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Why Purpose-Driven Events Succeed

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Events are huge opportunity creators – paving the way for future relationships and movement through the sales funnel. When done correctly, operating an event with purpose can be the secret to increasing brand awareness, enhancing perceptions of cultural fit, and improving customer loyalty and likelihood to recommend.

The formula isn’t complicated. If companies want to create events that foster a climate of care, it’s imperative to:

  1. Identify a purpose that matches your company values.
  2. Clarify how your company makes a unique contribution to the cause.
  3. Create an event strategy that leverages the passion and experience of key employees.
  4. Motivate others to participate to create impact at scale.

Sparks operates an initiative called Women In Events (WIE). The mission is to encourage female industry colleagues to obtain the skills and abilities needed for business, personal and social achievement. By fostering these traits and providing connection opportunities, we are giving women the chance to reduce workplace inequality and promote their full participation in the event marketing community.

We created WIE several years ago after spotting a trend in a study by the Event Marketing Institute that identified a rise in women event management positions, but not necessarily in senior management positions. A recent KPMG’s Women’s Leadership Study found that 6 out of 10 women aspire to be a senior leader at their company, yet more than half of them agreed that “as women” they are more cautious in taking steps toward leadership roles, and 6 in 10 found it hard to see themselves as leaders. Something was amiss. Women in our space needed an opportunity to learn and lift each other up. I’m a firm believer that women, no matter their age, nationality, race or religion, seek connection in and gain empowerment from groups. And when you group powerful women together, they can lead the way in making changes that will impact the world…thus WIE.

Although male owned, Sparks’ executive leadership believes in the advancement of women and understands the benefit of creating a work environment where women can invest in themselves, and each other. Through our internal education and advancement initiatives, we now have several women in key leadership roles. In addition, through WIE initiatives, we are consistently crafting a loyal pipeline of highly motivated female talent that buy into our cultural truth.

This year, WIE aligned with Dress for Success, a global non-profit whose mission is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. As a result of this philanthropic coupling, our latest WIE event, the Work Bag Essentials Build at the 2016 Experiential Marketing Summit, was a huge success. Following a short speaker presentation by Dress for Success alumni Kara Burns, who shared her compelling life story as a recovering heroin addict who found success through the Dress for Success program, 300 career bags were stuffed with daily essentials and motivational elements for women entering the Denver job market.

Emotions ran high in the room and the desire to pay it forward following Kara’s speech was substantial. Beyond our career titles, we are all human beings who simply want to feel validated and supported. Sparks tapped into that emotion with this event and made a strong and lasting connection to the women in the room.

Success in experiential marketing comes from making your consumer feel something, but further from inspiring them to act of those feelings. Once your company has created a movement, you must encourage your audience to make a move with urgency. This is a critical component of any communication plan and providing those opportunities onsite is necessary to meet our strategic objectives. It’s your obligation to engage your consumer and nurture the beginning of what will be a long-term relationship. At WIE, Sparks and Dress for Success Denver provided opportunities for motivation, donation, sponsorship and mentoring. Athough the opportunities were through Dress for Success, the presentation of the opportunities by Sparks further deepened attendees affinity for our company.

In addition, we also encouraged attendees to visit wie.sparksonline.com and sign up for our alerts and updates on all future sparks WIE initiatives.

The biggest success factor with purpose-driven events is authentic alliances. Consumers are savvy and they can spot any blatant attempt to deceive.  When companies truly align, the mutual benefits of the partnership may involve: increased connection with the public, communication of shared values, creation of social value, identifying new talent pools, and of course, increased funding/profits. Sparks aligned with a compatible group like Dress for Success to promote a shared cause – women’s advancement – benefitting both organizations by creating awareness of their respective causes.

About the author:  KRISTY ELISANO

Kristy Elisano is the vice president of marketing and public relations at Sparks, a global brand experience agency headquartered in Philadelphia, PA operating 11 locations worldwide. With over 15 years of agency experience, she is responsible for managing the company’s global integrated marketing, communications and corporate responsibility strategies; sales enablement; lead generation; and public relations initiatives. Sparks’ clients include brands like Google, adidas, HP, Dell, and Anheuser Busch.

Ms. Elisano began her career in the real estate technology category, later launching Threewide Corp. a provider of online advertising platforms for real estate brokers with two college friends. The company’s ListHub listing platform would go on to redefine real estate marketing and Elisano and her partners eventually sold the business to Move Sales Inc.

In the early 2000’s, Elisano joined Sparks and has implemented a number of measures to increase the growth and awareness of the agency, helping to shape its course as a worldwide leader in the experiential marketing sector. As part of her initiatives each year, she produces an annual Women in Events program that brings together top female marketing executives from Fortune 1000 companies to help women in need. Over the years the Women in Events property has grown in size and scope, garnering national media attention and tier 1 partners.

Elisano is a supporter of, and advocator for, numerous causes. Throughout her corporate tenure, she has developed programs in support of several national nonprofits such as the American Red Cross, Dress for Success, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Ms. Elisano is a graduate of West Virginia University. She also holds a Certificate in Marketing Strategy from Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.


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