Engaging an Online Community

Macquarie University’s Women, Management & Work Conference

Macquarie University has been running the annual Women, Management and Work Conference for 23 years, with the conference focusing on Women and Leadership: Ignite your strengths. Leading women spoke about how women can use their unique strengths to become influential leaders.

PR and social media agency CP Communications were engaged to develop new strategies to increase interest in the conference. CP Communications rejuvenated the conference by creating an online community and carrying out PR strategies that achieved fantastic coverage and resulted in the conference being sold out well before the date.

Macquarie University engaged CP Communications to raise awareness of the conference and drive registrations. They aimed to achieve attendance of 200 delegates. With the level of competition from the increasing numbers of conferences, CP Communications felt an innovative approach was needed. Director of CP Communications, Catriona Pollard said, “The focus of our strategy was to use the various issues the conference would cover, to strike a chord with the target audience. We wanted a long lasting campaign that didn’t end when the conference did.”

CP Communications reignited the conversation in the online community “Women at Work Australia” which included blogging, Tweeting, Facebook and a YouTube channel. They also added a new platform, a LinkedIn group. The community was a discussion of topical issues about women at work and in leadership positions, rather than focusing on the conference itself.

The online community provided a place for people to find helpful information, share women’s issues and be engaged with interesting information. The online community exists year-round, making a lasting impact on women’s leadership issues.

CP Communications actively contacted and included advocates of women’s leadership issues in order to reach a wider network of women interested in these issues and who were therefore possible attendees for the Women, Management and Work Conference.

Media strategy
CP Communications identified that the media talent were the conference speakers and invited them to be involved in PR, offering the chance for free publicity and to contribute relevant articles for us to pitch to publications or post on the blog.

CP Communications wrote a media release about the conference, offering key speakers for interviews on their specialty area. It was distributed to hand-picked publications ranging from business and women’s magazines, national papers, HR publications, radio, TV and other niche areas.

A media pitch focusing on key speakers and their speaking topics was sent to television morning shows, current affairs programs and radio. A separate pitch offering the speakers to be interviewed was sent to the lift out sections of major newspapers such as the Sunday Life, Good Weekend and AFR BOSS.

A specific pitch was sent to journalists shown to regularly report on women at work issues, a pitch focusing on women’s careers was sent to the career section of major papers, and pitches focusing on women in specific sectors were sent to industry publications, for example, Human Resources.

Speakers were invited to provide contributed articles, which were pitched into online publications. For example, CEO of Unimail Andrea Culligan wrote a blog post which was published on Mamamia.com.au, generating over 250 reader comments. She then wrote another post which was published on the blog of the Brisbane Courier-Mail.

We identified that many of the target audience were affiliated with associations that focus on women and the workplace. We offered these associations discounted prices for their employees and members. We also sent articles and media releases to be included in their calendars and newsletters.

Social media strategy
CP Communications tweeted from the Twitter handle @womenatworkoz. The profile included the link to the conference and tweets offered the opportunity for followers to comment on issues surrounding women at work and in leadership.

“The initial tactic was to follow high profile women who have written articles or blogs on women’s issues and to follow some of their followers,” Ms Pollard said. “We would tweet at least four times a day with links to relevant articles, inspirational quotes and re-tweets of advocates’ comments.”

The hashtag #WMWC was developed for use in the lead up to the conference and for attendees to use while tweeting at the conference. This created an online, live report of the event for those who couldn’t go but were interested in what was being discussed.

The strategy for Facebook was two-fold. CP Communications created a Facebook fan page based largely on the issues surrounding the conference and the Facebook advertising was used to inform people about the conference and drive them to the website.

The fan page was created for community members to keep up to date with conference news as it happened, and to interact with members of the page. Speaker profiles were posted, polls around women and leadership issues were conducted and photos from past conferences were uploaded.

The Women at Work Australia posterous blog was created as a space for people to contribute ideas relating to women at work and in leadership positions. CP Communications uploaded posts three times a week, as well as posting blogs written by conference speakers. People were encouraged through Twitter and Facebook to comment on the posts.

CP Communications created a list of Australian bloggers who are advocates of women and leadership issues and offered them interviews with conference speakers. Bloggers then wrote about the conference on their blog. This resulted in the conference being promoted to very targeted, engaged audiences.

Advocates from a range of businesswomen’s networks including Sphinxx, Girl.com.au and Australian Women Online agreed to include conference information in their newsletters which collectively reached tens of thousands of inboxes.

YouTube Channel:
We updated the YouTube channel, Women at Work Australia, with interviews with conference speakers. The short videos included information around the speaker’s presentation and their opinions on challenges facing women at work.

Throughout the conference, CP Communications interviewed speakers and attendees about the conference and their opinions on women’s work issues. These were posted on the YouTube channel and fed into Twitter, Facebook and the Women at Work Australia blog.

The results
CP Communications’ social media strategy achieved some outstanding results, including:

  • The Twitter community growing by more than 1,000 followers during the six month campaign and resulting in substantial traffic referred to the conference website.
  • Significant engagement on social media in the form of discussions and retweeting of posts.
  • The conference’s hash tag #WMWC became a trending topic within the Sydney area leading to an increased exposure of the conference.
  • A highly successful social media campaign which helped to achieve the registration target and financial goals.
  • A sizeable increase of engaged followers and continued discussion on women’s issues
  • “CP Communications’ work on the Women, Management and Work Conference using social media, PR and promotional activities has ensured that the event is vibrant, relevant and a success. They are an integral part of the team.” Megan Nixon, Marketing Manager, Faculty of Business & Economics, Macquarie University

For Macquarie University, moving from an ‘advertising only’ campaign to social media and public relations was a risk. But with significantly increased attendance numbers and ticket sales, the organisers were thrilled with the results achieved by CP Communications, and the Women, Management and Work Conference is set to continue in coming years.

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