Postevent communication an integral component to overall event success
This is an excerpt from Managing Sport Events by T. Christopher Greenwell,Leigh Ann Danzey-Bussell & David Shonk.
Communicating with the audience is important even after the sporting event is over. Promotion is defined as communicating with and persuading defined user groups (Irwin, Sutton, and McCarthy 2008). By reaching out to these defined user groups through postevent promotions, the event planner stays in touch with the primary consumers of the event. Postevent promotion can take many forms, such as sending out newsletters, following up on contests or sweepstakes that occurred during the sporting event, posting photos or videos on social media sites, sending certificates and awards, implementing customer service surveys, and sending out promotional information about next year's event while the consumer is still thinking about this year's. Event planners should remember the importance of aftermarketing -- the process of providing continuing satisfaction and reinforcement to past or current customers in order to create lasting relationships (Irwin, Sutton, and McCarthy 2008).
Postevent Media Coverage
Sport is widely popular in North America, and there is strong demand from the general public for information. Fans of a sports team who just won a championship game want to continue the celebration and demand immediate media coverage with analysis by players and coaches. Media coverage is often built into the estimated economic impacts of a sporting event (Dwyer et al. 2000). Depending on the type and impact of the event, securing some form of postevent media coverage may or may not be necessary. For example, postevent media coverage after mega-events such as the Kentucky Derby, NCAA Division I championships, NFL Super Bowl, NBA Finals, MLB World Series, and Olympic and Paralympic Games is not only expected but also eagerly anticipated by avid fans.
Although most event planners will not have to deal with the media scrutiny that accompanies mega-events, every event should capitalize on some form of public or media relations. Media relations programs maximize favorable publicity and minimize unfavorable publicity for the sport organization. For smaller events, it is not difficult to invite a local newspaper or television station to write a human interest story about an event participant. Statistical information about the event can easily be reported to the media. Postevent media coverage often takes the form of short, spontaneous interviews of players and coaches or postgame press conferences that are more widely planned. Sports Media Challenge (2012) offers sport executives the following tips for media relations:
- Choose the spokesperson wisely, and ensure she is media savvy, believable, and equipped with all the facts.
- Get your coaching staff, administrators, and athletes involved in some sort of media training. The media will try to find the person who gives the most "colorful" sound bite, and this person is not always the most informed.
- Determine the main message you want your department to convey, and stick to it. Make sure that message is communicated throughout the entire organization so you're all saying the same thing.
Sports Media Challenge is a company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, that specializes in preparing athletes, coaches, and administrators in the areas of media and presentation skills.
Stoldt, Dittmore, and Branvold (2012) suggest the goal of a news conference is to "disseminate noteworthy information from an organization to its targeted publics" (p. 181). One of the key components of sporting events is the emotion that emanates from the competition. This emotional component has led more than one athlete and coach to mutter words immediately after the contest that they would later regret. Thus, event planners should factor in a time period, after the event and before the news conference, in which coaches and players can decompress and cool down from an emotional standpoint. The event planner may need to serve as the liaison between the media and the teams during this cool-down period. Irwin, Sutton, and McCarthy (2002) suggest setting up the press conference facilities at least one hour in advance, and they provide the following checklist to ensure success:
- Blackboard, easel, screen, and projections
- Chairs and tables for principals
- Designated place for video cameras
- Floor microphones for questions if room is large
- Full staff at entry door to greet media
- Lectern brackets for press microphones
- Organization logo displayed (normally projected in background)
- Outside directional signage indicating room location
- Podium height and lighting
- Posters, graphics, and artwork
- Press kit or handouts at registration desk
- Public address system, including microphone and speaker
- Registration desk or book
- Schedule of photos for house photographer
- Sufficient chairs for reporters
- Technical service operator for all equipment
- Water glasses for speakers
Impact of Social Media on Postgame Media Coverage
It is important to understand the impact of social media on sporting events. Many professional and some collegiate athletes use Twitter to reach their followers and thus bypass more traditional media routes. Both sports participants and spectators can deliver newsworthy information at the click of a button via various social media sites. Photos can be taken using mobile telephone technology and immediately uploaded. One of the strangest examples of the instantaneous nature of these social media sites was a live tweet in April 2012 by former NFL great Deion Sanders alleging he was being assaulted by his wife. He posted photos of himself and his kids filling out police reports; the photos were later removed.
The Mashable Entertainment (2012) website reports that more than 80 percent of sport fans monitor social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook while watching games on TV, and more than 60 percent do so while watching live events. In fact, certain players may be trending on Twitter, which suggests they are the most popular topics being discussed on Twitter. Mashable reported that more than 9,000 people per second tweeted about Tim Tebow during the 2011-2012 season after he threw an unexpected touchdown pass in the NFL playoffs. Another example is New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, who gained more than 550,000 Twitter followers in a single month because of his NBA success in 2012.
The relationship with corporate sponsors does not end once the event is complete. In fact, all sponsorships should be evaluated throughout the entire process, and a postevent follow-up is both expected and imperative. The follow-up procedure is important because it not only helps the sponsor fulfill its goals and objectives but also allows the rights holder to identify problem areas or points of dissatisfaction. According to Irwin, Sutton, and McCarthy (2008), an entire audit of the event sponsorship should be conducted at the end of the campaign to determine how well the goals and objectives were met. If the sponsorship was conducted effectively, it is more likely the sponsor will reactivate or renew during the follow-up meeting.
Shortly after the conclusion of the event, contact the sponsor and schedule a meeting. During this meeting, the sponsor representative should be given a number of metrics that are helpful in measuring the success of the sponsorship. Lynde (2007) suggests that some elements of a sponsorship package such as media rights, signage, and tickets are easier to quantify because a market rate has been developed over time. Other elements, such as category exclusivity, use of intellectual property, and pass-through rights, are more difficult to quantify. As Lynde states, it is easier to evaluate a sponsorship package when the true value of the sponsorship assets can be quantified and emotion is not involved in decision making. With some sporting events, emotion plays a big part when sponsorship decision makers are fans of a certain team.
A postevent meeting or debriefing with the most important stakeholders involved in planning the event is an important opportunity for event planners to gain feedback about the event. Key personnel who may be in attendance at this meeting include facility managers, security personnel, event organizers, hotel managers, and representatives from destination marketing organizations along with other people involved in planning the event. It is also advisable to invite members of traffic and safety agencies because they can provide feedback that will help improve future traffic management plans (deLisle 2009). The debriefing may take place at the sport venue, host hotel, or any other location convenient for all stakeholders. Depending on the schedule of the various people involved, as well as facility availability, the debriefing may include a food and beverage function such as a luncheon.
Event planners may ask the various stakeholders to complete a report that highlights findings from the event and provides recommendations for improving future events. For example, a report from traffic coordinators may highlight key times when traffic congestion detracted from the event and offer suggestions for better handling the flow of traffic filing into the sport venue and the corresponding departure. Event planners may also use some form of survey research during this phase. Online or paper-and-pencil surveys may be distributed to stakeholders requesting their feedback for improving the event. Both open-ended and closed questions may be included on the surveys, which can be administered before, during, or after the debriefing.
The debriefing can take many forms. At one extreme, Masterman (2009) suggests the debriefing is simply a celebration of the event and a postevent party. In contrast, the debriefing can be simply one meeting, submeetings, or a series of meetings, and the agenda should address all aspects of the event. Another question to consider is when the debriefing takes place. Final evaluative reports for some events are not completed until many months or years after the conclusion of the event. Masterman recommends holding the debriefing within a week of the event so that memory does not detract from the process. When conducting the debriefing, all stakeholders should be given an opportunity to report their findings from the event. It is important that the tone of the debriefing not be too celebratory, but attendees should also avoid highly critical personal attacks. The primary purpose of the debriefing is to record important institutional knowledge that was gained from the event and to use it for future planning purposes.
One of the weaknesses within the sport event industry is the lack of evaluation by event planners. An evaluation of a sporting event allows the planner to better understand if the objectives of the event were accomplished. It also shows the various areas within the event that need to be improved. This section discusses the various levels of evaluation as well as several evaluation methods.
Levels of Evaluation
In the meetings industry, Myhill and Phillips (2010) outline up to six levels for evaluating objectives for a meeting or convention, which are listed here. These levels can also be applied within the sport event industry.
- Level 0: Statistics, scope, and volume; this level collects data such as the scope and volume of attendance, press coverage, website traffic, and other similar statistics.
- Level 1: Reaction, satisfaction, and planned action; this level gathers information on what stakeholders thought of the planning process, marketing efforts, facilities, and so forth.
- Level 2: Learning evaluation measures the extent to which principles, facts, techniques, skills, and professional contact have been acquired during the meeting. Similar types of learning take place at a sporting event and can be applied in a similar manner.
- Level 3: Application measures the extent to which skills, knowledge, and professional contacts learned at the meeting were applied on the job or in the personal life of attendees.
- Level 4: Business impacts monitors organizational improvement of business measures such as sales, cost savings, work output, and quality changes. Within the context of sport event management, business impacts would refer to sponsor impacts.
- Level 5: Return on investment (ROI) for the various stakeholders of the meeting, calculated as the ratio of benefits to costs.
In a similar manner to the meetings industry, the sport event industry can use these levels of evaluation to determine ROI. In addition, event planners can use evaluative methods such as in-game evaluations, staff and management evaluations, budgeting, and attendance as evaluative measures.
There are a number of ways to evaluate an event during the contest itself. Participants and spectators can provide feedback using a street intercept methodology whereby people are surveyed as they enter or exit a sport venue. Street intercepts are useful in cases where you want feedback from hard-to-reach people in a real-life situation. One of the key factors to keep in mind when conducting any type of survey research for evaluative purposes during an event is to be brief because participants and spectators are not in attendance for the purposes of completing your survey, but rather to participate in or watch the event.
Both qualitative and quantitative types of research can be conducted for evaluative purposes. Quantitative methods include short questionnaires or surveys distributed during the event. If you conduct a quantitative survey, here are some key factors to consider:
- Where will you distribute the questionnaire or survey? Will it be at an entrance or exit? If you distribute at an entrance, you should consider timing because people arriving early may be more likely to respond than those running late. If you are distributing the questionnaire at the end of an event, what time does the event end? Will people leave the event early?
- You should provide a pen or pencil for completing the questionnaire.
- Will you offer an incentive for completing the questionnaire (e.g., future tickets to an event or souvenir merchandise)?
- Who will help you distribute the questionnaire, and how many people do you need to help in order to get a good response rate?
One form of qualitative evaluation is participant observation. This unobtrusive form of evaluation allows you to learn more about active event participants or spectators within the real setting of the event. The disadvantages of using participant observation to evaluate an event include the following:
- It is time consuming for the observer.
- The observer cannot be everywhere at once.
- The observer can affect the behavior of the person being observed.
Individual interviews and small focus groups can also be used to evaluate various aspects of an event. Interviews ask for individual opinions, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes about the event. Focus groups do the same; however, the interview is conducted with a small group of people. Timing is critical for both these forms of qualitative evaluation because participants do not want to be interrupted at key times during the event. You should consider this form of evaluation at points when your subjects have discretionary time, such as in between innings at a baseball game, during intermissions, or before or after the event.
Evaluation of staff members is a good way to maintain control over the success of the event and is helpful for professional development. Observation during the course of the event can be more useful if staff members are trained beforehand (Masterman 2009). The use of benchmarking is advocated as a way to achieve a level of standardization in the evaluation process (Allen et al. 2002). Partovi (1994) defines benchmarking as "the search for the best industry practices which will lead to exceptional performance through the implementation of these best practices" (p. 25). Benchmarking has also been described as a continuous and systematic process for evaluating products, services, and work processes representing best practices for the purpose of organizational improvement (Spendolini 1992). A number of event management areas may be benchmarked in terms of staffing. For example, an event planner may benchmark event staffing in relation to the following:
- Uniforms for staff members
- Number of staff members placed at each point of purchase
- Salaries or pay rates for part-time and full-time staff members
- Shift hours for staff members
- New and creative types of staff positions
A second way for event planners to evaluate staff members is to engage in a technique called management by wandering around (MBWA). MBWA was made famous by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman after their visit to Hewlett-Packard in the late 1970s and later discussed in their book In Search of Excellence. Peters and Waterman (1982) defined MBWA as "the business of staying in touch" (p. 288). The idea behind an MBWA program is to get a manager out of the office and onto the floor to make contact with employees (Amsbary and Staples 1991). If you have ever watched the popular television show Undercover Boss, you have witnessed this technique. A high-ranking executive in a company (often the president or CEO) alters his appearance and gains an alias so he can work in an entry-level position within the organization for a week. During this time, the boss works in various areas of company operations and with many employees, often with a different job and at a different location each day. This gives the undercover boss a better appreciation for the work being done by his staff. At the end of the show, the undercover boss summons these employees to the corporate office, at which time his true identity is revealed. In the end, the boss learns more about the day-to-day operations of the company and either rewards hardworking employees through promotion or financial rewards or provides additional training or better working conditions. The idea here is that event managers should be critically involved in the operations of the event. In other words, by employing MBWA, the event manager knows if concession employees are serving hot and high-quality foods, and they can monitor the length of time it takes to wait in line at a concession stand. Furthermore, the event planner can monitor if ushers and ticket takers are friendly, helpful, and reliable.
Another way to conduct staff evaluation is to administer a quantitative or qualitative survey to consumers of the event. Some of the questions should measure customer service components such as employee helpfulness, product knowledge, empathy, caring, friendliness, reliability, responsiveness, and assurance. Other items on the questionnaire may measure whether employees keep the facility clean and can also gauge consumer perceptions related to the atmosphere of the facility. This type of quantitative analysis can help identify service touch points where consumers are dissatisfied or highly satisfied. It can also help reveal areas where the event may experience a service failure.
Finally, qualitative questionnaires can provide event planners with more in-depth knowledge of certain areas where consumers are experiencing satisfaction or dissatisfaction. This type of questionnaire asks for more detailed information from the consumer, and often the questions are open ended (figure 13.1). Open-ended questions may ask, "How can the sporting event be improved?" or "What was your favorite part of the event?"
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