HubSpot’s INBOUND doesn’t need much of an introduction. As an industry-leading event for marketing and sales professionals, it has experienced explosive growth since it started five years ago as a 3-day event that drew around 2,500 attendees. Last year’s INBOUND drew over 19,000 attendees from 92 countries—and this year’s event has already secured some impressive headlines, most notably with the announcement that Michelle Obama will appear as a keynote speaker.
We were lucky enough to chat with Laura Moran, who recently made the shift from working as a Media Relations Manager for HubSpot in general to focusing on PR for INBOUND specifically. Keep reading to learn Laura's thoughts on growing events through social media and how INBOUND is growing into it's own brand—and click here to read the second part of our INBOUND Q+A series.
How have your responsibilities shifted since you moved from doing PR for HubSpot in general to INBOUND specifically? How has your past experience influenced what you’re doing now?
The biggest difference is being able to dedicate my focus on one thing versus being pulled in many different directions. There’s just more time to be creative and think outside the box. One of the biggest things that we’re trying to do with INBOUND as an event is bring together people in one place where they’re receiving incredible stories. That could be something inspirational, or something really technical that they can take back to their job the next day, but [we want to] put people in seats where they’re hearing stories that are different than the ones they’ve heard before. We want people to leave the room feeling inspired from a story or insight that they may never have imagined learning from a particular speaker. I think what my career has helped me do is better identify those stories. I have conversations and poke holes that help us figure out the sort of untold stories that we want to bring to life at INBOUND.
What do you think has contributed to INBOUND’s success?
We really do try to make the event about the INBOUND community. I think at many other events, especially in tech, you’ll find the main purpose is to be a user conference, and we’ve tried very hard as the event has grown to step back from having the event have the feel of a user conference. We want it to be much more about broadening the community that exists around INBOUND, broadening what it means to be part of the industry, to be part of that way of thinking, and bring people together who believe so deeply in that same mission and want to be a part of it. People are going to receive value from being around other people that have that same mentality.
But I think the biggest difference here is the decision that we made a long time ago—which we think works really well for us—to think of ourselves as an industry event and make every decision along the way with that in mind, versus thinking of ourselves as a user conference and making every decision along the way with that in mind.
How do you measure the success of the role you play on the INBOUND team?
Obviously we want the event to grow, both in attendee numbers and also in other ways. We want to see the engagement on social media climb every year and have people not just sharing the hashtag, but also tweeting at speakers, and we want to have speakers tweet about being at the event and share that with their Facebook networks or their Instagram channels.
Any time we see engagement on those platforms, that’s a big win and definitely a metric that we want to see grow year over year. In the same way, media coverage is obviously a fantastic thing and we definitely want that. I think one of the areas where we’re looking to grow is not just quantity on that front, but also quality in terms of what the articles are talking about. Are we getting people to come and really think about the event as an experience and write about what a great experience they had? Think about the way that you see people talk about something like SXSW. As we grow what we’re doing and as we evolve, seeing the media coverage and the way that people are talking about the event is definitely something that we pay attention to.
How do you ensure that INBOUND stays top-of-mind throughout the year, and not just in the weeks leading up to the event?
We started something called The INBOUND Studio as an experiment last year on-site at the event, and now it’s become something that we’re doing year-round, full-time. At the event last year, it started as something where people who spoke on the main stage or at one of the spotlights would come up to a studio in the convention center and do 15-minute Facebook Live video that aired on our Facebook page.
Now we create series of videos that are themed. Some of them are pre-produced videos where we go offsite, shoot the interview, edit it and present it, and some of them are Facebook Lives, similar to the way that we did them on-site last year, but they’re all packaged into a series that has a common theme. The first one that we launched was “The Power of Humor,” and it featured Trevor Noah, and his interview was on Facebook Live. But then we also did interviews with Andy Borowitz, Tig Notaro and others. We had different conversations with [all of the people in the series] about the role that humor plays in their world and what they’ve been able to do with it. Then we packaged it up and aired it on our Facebook and YouTube channels as a series, and that sort of model will continue throughout the year.
It’s become a way to engage with our own social network groups and one that we can use to grow the engagement there, and grow the presence of the event in people’s world beyond just those four days.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone who is working in the event space?
Like any other business, it’s so important to have a clear understanding of what your mission is for your event. The way we’ve chosen to make decisions about the growth of INBOUND relates back to the fact that we know we want it to be an industry event and reach people in that way. You have to know what your mission is on day one so that you can make decisions along the way that are constantly feeding back into that mission, and if you’re not making decisions that are feeding back into that mission, you’re making the wrong decision.
To learn more from industry-leading experts, check out our Future of Event Marketing online series, which includes interviews with event pros from FreemanXP, Mashable, Octagon, and more.