Brief document, big decisions.
Note: If you haven’t already, I recommend reading part one of this series, discussing best practices for the strategy workshop which informs development of your strategy brief.
Event initiatives which begin with a serious investment in the strategic planning phase are invariably positioned for success right from the start—which is why Opus Agency’s best practice is to begin key initiatives with a strategy workshop, where key decision makers and stakeholders convene to collaborate on defining the strategic framework and success measures driving a given event.
The key deliverable resulting from this session is the strategy brief, a relatively succinct (typically 8-to-12 pages) but hugely important document which serves to drive key campaign decisions going forward. The goal with any effective strategy brief is to create a kind of “strategic GPS”—a clear, comprehensive guide which can be referenced across myriad event planning teams to keep everyone headed in the same direction. If planning decisions start to go astray, or there is internal disagreement on the right way forward, the strategy brief can serve as your North Star to remember the why behind all the many decisions that go into planning an event.
Ideally, when drafting your strategy brief, you’re largely articulating the consensus decisions reached during the strategy workshop—but, admittedly, you won’t always have that luxury. Where there were perhaps divergent points of view, do your best to capture the majority opinion while flagging any contrary stances. Part of the review and finalization phase will involve arriving at final decisions so that the project can move forward.
Key areas to capture in your strategy brief include:
- Introduction: The strategy brief should be a multipurpose internal resource, even (or perhaps especially) for those who didn’t attend the workshop. Don’t forget to provide context with a brief overview of the intent of the document, and the workshop that led to its creation.
- Background: What has come before? Briefly, what is the company’s corporate history? Event history? Is this the first user conference, or the tenth? What does the audience know (and appreciate about) the event? Setting the stage with key contextual information will ensure everyone is on the same page as they move through the brief.
- Brand Positioning & Attributes: Any live event should be an extension of the hosting organization’s brand into the “real world.” Be sure to include an overview of the company’s brand, voice, and tone. (And if this is not well defined, include that conversation in your workshop planning!)
- Corporate Event Strategy: Any successful event lives within a clearly delineated event strategy. Why does this company do events? Is the goal awareness, sales acceleration, outreach to a key audience like analysts or press? Understanding the broader motivators will help you better define success.
- Event Goals: Simply put, what does a successful event look like? When attendees are on the way to the airport and load-out is underway, how will we know if we executed against our strategy?
- KPIs: When we start quantifying that success, what are the key metrics we’re tracking—and more importantly, what’s our plan to track and analyze them?
- Event Competitors: No event happens in a vacuum. You’re competing for the same attendees, in terms of both the calendar and travel budgets, with others in your market. Be sure to capture an overview of the event landscape.
- Target Audience Profiles: Who are you trying to attract to your event? What are the different audiences, from end user to the C-suite? What are their pain points? What drives them? What content will they find most valuable? And where can you reach them?
- Initial High-level Messaging: A finalized strategy brief typically feeds directly into the event messaging matrix—a communications roadmap outlining how to describe your event—and the strategy brief is your first opportunity to start aligning around how and what you’re communicating to your key audiences.
- Attendee Experience: How does this event fit within the broader brand and marketing activities currently underway, and how do we want attendees to feel?
- Strategies Around Key Stakeholder Audiences: In addition to your target attendee audiences, don’t forget your plan to ensure success with key ancillary audiences such as partners, press, and industry analysts.
Make no mistake, the work that goes into completing a strategy brief—the steps between the end of your workshop or discovery phase and approval of the brief—can be significant. You’re corralling disparate voices and unique points of view, and seeking to put key strategic stakes in the ground for what is typically an organization’s most visible, flagship event of the year. But the time and effort invested proves invaluable once the project has moved into the execution phase, helping to speed decisions, ensure alignment, and provide a guiding framework for all areas of execution (and sometimes even mitigate conflict!).
An effective strategy brief will serve as the backbone of a successful event campaign and shouldn’t just be approved and filed away. Rather, the document should become an oft-referenced source of truth throughout the planning and execution of your initiative, informing the development of key messaging, audience acquisition strategies, your content framework, KPI tracking plans, reporting, and more.
Is your organization ready to start defining the strategy for a key upcoming event or initiative? Get in touch with Opus Agency!