From Davos to Birmingham

January 31, 2014

While last week saw heads of state and leading CEOs gather in the glamorous Swiss resort to discuss global economic matters, it won’t be long before political party leaders gather members in the arguably less swish locations of Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

Although the locations bear no resemblance to each other, there is some similarity between Davos and this year’s party conference; leaders will set out their core themes for the upcoming election and the economy will be front and centre.

In the same way the Mayor of London used Davos to lobby for London as a place to invest, those attending party conference need to stand out from the crowd to ensure their message is heard. Party conferences have changed somewhat over the last 5-10 years. It is no longer about detailed policy meetings with MPs shadow/cabinet ministers to persuade them that your solutions/product/method is the answer to their prayers. Nowadays it is about communicating key messages by engaging with a mix of influencers.

To ensure your message is heard you need to stand out from the crowd. Being a breath of fresh air and challenging the status quo will have you and your organisation talked about long after the conference hotel bars have been drained and you return to a normal sleep pattern. This can be done in a number of ways, it doesn’t have to mean abandoning private or small group events, it’s about creating buzz which spreads beyond those who interact with the activity first hand.

I have long been a supporter of finding activities, events or stunts which break the mould and introduce something new; a great example of this are the business lounges which have sprung up since 2010. Not only are they a great place to conduct the occasional meeting, they make the whole conference experience more professional and pleasant. Those running them get great coverage via word or mouth praise, supporting tweets, mentions in diary columns and are even used for broadcast pieces.  Similarly, even exhibition stands have innovated to be less static and more interactive. Wider interaction is key and those embracing it have seen success, so much so it is now recognised by industry awards.

Of course, key to this success is planning and now is the time to start formulating plans for the conference season. Just remember, be bold, be different and don’t follow the well-trodden path.

If you would like to talk to Ketchum about support and creative ideas at this year’s Party Conferences contact us now.

An accomplished consultant, Victoria has over 10 years of experience advising MPs, blue chip companies, handling crises and media training. Before agency life, Victoria worked at Pfizer in the Government Affairs team and prior to that a Shadow Cabinet MP. During the 2005 and 2010 General Elections Victoria was a Press and Broadcast Officer at Conservative Campaign Head Quarters.