Alicia Beachley, is the Owner and Agency Principal at April5, a Marketing Services Agency specialising in brand marketing and activation, experiential marketing, and events. April5 work on large corporate clients such as Microsoft, Carnival Australia, H&R Block, ASUS and Fujifilm helping marketers create exceptional results without relying on traditional media that their customers are trying to avoid, by creating experiences and events so engaging that people want to be a part of them.
April5 is a 2022 Diverse Supplier of the Year Finalist in the Microsoft Supplier Prestige Awards, and a women owned and led agency certified globally by WEConnect International.
How can working with an agency mitigate organisations’ risk around event management, by providing strategic advisory support and a roadmap for events?
There are those that organise and those that attend, and we know that organising events is one of the top 5 most stressful jobs in the world, COVID has made it so much harder. With the rise of in-person events coming back onto the radar, there are so many things that go into making a successful event.
Working with an experienced agency can take the stress away. They do the thinking and doing for you and know what to look for and what to do. Choose an Agency wisely, make sure you know and understand their capabilities and connect with the team you are working with to make sure there are synergies.
Appetite for risk is important to understand, but the biggest single element we need to be ready for are changes. We need a plan A, B and C, depending on an outcome. This is even more prevalent now we are back in-person. There is still a fair amount of hesitancy and nervousness around and at any time we may need to call on a change of plan due to situations beyond our control.
Make sure you read contracts very clearly, and understand cancellation policies, clauses and timings and communicate this to key stakeholders. We have had situations where we had to run events or lose serious money. It’s a conversation that needs to be on the table from the beginning.
As an Agency, it is our responsibility to make sure that our clients are well informed of risk, have a risk mitigation strategy and have their contingencies well planned for. It is becoming a very valuable part of our service offering, as we are doing this work daily for multinational clients who need to be aware of the implications of all activities.
What are the 2022 trends for events and activations for agencies?
- The move back to In-Person
This is the biggest trend we are seeing right now. People are coming out of hibernation and wanting to participate again. Brands have a unique opportunity to define what that looks like and how they want to show up. Rules have changed and old formats thrown out. It is exciting for us as Agencies to be able to present in-person work and new (old) ways to connect with customers.
The best thing of all is that it’s getting really busy. Venues and activation spaces are booking up quickly, so if you are thinking of doing something, get in quick.
- Format Choices
We now have options open to us, in-person, hybrid or virtual therefore it is critical to be clear on your objectives. Why are you doing the activity in the first place, what are the key outcomes and deliverables. If you are clear on this, then you will be in a much better position to decide the best format strategy.
What content types do your participants respond well to? The main goal is to understand the foundation of your activity and the real reason why people want to attend. If you can attract an audience, get them to participate and drive action, you will very quickly create a community and connection.
- Focus on the Customer Journey
What will it be like for the people attending the activation or event? Mapping this journey from before the activation through (and importantly) beyond will enable you to see it in the customers eyes. We often only have moment to attract attention, and with so many choices, the power lies with our customers.
Don’t leave any of this to chance. Plan the journey carefully. One of the biggest mistakes we see as Agencies is a bunch of assumptions made on customer behaviour. Planning this element is key to a sound event and activation strategy.
- Redefine Participation and Engagement
Now is the perfect time to really get creative, have a point of difference, and stand out from the crowd. With online fatigue growing, having unique audience engagement is an absolute opportunity for us and must form part of our strategy.
Ask ‘what do I want my customers to see, hear or experience’. Find new creative ways to deliver this for them. There is an absolute appetite for connection in any form, make it clever and memorable.
If you are virtual, remember screen to screen doesn’t mean we should lose a sense of connection. Virtual engagement and participation exist too. Think breakout rooms performances, reveals, quizzes and virtual drinks where people can connect through shared experience.
- Supply Chain Optimisation
Increasingly we are seeing challenges with suppliers with Covid only being one factor. Labour shortages, cost of living, material shortages and delays mean that we need to make sure we have wider network.
Reconnect and discover new opportunities. Many suppliers have changed their business models and therefore may not offer what they did pre Covid. It’s a great time now to source new partners and discuss capabilities and more important capacities. It will also help you deliver different options for clients and have backups and contingencies in place.
What are the considerations for organisations in running hybrid events?
Creating a hybrid event can be complex, as there are many factors contributing to the success of these types of events.
With two audiences, you need to make sure you have thought about the experience for each group. For example, you may run a day conference, however it is highly unlikely that your online audience will sit in front of their computer all day viewing the same content in the same way.
Curating the content so that it works for both formats is key. Creating moments to engage both online and in-person will help deliver a successful hybrid event.
There are also significant cost implications. If you are hybrid, you need the right tech in the room, as well as the streaming platform to support the seamless viewing experience. Think cameras, mics, recording and technical support. Basically, you are running two events in one and budgets need to reflect this.
How have you approached working in a hybrid model with your team, some of who are permanently remote, and some in the office?
April5 Agency puts collaboration at the centre of our values. Communication and inclusion is the key to our successful hybrid model. Maintaining and protecting our culture is high on my list of ‘urgent important’, so I am very mindful to make sure our hybrid in/out WFH model works.
Working together in the office is just easy, and certainly the easiest option. We work in teams on client projects and being together at least for most of the week means we are very productive and can react quickly when we need to.
We all work from home on Fridays and then have ‘focus’ days for team members during the week where they work from home. We build solid communication models and have a weekly all agency work in progress meeting, as well as daily team check-ins.
At any one time we could have two interns, so we make sure they are in during the week when we are in the office. We are serious about making sure they get the best learning experience whilst they are with us and find this works best face-to-face.
Our full-time remote member comes to the office for a few days each month, which really helps in cementing a strong relationship with all members of the team. We also plan fun ‘out of the office’ activity during these times, so it’s not all work.
To keep us efficient, we use communication tools, like Teams Chat, Teams Meeting and OneNote, we are also on SharePoint so we can access files from anywhere,
If one of the team is not feeling well, then its automatic work from home. We are keen not to spread germs and keep the rest of us healthy.
We have ‘Agency Champions’ to help drive aspects of the business. This works well as it doesn’t leave it to one person to drive the culture
It all just works, as long as there is great communication.
This interview was first published by Femeconomy