegates and match that with a speaker agenda so that we can make sure that the time that they are investing is best spent.”

Devote a brand to experience. Questex has relaunched and expanded XLIVE, “a brand at the nexus of the event experience.” XLIVE will provide year-round engagement via newsletters, website, events and virtual solutions. Its new content hub, XLIVE Global, will cover two areas of the live experience: XLIVE B2B Experience for corporate/event planners, venues, and facilities; and XLIVE Fan Experience for event management, production professionals, producers, marketing agencies and more. “As we return to in-person gatherings this is the perfect time to rethink how professionals can deliver better experiences,” said Paul Miller, CEO, Questex.