Want to Make the Most of an Event Like HR Tech? It’s All About Branding

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FireworksI was not at this year’s HR Technology Conference, but I think that makes what I’m about to say all the more powerful: If you want to make the most of an event like HR Tech, your branding has to be on point. If you play the branding game right, you can reach way beyond the conference space and into the hearts and minds of people who weren’t even there.

Let me explain: My favorite story to come out of this year’s HR Tech comes from Workforce’s managing editor, Rick Bell. I highly suggest you read the full post here, but I’ll also supply a quick and dirty version.

When Bell arrived at McCarran Airport in Vegas, he saw two men in lavender jackets holding signs that said “Welcome HR Tech.” Bell took them for representatives of a shuttle service, but he quickly found out that these fabulously dressed gentlemen were reps for recruiting website Relode. They weren’t even attending the conference — just passing out buttons and looking to meet the people who were heading to HR Tech.

(Bell tells the story much better. Seriously, go read his post.)

There’s a lot that I love about this story. First, the image of two guys in lavender passing out buttons adds a needed splash of color to HR Tech’s more muted professional tones. (Not to knock the conference, but I’m sure we can all agree that industry expos aren’t always the most exciting things around. Informative? Yes. Important? Definitely. But exciting? Not always.)

But second, and more importantly, is the fact that Relode has demonstrated exactly the kind of creative thinking any company will need to engage in if it wants to stand out, especially in a space as crowded as HR Tech.

Think of it this wMicay: Before reading Bell’s piece, I had never heard of Relode. After reading Bell’s piece, I have some very warm feelings toward this company. Do I know much about the service? Not really. But here’s what I do know: Relode comes across as smart, funny, innovative, playful, and a bit irreverent. There’s a real personality here that’s often lacking in any branding initiative, whether that initiative takes place at a major industry event or on a smaller scale.

Relode clearly made an impression on Bell, and as a result, the company has also made an impression on me. You can bet I’m going to spend some time learning more about these guys once I finish writing this.

Now, let’s take it even further: Relode didn’t even have a booth at the conference. I wonder if Bell, walking around the massive expo floor, would have taken a second look at Relode had they stuck to the standard operating procedures of running a booth at HR Tech. If Relode hadn’t made an impression on Bell, the company never would have made an impression on me.

And remember: I wasn’t even at HR Tech this year, and Relode still reached and thoroughly engaged me!

This is what I mean when I say your branding has to really be on point at a conference like this. Here’s this company that wasn’t even at the actual conference, and its branding was so on point, it actually found a way to exceed the boundaries of the conference itself. Relode used HR Tech to not only reach people who were actually attending, but also people like me, who were 2,500+ miles away in New Jersey at the time.

What about the companies that were actually on the expo floor, running booths? I have to be totally honest: I have yet to see a single report of a booth that’s really stuck with me. Will these booths stick with the people who were at the conference? I’m sure some will — and many others won’t.

CarnivalWhy settle for such a limited range of exposure? Why not go big? Why not get creative like Relode and brand yourself in such a way that some blogger who is essentially on the other side of the country decides he has to write about you and give you some props?

Don’t get me wrong: Branding is what draws us in, but the product or service is what makes us stick around as customers. I don’t mean to suggest that your company go all style-over-substance at the next industry event it attends.

What I am suggesting, however, is that you can’t forget about the style with which you deliver your substance. Product specs and features are great, but they’re even better when they come to you via two guys in lavender jackets, passing out buttons at the airport.

Read more in Brand Strategy

Matthew Kosinski is the former managing editor of Recruiter.com.