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 ‘incentives’

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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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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The Value of Motivation

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 5, 2009

Castle co-founder Wendy Spivak weighs in with her perspective on motivation, summer and recognition done well.

From the time we were all in grade school, summer has been a time to kick back and relax. But in the working world, a Monday is a Monday. Which, as I glance out the window at the tourists here in the Navy Yard visiting the U.S.S. Constitution, brings up the concept of motivation. Corporate motivation is a specialty of our events and incentives practice, and is the responsibility of every manager, CEO, team leader and supervisor, regardless of your company’s mission.

Motivation is the underlying mission behind successful incentive programs and events, laying the groundwork for exceptional results for our clients and their staff. Incentive programs, and many corporate events, are designed to motivate staff, business partners, community members, customers, etc. to do SOMETHING.

Let’s focus on the employee audience. How do you encourage employees to excel at their jobs—and continue to do so on a regular basis? Your first thought may be that this is a question for the HR department, but think again. Marketing communications can provide the answer.

At The Castle Group, we work with companies large and small to conceptualize programs that will motivate and inspire participants to excel. We know that every employee is different, and that corporate culture and individual preferences dictate the parameters for motivational marketing programs. The payoff? A properly designed and executed recognition and rewards program increases productivity and helps drive a company’s success. We find the most successful companies work with us to build programs that challenge staff to overachieve, not just perform their everyday jobs—and then reward for this success appropriately and often.

But before you purchase those trophies and start tracking brownie points, keep the following five points in mind:

1.      “You Want Me to do WHAT?”

Understanding what makes your employees tick is key to developing a successful program. Some of our clients’ teams thrive on friendly competition, others on peer recognition. For these, an incentive program that tracks performance and culminates in an exclusive event—such as a high-end luxury trip, group outing or awards ceremony—motivates people to “win.”

Perhaps your employees are motivated by the ability to have more time with their families. Family-friendly activities or time off can provide encouragement.

Do you have a tech-savvy audience? These folks may be more responsive to an online rewards program with the latest gadgets as prizes. Whatever the environment, develop a program that considers all audience members.

2.      It’s the Big Picture, It’s the Details…It’s BOTH

An employee recognition program should define team and/or individual goals that link to the company’s overall objectives. The prettiest bells and whistles amount to little if they don’t factor into the bigger picture.

Be specific and spell out exactly what is expected of each participant. If details are vague, rigid or difficult to understand, employees may not fully engage in the program. It’s also important to determine the “what’s in it for me?” factor. A program must clearly define what the participants receive for achieving the stated goals. Be realistic and set rewards that are equitable to what is being measured.

3.      Here’s Where Communications Comes In

You know the old adage—and it’s one we harp on in our media training programs—tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them again, and then tell them what you told them. Creative, unique and targeted communication is key to any incentive program. How do you get the word out? Boldly launch the program at a company-wide meeting, build buzz with teaser communications, recognize milestones—”You’re halfway there!”—and personalize the digital communications, snail mail, voice mail and in-person reminders. Keeping things lively and interactive will ensure your audience is engaged, and build anticipation for the next program.

4.      Function vs. Flash—Making the CEO and the COO Happy

You’ve mistakenly bought the fancy stilettos when a pair of Tevas would have been more realistic (gentlemen, please insert your own analogy). The same mistake can be made with an incentive program. You need not send the winners to the moon to solicit buy-in. An exclusive, private weekend trip to a local resort or team-oriented group outing to a ballgame, if properly planned and executed, can do the trick.

When developing your budget, project the program’s ROI and work backward. When ROI is difficult to determine—for example, if the goal is to facilitate teamwork and communication between departments—set a reasonable standard. Start small, remembering you can always add rewards but never subtract them. If your budget can’t support the whole group, try smaller rewards such as a day off or lunch with the CEO. Sometimes the little things really do have the most impact.

For example, at one end of the spectrum, we’ve had clients rent out an entire castle in Europe for staged theatrical performances, and fly in winners and company executives for a five-star team-building and reward experience. Others work with us to build interactive online rewards that are budget-flexible and provide daily, real-time motivation through customized micro-contests and rewards.

5.      Measure Results and Keep Going

You can only reap the benefits if you know what they are. Survey your respondents. Get candid feedback from managers. Could anything have been better? Did the program work for everyone?

Motivation is an ongoing process. It shouldn’t end when the program does. Build on the program’s momentum and incorporate your findings into the next program. And remember that an audience’s needs and wants can change over time; you must regularly reevaluate the success of your program. Programs should raise the bar each time they’re introduced and sustain a level of excitement to deliver tangible results.

So instead of looking out the window at the tourists enjoying their vacations, your employees will have their own rewards in the backs of their minds, as they productively and purposefully attack and achieve the goals you’ve set

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Limitless possibilities

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 27, 2009

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Maybe that’s too extreme when considering pay limits on executive compensation, but America is built on a free enterprise system, and ultimately that same system will help us rise out of this economic morass we are in.


What’s the root issue here? Greed. Our corporate ecosystem has evolved into one that demands profits and efficiencies now. Long-term growth receives lip service; the advent of day trading, easy information access and do-it-now tools have empowered not just our executives to make decisions in the now, but allows all our citizens to act similarly.


Certainly there are long-term thinkers out there. And this recession seems to be re-instilling “classic” American values into the corporate world. Conservatism rules the day. But even that thinking seems misplaced. Is the world expecting to revert back to an “Ozzie and Harriet” or “Happy Days” world? Dad home for dinner, Mom and kids happily living the American dream, surrounded by friendly neighbors and a built-in sense of community?


The world has changed; societal shifts make that vision impractical. Life is still expensive. If one is fortunate enough to remain employed, paying the bills is not much easier, even with dropping prices and lower consumer spending. People are saving out of fear and necessity. For those out of work, the barriers are significantly higher.


So back to the root issue: if the government wants to change the behavior of corporate America and its executive force, it needs to reward fiscally responsible goal-setting, define ethical pursuit of profits, and promote — not dethrone — those executives with the intelligence, resources and ambition to reshape the economy.


The meetings and incentive industry, under fierce attack due to short-sighted moves by AIG and others, represents an ideal place for executives to turn to in order to re-seed the economy. Develop programs that drive intelligent revenue creation, reward innovation and stimulate the economy.


America is not about limits. Rather, it’s about limitless possibilities. Our best executives have the power to explore those possibilities and help America reemerge as an economic leader.

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Meetings industry leadership speaks out

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 11, 2009

Bill Marriott blogs honestly about the economic impact on the meetings industry, how it affects his hotel, and his support of the U.S. Travel Association’s meetings guidelines and the “Meetings Mean Business” campaign.


And here, Mitchell Beer speaks to the Kerry legislation, revamping the types of incentives provided, and ideas to address the industry’s problems.

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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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Incentive travel’s white knight?

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2009

As the government comes down on TARP-funded companies for their incentive programs, U.S. Travel (the former TIA) has issued a set of responses on behalf of the meeting industry. The organization has done a really terrific job inserting commentary into the media and changing the focus from TARP companies gone wild to the real value of incentive programs. 

I know Castle has a vested interest in the success of the industry, but is it really so hard to understand that a well-executed incentive or meeting actually drives business, leading to revenue which then stimulates the economy? 


Read below for a sample of recent media coverage on the issues and the impact on the meetings industry:




Hawaii hotelier asks Obama for an important favor

Pacific Business News

By Jim George

March 2, 2009


Gibson understands that the incentive-travel pot is an easy target for corporate executives struggling to balance budgets. What he doesn’t understand is why the national media and government at large continue to give travel to Hawaii a negative connotation.


“There’s a perception problem,” he says.


It’s Time To Fight AIG Effect

Hotels Magazine

By Jeff Weinstein

March 1, 2009 


It all started when insurance industry giant American International Group (AIG) was blasted by Congress last fall for spending US$440,000 on an executive retreat at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, in California after being bailed out with taxpayer money. Now this event has become a symbol of excess and greed, in many ways forcing meeting planners and corporate executives to find other solutions, and other venues, to conduct business.


MPI Launches New Web Resource To Emphasise The Value of Meetings in Crisis Time       

Focus on Travel News

By Ozgur Tore    

March 2, 2009 


MPI is also part of a coalition of organizations including American Hotel and Lodging Association, Destination Marketing Association International, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, National Business Travel Association, Maritz Travel, Professional Convention Management Association, SITE (Society of Incentive & Travel Executives) and U.S. Travel Association that also emerged to unify the industry behind a common message to regulators and media.,english/


Travel Leaders Shows How to Travel in a Tough Economy

Travel Agent

March 2, 2009 


“As one of America’s largest industries, travel and tourism is the vital lifeblood that courses through our nation’s veins. Continued corporate and leisure travel strongly contributes to a healthier economy,” stated Block. “While we can appreciate and understand why many individuals may be reconsidering their travel plans, our Travel Leaders nationally are advising their clients on the most effective ways to stretch their dollars for maximum value.”

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