Now, more than ever, organisations looking for events and activations assistance face a bewildering array of agency models. When the pressure is on to raise the bar from last year, or deliver any ambitious business objectives, it can be tricky to pick the right partner or partners for your project. That not only means the right know how, and the right skill sets, but the right scale and structure too.
This article aims to help you navigate the clutter and will outline when it will be best to select an integrated events agency or a variation on that theme. When you have a complex problem, you need a simple solution and integrated events agencies are often best placed to devise and deliver those landmark events.
Firstly, what is an Integrated Events Agency?
Although you may not get complete consensus on this, as opposed to a single service provider, integrated events agencies offer multiple and complementary services. Often offering several events and affiliated solutions under one roof, how many you need to qualify, is not an exact science but generally, the more the better, as you will get more of a one stop shop.
In our case, there are multiple service areas that combine to form several but integrated solution areas all using an in-house team:
- Strategy – from insight driven by stakeholder engagement and other market research, to creating an implementable events strategy, aligned to your marketing strategy and business objectives.
- Creative – An event theme, name, brand identity and all the associated graphic design (email and print invitations, landing pages, web design, digital campaigns etc). Getting your messaging exactly right.
- Content – from copy writing to all formats of screen content for all touchpoints, maintaining a consistent message.
- Communications – all aspects of disseminating the message to the right people, at the right time, in the right way. Sometimes using the disciplines of public relations and social media to build buzz talkability and excitement.
- Event activations – the nuts-and-bolts delivery of corporate industry conferences, and exhibitions, as well as hybrid events and experiential roadshows.
Why Choose an Integrated Events Agency?
There are many compelling reasons, and here are just five of the main ones:
Integrated event agencies are relatively agnostic in what constituents are needed to provide the best solution for any given situation. If you have all the tools at your disposal, you are not limited to only offering the ones you have - nothing is ‘too difficult, too expensive, or too hard.’
Most importantly, an independent agency is not a venue or other supplier with one purpose in mind – with the aim to extricate the maximum budget from you. Instead, they will advise on optimising your budget and negotiate with suppliers on your behalf.
2. Joined up thinking
When you have a larger in-house team co-working on event related projects, you would expect everyone to be on the same page. With fewer suppliers (including multiple agencies) there are less aspects to get lost in translation.
3. Ownership of projects
Like the last point, many integrated event agencies would allocate a senior project lead to coordinate all the different elements of any event delivery, eliminating grey areas where one agency could incorrectly assume that another owns an aspect of it. An integrated events agency should also have more ownership of overall business objectives, as part of your communications strategy.
4. Efficiency & price
With one integrated events agency providing multiple aspects of your events related requirements in-house, there are less opportunities for multiple marking up of pricing. By the time a service has been outsourced through intermediaries, there may be 3 or 4 layers of ‘profit’ being added to your invoice!
Generally, integrated events agencies are by necessity larger organisations with the accompanying level of maturity, stability and accreditations that brings. For example, we have been around for over 11 years and have over 50 talented individuals in our team.
Are there any pitfalls or disadvantages?
The most obvious pitfall would be if the integrated events agency had an area of weakness hidden alongside areas of strength. There is a ‘Jack of all trades’ paradox whereby the more things you do, the less good you are perceived at doing them. However, this does not have to be true. It is worth establishing if the integrated events agency is truly strong across all components in their own right.
Watch out for white labelling and fronting. Some organisations say ‘we do this’ liberally. If you are not careful, you can unwittingly end up with many more suppliers under the banner of a supposedly integrated events agency. Collaboration is fine if there is full transparency and disclosure.
Using a raft of freelancers can appear cheaper although when termed ‘consultancy’ - maybe not so! Freelance help can be useful for tactical and short-term projects but managing them over time and getting them to coordinate can require a lot of skill and management time.
Volume deals or other kickbacks that you are not aware of can exist. If an agency has a powerful incentive to use certain suppliers or venues, it may lead to a skewed proposal, so it is worth asking if any side deals exist.
What should you look for in your ideal Integrated Events Agency?
This may sound obvious but the ability for various in-house teams to work seamlessly together is important. There can be a tendency for teams to form a silo mentality, but this must be countered by good process, collaborative culture, and shared goals. An integrated event solution needs an integrated agency.
2. Local Knowledge
Make sure that your integrated events agency knows the territory they are operating in, or at least has credentials of prior work there. Some of the main benefits you can gain from local knowledge include access to networks and relationships with trusted suppliers, ‘hidden gems,’ and of course knowing the ‘market rate’ for things.
Very few agencies can hand on heart deliver everything in-house, and so will partner with selected partners to fulfil a project. Often it will be beneficial to draft in specialist help for certain aspects of a project for example, translation services. The key here is that you know when and why this is happening, alongside who is in-house vs external. You will be able to take comfort and reduce risk by trusting pre-existing agency collaborations and their ‘go to’ networks built on previous success.
As with all enjoyable and fruitful long -term agency/client working relationships, there must be good chemistry. You have to perform as one unit, and stronger relationships gets you through the tough times in better shape. Ideally there should be a good team synergy that matches agency and client-side expertise, experience as well as mindset.
Case Study for Qatar Airlines Launch
When Qatar airlines launched their new route from Cardiff it was Orchard that flew in to help.
A high stakes, high profile and complex project that encompassed the inaugural flight from Qatar with welcome, a banquet at Cardiff Castle, press conference at the five-star St. David’s Hotel & Spa, and on day two, a spectacular gala dinner with A-lister performance.
With only 10 days from approval to delivery, it takes an integrated events agency to pull it all together. Even with the added complexities of shifting UK border control and closing a public museum, we managed just this, with a team of over 150 staff involved at 3 venues and 12 different subcontractors.
- Airbus A350-900 aircraft greeted with the water cannons (fire engines were made to resemble dragons with lighting to colour the jets).
- A red-carpet ceremony, with a bespoke majalis (meeting space), erected media photo wall, an installation of 17,000+ red roses, and entertainment on the tarmac with VIP transfers for guests to St. David’s Hotel & Spa
- VIP reception and dinner was held in the spectacular Banqueting Hall in Cardiff Castle in the city centre of Cardiff
- Media reception and interviews with celebrity MC
- Gala Dinner in the Grand Hall of the National Museum for 350 invited guests with a technicolour performance by the LED Ballerinas, and headliner Paloma Faith.
- The project pulled in in-house expertise from across creative, content creation, communications, and activations as well as from our sister company, Orchard Live.
“I just wanted to congratulate and thank the Orchard team for the fantastic success of the events to celebrate the inaugural flight of the QR service between Doha and Cardiff’’ Debra Barber, CEO Cardiff Airport
Proof if needed for the integrated service approach, is that events companies start off as single silo boutiques often expand into this model. In fact, many find this natural evolution occurs as a result of client demands and a frustration of not being able to deliver in-house. Sometimes an agency really can do it all, but in reality, you may end up with a hybrid model with a larger lead integrated events agency supplemented by either freelance or other specialist help (preferably managed by the integrated agency). There are no fixed rules in this game, and one size will not fit all situations, let alone all types of projects.
However, if you need simpler solutions to your more complex events, choosing the right integrated event agency would be a great start.
Like to discuss how an integrated events agency can help you? Get in touch with our team.