Austin Williams (AW) was awarded the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) 2002 two weeks after the September 11 terrorism attacks in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />New York.
The biennial WCIT is the worlds most prestigious IT event, aimed at international decision-makers from the corporate and government sectors.
As well as September 11, WCIT faced two other major challenges, the global downturn in the IT sector and the fact that Australia, particularly Adelaide, is a long way from key markets.
As the first WCIT host in the Southern Hemisphere, Adelaide had a target of 1500 delegates, with one-third from overseas, to equal numbers at the previous two events in the US and Taiwan.
A further challenge was the integration of the PR campaign across two separate but integrally linked events, and two clients.
AW mounted a multi-pronged international communications campaign over five months with the primary objective to attract delegates.
Target markets were systematically communicated with by a combination of briefing events, e-mail, media, direct mail, websites, advertisements, ambassadors programs and a range of promotional materials.
The congress was acclaimed an outstanding success after numbers exceeded expectations, attracting delegates from 55 countries.
WCIT, the flagship event of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA), the global peak body for the information industry, was managed by an organising team. The South Australian Government instituted and managed the IT Business Forum (ITBF) on February 25-26 to lead into WCIT from February 27-March 1.
The PR task was to assist WCIT move from zero to 1500 registrations, and ITBF to 300 delegates, in five months. The PR needs of a large number of stakeholders, from government to speakers and sponsors, also had to be met.
Local challenges included a State election on February 9, two weeks before WCIT, and the scheduling of Queen Elizabeths visit to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Adelaide on the opening day, coinciding with the address by keynote speaker Bill Clinton.
It was an enormously complex task in a very short time, which created significant pressures from a time and human resources perspective.
We worked closely with two strong, supportive teams from WCIT and ITBF, who provided creative input, good feedback and resources. (Appendix 1, Team Acknowledgements.)
SA Government research had shown that delegates would not travel to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia unless there was a strong business component, which resulted in the ITBF. There was also a perception internationally that Australia has little or no IT expertise, so key messages across all communications tools addressed this.
AW researched the two previous WCITs, in Taipei and the US, to determine target audiences and assist in developing media strategies. The US provided strong feedback, particularly about problems gaining media interest.
- International executives and managers in IT, telecommunications, finance, legal, manufacturing and government
- IT and business writers local, national and international.
- General media local and national
- WCIT organising team
- ITBF (administered by SA Department of Industry & Trade)
- AIIA (WITSAs Australian member organisation)
- Federal Government
- Department of Communications, IT and the Arts
- Office of the Prime Minister
- Office of the Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts
- SA Government
- Office of the Premier
- Office of the Minister for Information Technology
- Other State departments of IT
- Event speakers
- Event sponsors
- Office of former <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US President Bill Clinton
- SA police (security)
- SA community
The IT, telecommunications and affiliated industries are part of a strong global network and SA has a thriving IT industry with important multinational connections, such as Microsoft and EDS. WITSA represents major IT associations in 41 countries.
The communication strategy utilised these networks, by fully briefing members on the events significance, and providing them with promotional materials for dissemination.
Online marketing was used where possible, as it was important to reach IT companies in an appropriate format.
Other networks included:
- Sponsors: more than 70, from multinationals such as EDS and Microsoft to all State and Federal Governments to small IT companies;
- Australian High Commissions in each of the target countries;
- WCIT/ITBF speakers: more than 60 from around the world;
- Media; and the
Monthly e-newsletters, building to bi-weekly, were emailed to members countries, for onsending to individual members. AW also worked with WITSA to capitalise on promotional opportunities, e.g. organising two media launches during WCIT.
October: A Ministerial cocktail briefing was held for about 50 Adelaide-based influencers belonging to national and international networks. Participants were provided with promotional materials for emailing or posting to their networks.
Industry and business associations
Key business events were identified for promotional opportunities, which involved providing speeches for Government Ministers or industry leaders and hand-out materials such as brochures, fliers, CD Roms, programs and presentation scripts.
Australian High Commissions/trade offices
WCIT and ITBF management undertook a series of overseas promotional roadshows from September. The budget did not allow a supporting media campaign in each country. AW contacted PR staff at Australian High Commissions in each country, who identified key business and IT media or used their own media contacts to place news releases, which AW had pre-prepared and tailored to each market.
September February: The State by State launch of the Secrets of Australian IT Innovation competition was a catalyst to start the PR campaign. Winning IT companies were given a showcase opportunity at the ITBF.
Each State department of IT (all WCIT sponsors) was given a Secrets launch kit including a news release, invitation, promotional materials and videos to ensure messages were consistent.
AW prepared a national launch release for the Federal Minister, and ran an ongoing campaign on shortlisted finalists and winners.
November: A visiting journalists program that brought key IT writers to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Adelaide met two objectives: generating WCIT/ITBF awareness, and raising the profile of SAs IT capability. Itineraries included key IT companies, along with event briefings.
November: To secure the support and understanding of SA media a lunch briefing was held with the visiting WITSA President, WCIT/ITBF and 12 senior media decision makers. This opened lines of communication and assisted in strong local coverage by radio, TV and print.
Ongoing: About 50 different news releases were systematically released to various target publics to drive registrations and, in the last month, build excitement in SA and Australia. (Appendix 3, Media Releases.)
AW worked closely with WCIT sponsors, the Australian Financial Review, Asia Business Week and BBC World, to maximise editorial opportunities.
January: AW managed all media accreditation and prepared separate media kits, covering protocols, speaker profiles and abstracts, news releases, backgrounders, venue maps and SA tourism information. Kits were also posted on the website. (Appendix 5, Promotional Materials.)
During ITBF/WCIT: AW managed a fully equipped media centre for the 150 accredited media. During ITBF media centres were set up at three venues.
Media centre duties included issuing daily news releases on program highlights; media conferences for each speaker; sourcing speakers papers; posting all information in centre and on website; organising interviews, including a daily interview via video conference for CNN in Hong Kong; and interviews for media not in attendance.
AW sought 10 volunteer PR students and graduates from UniSA to assist in the media centre, which was a huge success. AW held briefing meetings beforehand on protocols and requirements, and daily management within the media centres.
Monthly conference calls were organised with WCIT sponsors and partner associations to leverage joint promotional activities, for example regularly providing information for Telstra.com and assisting the New Zealand trade department with an IT promotion.
Briefing papers, speeches and media releases were required for Government sponsors: the offices of the Prime Minister, Federal Minister, Premier and State Ministers.
The high calibre of speakers provided a major chance for media promotion leading into WCIT/ITBF. AW worked with speakers and their PR agents to maximise opportunities, such as futurist Don Tapscotts four-page profile in the AFR Boss magazine and Adelaide-born Bob Bishop, CEO of Silicon Graphics, personally writing a column for the Advertiser. (Appendix 2, References.)
All PR material brochures, flyers, advertisements sent people to the WCIT/ITBF websites for detailed information. Media materials and e-newsletters were posted immediately. Links were established with appropriate global websites.
AW ran a website section for media, with news releases, speakers papers, photographs, program changes, media conferences, etc.
WCIT and ITBF managed advertising and direct mail activities, with AW providing copy. Limited advertising targeted sponsor newspapers, in-flight, and Internet banner ads. Direct mail fliers were distributed to WCIT databases and State Government databases.
Tracking the campaign
AW held weekly meetings with WCIT and ITBF, with any issues resolved as we progressed. A monthly report was written for the WCIT board.
Delegate numbers and country of origin were discussed at each meeting, and sometimes this required strategies to assist the CEO in targeting specific areas.
Maximising opportunities with the networks required a high degree of internal organisation by AW. Each consultant was assigned responsibilities that were tracked at daily meetings.
Results and evaluation
WCIT 2002 met or exceeded expectations in all areas. Over 1800 delegates attended 300 more than anticipated and 750 attended ITBF 450 over target.*
The target of one-third international delegates was reached, with 567 visitors from 55 countries.*
WCIT/ITBF had an economic benefit to the State of $12-15 million and investment discussions in SA are continuing with potential targets.*
Nearly 150 media were accredited 50 more than hoped including IT and business journalists based in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US, Europe and Asia, such as Nikkei Business Publications, Japans leading IT magazine, the Financial Times, BBC World, CNN, Reuters and Bloomberg.
Organisers regarded the level of media coverage as outstanding. Monitoring by Media Monitors included 465 press articles, 303 radio news/chat items, 34 TV items and 427 online articles. This did not include international or regional coverage, which was not monitored.
Interest in Mr Clinton was high, and the potential clash of the Queens visit was turned to advantage by cross-promoting Adelaides week of VIPs.
Highlights of the media program included:
- BBC World established a congress studio for a series of interviews for international news bulletins and its IT program Click Online.
- International news agencies Reuters and Bloomberg filed daily reports.
- CNN broadcast daily live TV interviews from Hong Kong via a videoconference link.
- The UKs Financial Times ran a preview supplement on Australian IT, and sent a journalist to Australia to cover the event.
- The Australian Financial Review produced a 12-page liftout each day.
- The Australian newspaper provided extensive daily coverage.
- Global online IT specialist ZD Net broadcast about 25 stories to its international audience, with the copy translated into six languages.
* Report on the IT Business Forum, Department of Industry and Trade, June 2002.
A survey on how delegates heard about WCIT indicated that each of AWs communications streams had an impact.
- Direct mail including ezine, 16%
- Media, 17%
- Previous attendee, 5%
- Word of mouth, 3%
- Other (including ambassadors program), 31%
- Sponsor, 28%