Podcast: Influencing Destination Selection

This episode of the Event Manager Podcast features Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog and Event Planners Talk, in a conversation about Destination and Event Marketing.

Irina began her career by studying tourism and hospitality before switching her degree focus to events. She secured a scholarship to Regent’s University where she studied international event management, a move that led to her beginning her blogging career; a way for her to connect with the global events community. After starting The MICE blog in 2011, Irina then went on to found Event Planners Talk in 2014. Hosted on Twitter, the aim was to grow the conversation within the community, with talks first taking place once a month before evolving into weekly conversations. By 2016, and after having moved to Germany, Irina made the decision to focus on these platforms full-time. Before diving into today’s discussion, you’ll hear Irina and Miguel discuss her career path in more detail, including the business element of her blog, the community she had created, the differences between her two platforms and more. It’s also interesting to hear how Irina would describe her career versus her husband’s explanation.

Subscribe to the Skift Meetings Podcast: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Google Podcasts | Amazon | RSS

As we all know, the pandemic ground travel to a halt, and with that event destination travel. As an influencer who operates an online business across multiple platforms, all of which help promote the destinations she travels to and brands she works with,  Irina discusses some of the changes that have taken place within content creation during the pandemic. Noting that pre-pandemic there was a lot of value placed on high-production video, Graf explains that once we were confined to our homes during lockdown, audiences were looking for more raw content. Having started with written content and online discussions, Irina discusses the shift to video content that has taken place within the content creation community, outlining the various tools and platforms available.Irina chats about what the ever growing number of platforms means for her business, how she decides which to focus on and also the benefits of growing an engaged, online audience.

There has been discussion for many years regarding the disclosure of paid advertising and marketing from influencers and celebrities, with some governments including guidelines within codes of conduct regarding marketing practices. Irina explains that many event professionals are invited to events as part of brand trips, and whilst they aren’t bloggers or influencers, they are expected to share their experiences via social media. Irina believes that this can create a gray area; do they have to disclose that this is a paid-for trip? Irina talks through her views on this topic, her own personal approach and what disclosing (or not) can mean to the relationship with your audience. Graf also touches on how the influencer community has, and still continues to develop, the relationships that can be built and why there are fewer influencers within the event destination space than other industries.

Having been in this field since 2011, it is no surprise that Graf has a wealth of knowledge regarding the creation of content, marketing strategies and return on investment for clients. It is on this final topic in particular that she delves deeper, explaining the time frame that can be expected before brands see a return on investment within this area of marketing. She also discusses the relationships she builds and maintains with clients, and the importance of these not only to her but to the clients themselves.

Oftentimes we think of the event only in the context of when it takes place, that this timeframe is the ‘event’ and everything on either side is ‘pre’ and ‘post’. However, Irina notes that technology is essentially a networking tool and argues such there should be a strong digital component in place ahead of time for events, giving the audience the chance to interact with each other and the content; think online chat rooms, collaborative opportunities and learning experiences, before diving into the complexity of the topic during the event itself. Need convincing? Irina provides a wonderful example of an event she worked on that provided these opportunities, highlighting the huge potential for virtual collaboration and other opportunities if this approach is implemented.

Following on from this, Graf also discusses how smaller interactive events can create strong community connections, again providing an example of an event she has been a part of that demonstrated this. Graf details how they approached this event, what it meant for the content involved but also how these connections and relationships have been maintained and developed since then.

We hope you enjoyed this wide ranging conversation and it provided you some food for thought.

You can catch up on all previous podcast episodes here, or wherever you get your podcasts. Whilst there, why not subscribe, meaning you’ll never miss an episode.