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How Percolate Takes Events from Idea to Execution
“Transition is the greatest personification of who we are and what we do at Percolate.”
That was how Percolate’s co-founder James introduced Transition, our annual conference and one of the biggest days in our company’s history, on September 24 at the TimesCenter. We had 400 people in the audience. As I sat in the back row live-tweeting the event, there were about seven other things happening at the same time: the animated intro video was playing on-screen, our photographer Alex was capturing everything on film, our guests were unpacking their swag bags, and outside the auditorium, our team was prepping speakers in the greenroom. In a few minutes, we would be hearing from maverick physicist-turned-urban-theorist Geoffrey West and right after that, Oxford professor and data junkie Max Roser.
Rewind to four months earlier, when a marketing team sitting at 107 Grand Street began to build the vision and roadmap for what Transition 2015 was to be.
When our marketing team was tasked with launching an industry conference, we knew that one of our biggest challenges would be coordinating to make sure several (or several hundred) things came together to make for a perfect event.
Perfecting our event came down to executing every tiny detail seamlessly — we had no recalls or redos.
Practically speaking, it wasn’t just about working across internal teams to develop our guest list and drawing up a wishlist of speakers and VIP invitees, but it was equally important to refine a pitch for our speakers, following up on RSVPs, and making sure our dream speakers confirmed participation. This coincided with designing, developing (or printing), and delivering the event website, digital ads, printed materials, and event swag that would make sure the Transition experience was consistent with our brand.
Here’s another “green-room look” at how Percolate uses Percolate to plan and execute on marketing campaigns, focusing on how we made Transition possible using our software platform. The project had roughly three large parts: creating a brief, developing the creative for it, and finally producing the physical and digital assets to bring the experience to life. And all of this happened within a single campaign in Percolate.
Part 1: The Brief
Our marketing team develops a Percolate Campaign Brief to address the core challenges of major campaigns. The brief connects our event strategy to our business objectives, to help define clear, measurable goals, and to align expectations across all functions and stakeholders. Throughout the project, the brief continues to inform and guide our work, helping us prioritize and prevent misunderstandings or delays along the way.
The Campaign Brief held our thesis for Transition: to create an experience for marketers that would put their jobs in the greater context of the cultures they interact with, the commerce they inspire, and the technological changes they manage.
Work doesn’t begin until the brief has been approved by the assigned stakeholders. With a custom Approvals Workflow in place, Brief Approval moves along easily without bottlenecks, as the automated workflow kicks the brief to assigned approvers at each stage. The Transition brief was moved directly into the events-specific workflow we set up in Percolate.
The Transition Brief was developed by Chris, our Integrated Marketing Director, and Elinor, our Chief of Staff. Once they were in full agreement, our Creative Director, Sofia reviewed the brief to make sure she had enough information for her team to start designing the brand identity and build creative assets off of that.
The final step in this Approval workflow was our co-founders, James and Noah. They reviewed the brief, made sure it represented the Transition vision, and signed off on budget.
Part 2: The Workspace
As soon as the Brief for Transition was approved, we got ready to divide and conquer.
We use the workspace of the Campaign Brief to assign asset production among our creative task force of writers, designers, animators, and developers. On the logistical end, Elinor and her team confirmed a date, locked down our venue, and worked on building out our roster of speakers.
“We were looking for a range of speakers that you don’t typically see at marketing conferences — but whose work, whether in computer science or design, has a profound impact on the way you do marketing”
-Elinor Garcia-Garcia, Chief of Staff
Finally, we were able to confirm a lineup of individuals to help ensure Transition met our vision: a conference that challenged established thinking. Our final roster of speakers included Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute, Kevin Ashton (the man behind the term “Internet of Things” and author of How to Fly a Horse), and Coca Cola Chief Sustainability Officer Bea Perez. As the team made progress on speakers and other crucial logistics, they tracked it within the Workspace — keeping the rest of the team in the loop on critical details that they needed to develop the rest of the creative.
Building the elements of the Transition brand
Michele, our brand designer, was tasked with delving deep into the conference theme to develop a unique Transition brand identity. This year’s branding took elements from what we developed for Transition 2014 while building on the 2015 event themes.
“I was intrigued by the powerful combination of human creativity and technology, and found a way to illustrate this by using the Moiré technique: the animated patterns created by overlapping two sheets of repeated, slightly angled lines perfectly visualized the endless possibilities we see from bringing creativity and technology together.”
– Michele Byrne, Brand Designer
By storing all assets related to this theme in the Workspace — including different iterations of the visuals as they were developed — our entire team could track the exciting evolution of the “Transition brand”, and make sure the theme was visible across all of our channels, from printed agendas to digital ads.
Meanwhile on the editorial front, our team of writers, including myself, focused on creating content to build awareness around Transition. We had to connect our speakers’ focus areas — like Tim Hwang’s fascination with shipping containers, and Max Roser’s data on the rising global standard of living — with the Transition themes of technology, systems, and human creativity. We outlined our promotion plan within the Workspace, linking out to individual content Briefs for each blog post, white paper, video, and speaker interview. And to complement organic content creation, we maintained a steady cadence of digital ads to drive attention and RSVPs to the conference. Coordinating content planning, drafting, and publishing within the Percolate platform brought what might have been a disorganized editorial process into a single place, keeping us focused and on track — and sane.
Everything lived in the Campaign Workspace, from the strategic — design layout and content promotion plans — to creative executions for review and feedback: design for programs, lanyards, tote bags, socks (because you never know when you need a sock change at a conference), and editorial and social content, to mention a few. This was also where we managed the stacks of documents that form the skeleton of planning: guest lists, draft invitations, speaker bios, travel itineraries, internal communications, and agendas.
With all of this in one place, we’re not only able to see exactly where we are going, we’re also able to see how we got there. We’re able to understand the brief, follow conversations in the activity stream, review assets, and ultimately understand the thinking behind every decision.
This proved to be very useful for our new Events Manager, Megan, who joined the team only a month before the event. Typically, a new team member wouldn’t be able to ramp up within this timeframe, but with our strategy and the vision behind Transition documented in the brief and progress clearly tracked, Megan was able to do this without any trouble.
Part 3: Creative
Percolate isn’t just our central planning tool, it’s the launchpad from which we publish articles and whitepapers, distribute invite emails, post to social, order our custom swag, update our website landing pages, send emails to speakers and attendees, and manage our advertising. We can track when and how all that creative is published and distributed from a section of the Campaign Brief aptly called ‘Creative”.
This was also where we managed our real-time social publishing during the event. Live tweeting with photography and graphics requires preparation. We worked with the creative team to prepare Twitter-ready templates, and we had Alex, our photographer, uploading photographs to the Asset Manager throughout the day. This allowed me to create posts and publish to our social channels straight from Percolate, from the back row of the TimesCenter.
We set up Monitoring Streams within Percolate that allowed us to track and respond to all social media activity related to our hashtag, #Transition2015. The result: the hashtag was trending on Twitter through the day of the conference and the next. And this was the same day the Pope was addressing thousands of people in Manhattan, so I’d say we did a pretty okay job.
Using Percolate to plan, develop, and execute Transition allowed us to ensure that all event promotion, the experience at the conference itself, and all content published after the event (including this post) were on brand, on time, and laddered up to the objectives in the brief. Having all this information recorded in one place also allows us to analyze the process and its results, assess what worked and what didn’t (oftentimes, as it’s happening), and use these learnings to inform our next campaign. And as we look toward Transition 2016 and our other big, annual events, the Campaign Brief becomes our keystone for planning and creative collaboration.
Download the pdf version of How Percolate Takes Events from Idea to Execution here.