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The Event Horizon

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As more and more brands and media companies move into the event space, event management companies enjoying their seat at the top table, writes Mark Breen.

Event management is a specialist discipline and, thankfully, is starting to be accepted as such within the general marketing sector here in Ireland. Somewhat, at least.

Time was that every PR company and marketing agency saw themselves as an event management company too. Event management was an after-thought though. It was something included to beef up the number of services the company offered. It looked good in a drop-down menu on the website.

Indeed, when I did a Postgrad in PR and Event Management many years ago, it was a PR course with Event Management tagged on to increase student numbers enrolling by catching anyone with an interest in event management. There was very little event management material on the course. Now, that same institution offers a Postgrad in Event Management and PR also as well as other event management-specific courses.

I have occasion to engage regularly with lecturers on pretty much all the 3rd level event management courses in Ireland and there’s rarely, if ever, a marketing or PR module as part of the course. They’re studying event management.

In our educational sector, event management is recognised as a specialist area of study and expertise. It’s relatively young, granted, both as a sector in itself and as a specialist area of study, but that’s part of makes working in it very exciting at the minute.

While young, it’s performing admirably and is being rightly seen as a marketing channel in its own right, both by brands themselves as well as those PR and marketing agencies that involve event management companies to realise their client’s objectives.

The wider marketing industry and its composite sectors are beginning to acknowledge the event management seat at the big table. We’re involved in the marketing conversations earlier. We’re invited to advise when events may be the best marketing channel to do what the client wants to do. Events are not always the answer but, especially at the minute with everything being experience-centric, quite often they’re a great option.

We worked with a marketing agency last year to conceptualise and bring to life a huge brand-event in the middle of Dublin city centre. It was something never seen before and, as such, was quite the challenge. Our client in the marketing agency and her client, a global confectionary brand, understood they needed event management specialists to make this happen. We worked well together with the end result being an activity that far surpassed the client’s hopes. A hot air balloon flew in the middle of Dublin for two days and created quite the stir.

We also work with brands at the Ploughing Championships ever year, where their PR or marketing agencies approach bring us in to produce their clients’ events within the Ploughing event. The same is true for many of our event management competitors. There’s plenty of demand for us all.

About four months ago I had coffee with the MD of a communications company here in Dublin who, while listing ‘event services’ among what his company does on his website, and having been involved in planning events in the past, explained to me very succinctly that ‘we’re not an event management company.’ He told me that events and all its unique stressors are not something he wants his team dealing with. They bring in specialists.

Interestingly though that, on Googling ‘PR company Ireland’, seven out of the top ten  results were PR companies, with six of those seven companies listing ‘event management’ or similar among their services. Do a similar search on ‘event management company Ireland’ and out of the 10 companies on page 1, only one comes close to saying it offers a ‘PR service’ or similar.

So, is it that while there is a general acceptance of the value of event management specialists and plenty of lip-service paid to same, there’s still a reluctance among some PR and marketing agencies to acknowledge they go elsewhere for those specialist skills? Perhaps.

Still. We’re comfortable in our seat at the big table and we know our value proposition. We plan and manage events and we do so very well.

Mark Breen is Director of Cuckoo Events & Safe Events and tweets as @mark_breen

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ July/August 2017)© to order back issues please call 016611660