Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘events’

Events remain a powerful marketing tool

Posted by thecastlegroup on April 2, 2010

At Castle, we’ve always started with the premise that a great event needs to be built from and reinforce the corporate message.

We’ve been fortunate that through all the various economic climates of the past 14 years, our clients continue to believe in the power of events and incentives.

This article, while cautious, also points to the optimism for the events industry.

Events are powerful.

Whether a global sales meeting, 6,000-person convention, 50-person executive meeting, or high achievers travel incentive, there are many ways to reward, motivate and engage staff.

Face time, hand shakes, real in-person conversation, collaborative events — these work for a reason, and these factors continue to fuel our events business.

Keep meeting.

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Oh, the Places We Are Going

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 5, 2010

We’ve found that while many companies are still struggling in this economy and believe that using their in-house resources to plan an event is the most cost-effective choice, others are recognizing that hiring an outside agency adds great value. An experienced event firm can leverage its relationships with hotels and other vendors to a client’s advantage while completely taking the pressure and guesswork out of planning and execution.

So, where in the world is our events team? Currently, Castle is producing events in Boston, New York, Florida, Mexico, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

With assignments ranging from sales incentive programs to product launches, user groups to celebration events, our team is busy helping our clients educate, train, motivate and inspire their audiences.

A company’s event is an extension of its brand and message. Unfortunately, too often the intended message can get lost in the shuffle. 

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Boston Business Journal events and awards

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2010

We wanted to share upcoming BBJ event and award dates and deadlines.


MARCH 13: Best Places to Work
APRIL 16: Sustainable Boston – Green Business Awards
APRIL 30: CFO of the Year
MAY 28: 40 Under 40
JUNE 5: Corporate Citizenship Partners of the Year
JUNE 25: Champions in Health Care

We are pursuing many of these awards for clients, and encourage you to attend relevant events as well for the networking opportunity. The BBJ has done a really nice job at making these awards and events meaningful for participants and winners.

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Meeting planners on the rise

Posted by thecastlegroup on January 14, 2010

U.S. News & World Report names meeting planners as one of 50 top careers for 2010:

We couldn’t agree more!

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The Incentive is Not Fear

Posted by thecastlegroup on October 16, 2009


Travel is dead! Incentive programs are dead! Stay in the office and work! Keep your head down!

We heard these proclamations following 9/11 and the economic crash at the beginning of this decade. But you know what? Our clients kept their event programs, continued to travel and stayed the course with incentives.

Fast forward to the fall of 2008. The beginning of this latest recession echoed the same fearful statements we heard nearly 10 years ago. And our clients continue to stay the course with their programs. Our incentive clients are traveling to Mexico, New York, Spain and other destinations. Our corporate meeting and event clients are heading to New Orleans, Florida, Boston. The point is, they refuse to be swayed by the negative sentiment that AIG and others put on the industry because they believe in the value of their programs – and the ROI proves that their programs work. They work to drive revenue, foster collaboration, meet face-to-face and reward hard-working employees. They also work to stimulate the economy by hosting goal-focused events in various destinations.

As businesses mark the one-year anniversary of the current economic crisis, decision-makers who are still in “scared” mode must ask themselves a simple question: Are we ready to shift from cost management mode to growth mode?

A new study by research firm Oxford Economics addresses these issues and makes a very strong case for the power of business travel.

The study finds that for every dollar invested in business travel, businesses benefit from an average $12.50 in increased revenue and $3.80 in new profits. Where else can companies find that kind of return? Likewise, the data shows that a 10 percent increase in business travel spending will increase U.S. GDP by between 1.5 and 2.8 percent. We need that, right?

According to the study, a sure way to limit business growth potential is to indiscriminately cut corporate travel. For instance, executives who were surveyed estimated that 28 percent of their business is lost without in-person meetings. Working backwards is not the answer.

Claims that virtual meetings and teleconferences are a good substitute for in-person meetings turn out to be off the mark. Eighty-five percent of corporate executives perceive web meetings and teleconferences to be less effective than in-person meetings with prospective customers, and 63 percent believe virtual meetings to be less effective than in-person meetings with current customers.

Finally, the study contradicts the rhetoric we have heard that describes incentive travel for top employees as wasteful junkets. In fact, according to the research, companies would have to pay those employees eight percent more per year to achieve the same level of motivation. Thus, according to the research, incentive trips are often a cost-saving measure. We would go so far as to say incentive trips are economy-stimulating measures.

Best of all, the study helps answer the question: How do you attach an ROI to a sales trip, a trade show or an award to a high-performing employee? 

Travel is alive! Incentive programs work! Get on the road and see your customers, teams and partners! Lift your head up! Our clients are succeeding – we work with the biggest brands in the world on their global events, corporate meetings and incentive programs, so we see this success on a firsthand basis – because they remain committed to sound business practices that work to generate revenue, sell products and services, motivate and reward high-performing staff, and spend smartly on programs that work.

We’re happy to share more about our programs if you’d like to learn how meetings, events and incentive programs can work for your organization. And we want to hear how these valuable marketing vehicles have worked for you.

Read an executive summary of The Return on Investment of U.S. Business Travel here.

And read the full study here.

Finally, here’s a great SlideShare presentation, courtesy of US Travel Association: Business Travel ROI Study:

(Thanks to my friends and partners at the U.S. Travel Association and, as well as the great research team at Oxford Economics, for this invaluable piece of research.)

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Sustainable Event Practices

Posted by thecastlegroup on July 23, 2009

John F. Kennedy Jr. once said: “The supreme reality of our time… is the vulnerability of this planet.” In the world of meetings and events, there are many opportunities to help conserve and restore resources, improve the economy and excite people about the benefits of sustainability. Here are a few ideas we recommend to help implement green practices and create successful sustainable events: 

1.) Distribute save the date and event invitations via email.

2.) Conserve energy and save gas by meeting at sites that are accessible by public transportation or within walking distance of the office or hotel.

3.) Partner with vendors who are dedicated to sustainable practices. Use hotels, conference centers and caterers that use green construction materials, buy locally sourced food, and work to conserve energy and water.

4.) Work with neighborhood merchants, speakers and entertainers to help build your local economy.


5.) Use pitchers, bowls, glasses, silverware and cloth napkins during meal service to help reduce waste created by single serve packaging and disposable items.

6.) Take advantage of Mother Nature and use live plants and potted flowers as décor.

7.) Use only necessary handouts in on-site meeting packets and provide a link to a website where additional materials can be found online.

8.) Use whiteboards instead of flip charts. Water-based, non-toxic markers and reusable whiteboards save paper. Need a copy of what was written? Snap a photo before clearing the board.

9.) For necessary event materials, use recycled paper to print handouts and name badge inserts. Place baskets outside of the meeting room for attendees to recycle their badge holders.

New opportunities for better practices are growing by the day. Do your part by staying educated and supporting the global effort to conserve our precious resources.
Please contact Castle’s global events team to help stage your next event of any scale in a smart, sustainable manner.

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Meetings on Sale

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 24, 2009

We may be in a recession, but this economic downturn also means great savings for your meetings and events. The importance of face-to-face meetings is undeniable; coupled with the valuable savings now available makes this a time to make the most of your meeting dollars.
Great deals are everywhere. Hotels and convention centers are more willing to negotiate than ever before. Not only are group room rates lower, but in addition, we’ve been able to secure items for our clients such as free internet usage, deep discounts on food/beverage and audio-visual services, waived resort fees, rebates and greatly reduced attrition and cancellation fees. 
President Obama also recognizes the value of meetings. The 44th president recently backed a promotion where, in Washington D.C., planners receive incentives such as 44 percent off convention center rental fees, a 44-minute reception with 44-cent beer and wine, 44 meal options priced at $44 each, 44 free tabletop exhibits and a free drawing at 4:44 p.m. each day of the conference, among other concessions. 

This year, consider hosting your annual meeting or event at a previously untouchable five-star resort at three-star prices. Bottom line: it’s time to make a deal.
In related travel industry news, the U.S. Travel Association is lobbying hard to pass the Travel Promotion Act (PDF). If passed, a new board would govern destination marketing efforts aimed at increasing international visitation to the U.S.
Keep America Meeting

Finally, Keep America Meeting is an organization working with both the public and private sectors to promote the value of meetings. Follow them on Twitter or explore all their materials and efforts here. There are tools to help spread the word about the value of meetings, a petition to encourage legislators to publicly support meetings and events, and more.
And, as always, let us know how we can enhance your meetings, events, conferences and incentive programs.

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Bueller? Meetings? Bueller?

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 23, 2009

Ben Stein weighs in passionately and intelligently on the need for companies to keep meeting programs intact, and the goverment’s impact on the meetings industry and need to responsibly support it. Click here to see Stein on CBS News on a segment called “Obama’s Travels.”

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U.S. Travel offers toolkit for meetings industry

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 5, 2009

The links below take you to some U.S. Travel’s meetings industry toolkit elements. Highlights include:


Business travel creates 2.4 million American jobs, $240 billion in spending and $39 billion in tax revenue. The meetings and events component of business travel is responsible for nearly 15 percent of all travel in the United States, drives $101 billion in spending, generates one million jobs and creates $16 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state and local levels.

Meetings, events and incentives are essential tools for companies to strengthen business relationships; align and educate employees and customers; and reward business performance. Members of Congress share this practice when convening their annual retreats at resorts outside Washington, DC


Talking points:

Value of meetings:

Letter to elected officials:


Lend your voice to this effort. Meetings build community, and community is necessary to survive challenging times.

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The Simple Things

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2009

A colleague recently said, “In difficult times, there are those who cry, and there are those who sell handkerchiefs.” While some of our clients are scaling back in 2009, some are staying the course, others are increasing their budgets, and still others are shifting marketing tactics due to changing goals. Regardless of how your company is faring right now, every company needs to take a hard look at expenses. Yet even if you’re downsizing, there are straightforward marketing recommendations to consider: 

1. Long lead times. 
The efforts you put forth today can yield significant results six months from now. If your product needs to be featured in monthly magazines during the spring or summer, you have to make it happen now. The news and event cycle will pass you by if you ignore long-lead opportunities.
2. PR is not a one-shot deal. 
PR works best when there are both long- and short-term corporate goals included in the program. We once had a client that ended his contract with us because we “did such a great job getting the company visibility” that he “didn’t need us anymore.” Guess what? The visibility ebbed away and he came back.
3. Good news is suddenly news. 
If you communicate momentum, your targets will see momentum. I just read a news brief about a company that secured $1 million in financing. A number that low would never have hit the press last year. Further, one of our clients recently hired 12 people and had two banks vying to offer them a significant line of credit. That certainly wouldn’t have been newsworthy a year ago, but it is today. 
3. Leaner times can create internal opportunities. 
If business is slow, you may have talented staff who can be redeployed to support marketing objectives: a salesperson with the soul of a writer or an IT person with a creative flair who can improve your website or collateral.  
4. Bring your audience to you. 
Think about your office or retail space. Can you create opportunities — seminars, roundtable discussions, networking events — in your office and invite colleagues, customers and prospects? Face-to-face communications can still be the best marketing tool there is.
5. Get out…do more.
Go to networking events and conferences. Leverage your memberships beyond event attendance; meet with association executives to see whether you might be able to be an event speaker or moderator. You’ll get visibility through the sponsoring organization AND have opportunity for that face-to-face at the same time.
6. Consider your assets.
Do you have a creative presentation that can be repurposed for your website, as a bylined article, and as a speaker abstract? Take inventory of the marketing materials that already exist and creatively leverage them to create new opportunities.
7. Partner wisely.
Consider a marketing co-opportunity (event sponsorship, co-authored op-ed, online promotion) with a non-competing organization that targets similar audiences. You can leverage your marketing dollars by sharing resources and achieving a similar goal together.
8. Review your online presence.
This is a good time to make the most of your image online.  Make sure you’re maximizing SEO opportunities, posting new materials to your site, participating in online groups through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, Twittering and blogging. All free, and all marketing. 
Be the company that’s making the most of this downturn. To revisit the saying referenced earlier, sell handkerchiefs. B2B and consumer demand still exists — the winners will be those that best continue to meet those demands. If you can afford to maintain or increase your visibility, your handkerchiefs will look pretty good amongst all those tears. 

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