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How Hearst UK is developing ‘Events-as-a-Service’

Victoria Archbold ()

Hardly a year after the launch of Hearst Live, Hearst Magazines UK’s events team, the results have been nothing short of “remarkable”. Now the team will move into their own dedicated, purpose-designed events venue in the heart of Soho, one of London’s most iconic areas.

It is a good example of how magazine media revenue models continue to diversify, and in particular the strength of special interest media to tap into and further enhance the, often passionate, connection that exists between readers and brands.

“Hearst Live is all about taking magazine content off the page and screen and creating experiences which allow consumers to engage with our brands and expert editorial teams,” says Victoria Archbold, director of events and sponsorship at Hearst Live.

The focus is on creating “experiential events and developing commercial partnerships and sponsorship activity that drive revenue and customer retention. We look after events for some of the world’s best-known magazine brands including Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Country Living and Esquire.” 

Events and experiences include: 

1. Cosmopolitan’s #FashFest (example here)

2. Red’s Smart Women Week (example here)

3. Bazaar at Work (example here)

4. Country Living Shows (example here)

5. Hearst Beauty Unbound at Westfield (example here

Before being appointed to her current position in June 2015, Victoria was head of events and sponsorship for Cosmopolitan, Company, Prima, Red and Zest at Hearst UK.

Although events are not new for Hearst Magazines UK, Hearst Live only officially launched in January 2016. The team now develops and manages not only in-house events and experiences, but also as a service for client brands.

One year on the team delivered 100+ events, engaging nearly 100,000 attendees. That’s up from a mere few years ago, when Hearst UK brands shared some 25 events annually between them.

Their new, dedicated events space – 6th @ Soho – will officially launch on 1 March 2017. It follows “the remarkable growth [for Hearst Live] which has doubled its revenues, profits, and number of events, over the past 12 months”, the company said in a recent press release. 

6 at Soho ()

The development shows the importance of events as part of an overall audience engagement and revenue model for many magazine media brands today. 

“Events are a clear area of growth for Hearst and allow consumers to engage with our brands like never before. Through the launch of this new space we aim to deliver more of the quality experiences that our audiences desire via the brands they love,” chief revenue officer Duncan Chater said in the press release.

Launching Hearst Live

Victoria explains, “in order to achieve revenue growth it was necessary to focus on creating trusted event platforms – for consumers and clients.” This required the ability to deliver from pop-up experiences, to niche events and through to larger scale, multiple layered events - through a dedicated, in-house expert team.

”Our biggest events are Beauty Unbound, Cosmopolitan’s #FashFest, Red Smart Women Week, Esquire Townhouse and the Country Living fairs. We also run regular niche events such as Bazaar at Work, Red Smart Sessions and Good Housekeeping Masterclasses. These are more intimate environments with targeted content that deliver very high levels of engagement.

“A prime example of this is the series of Christmas events we created for Blippar that activated its relationship with Covent Garden Estates. Another example is the pop-up shop we placed on Oxford Street for Very.co.uk. This allowed its consumers to interact with the clothing. Activities such as this, combined with our media reach, are very powerful indeed. 

Bringing magazines to life; creating communities

When bringing magazine content “off the page and screen”, the key focus is “on creating events and experiences that create meaningful emotional connections. Consumers trust our content and this content is driving significant engagement levels across all aspects of our brands. Our events and experiences also help consumers network with one another and help to create communities,” explains Victoria.

In the digital age, the “experience” is important, not only from an attendee satisfaction point of view. 

“The digital age has led to brands and consumers wanting to ‘story-tell’. Our experiences help drive this as the content from our events is shared across many platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and blogs. In theory, this means anyone can influence a decision within their own relevant network. It’s essentially word of mouth, just for a new generation.” 

According to Victoria, they are seeing “much more emphasis being placed on cultural moments – Mother’s Day, Easter and Halloween for example. This, combined with a focus on key passion points such as wellness, fitness, reading, etc. enables smaller communities and networks to be built in a world that can often feel large and impersonal. “ 

Events made to fit brand

Not all events are created equal, with some brands allowing for large-scale events while others call out for smaller, more intimate experiences. Victoria explains this using the example of Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar.

“Cosmopolitan is the highest circulated young women’s glossy magazine and has a huge digital and social presence. It therefore makes sense for us to harness its reach by delivering a large-scale consumer event. Cosmopolitan #FashFest takes fashion off the front row and brings it direct to the Cosmopolitan consumer.”

Their five-day festival of fashion at Westfield London “showcases the best of retailers; with live trend shows, catwalk runways and interactive content which creates a unique and immersive multi-channel experience for the Cosmopolitan audience.

“For brands such as Harper’s Bazaar, we create more intimate experiences tailored to the interests of the Bazaar reader. For example, our monthly Bazaar At Work events unite intelligent, stylish working women and high-profile speakers in environments suitable for networking and sharing advice.”

Experience and engagement: not just a one-off

Several advances in technology for events, ranging from event management systems through to content delivery through the likes of AR and VR, provide new opportunities for event managers.

For Victoria, the key consideration, however, is that “experiences always have, and always will, be about heightening the senses. Technology has always played a part in this and will continue to do so. However, all events and experiences must be underpinned by the basics. It’s about balance.”

Today, events are not anymore something that is delivered, and then done with. Technology now enables event managers to engage event communities at deeper levels before, during and after the live event.

As Victoria explains, “Beyond AR and VR there have been great moves forward in content curation, generated and shared at all stages of the event cycle ensuring that the scope of that day / time / audience is amplified well beyond the event itself. It makes events much more valuable to all involved.”

Know thy audience

For others developing an events strategy, Victoria says, not underestimating the intelligence of audiences and getting the event-brand fit right are crucial success factors.

“You need to be putting on events of excellent quality that are a really strong fit for the brand, otherwise it won’t work. Consumers have so much choice – you don’t get many chances. 

“Stay in touch with them and innovate constantly so that you are putting on events that are ahead of the curve. Give consumers something they don’t even know they want yet!”

‘Events-as-a-Service’ at 6th @ Soho in London 

The new Hearst Live event space will not be available to only Hearst UK brand events, but 3rd parties too – adding another dynamic to build revenues from events. The space at 6th @ Soho “is extremely versatile so it will be able to accommodate all sorts of events,” says Victoria.  

“As with most venues, the location is key, so being in the heart of Soho gives it a great advantage.” Adding to its allure, the space “also has an enviable 360 degree view over London from the BT Tower through to The London Eye”.

6 at Soho panorama ()

Aside from this location, the team focused on creating a blank canvas that brands are able to make their own. This has been “designed with a ‘London loft’ feel… exposed brick wall, contrasted with dark wood flooring, urban furnishings and arty copper light fittings”.

Here, Hearst UK leveraged brand relationships too. “We did this by utilising the relationship our lifestyle titles have with brands such as Made.com, Jo Malone and Sweet Pea and Willow.” 

Going beyond what creative and events agencies can offer

According to Victoria, “external companies can harness” Hearst UK’s “trusted and established brands to connect with their target audiences.

“We are able to deliver a service beyond any creative and events agency. Hearst has access to influencers – both internal and external – plus access to insight and data.

“Whether a brand hopes to use the space to showcase an exciting new product, or a company would like to host a networking event in the hub of Soho with a marvelous view over London, 6th @ Soho can cater for this.”

Companies can get in touch with Hearst Live by contacting events@sixthatsoho.co.uk.

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