In this section, we're going to look at a real brand event manager job description—as described by a professional; Charlotte Saynor, former Head of European Events, Apple and former Vice President, Brands and Events, FremantleMedia Enterprises..
The are two different types of brand event planners; those that work ‘client side’ / in-house for the brand, and those that work ‘agency’ providing a service to the client. In the previous section, we looked at the job of an experiential producer working for an agency. In this section, we'll hear a first-hand account of a brand event manager job description from a professional working in-house:
Charlotte Saynor is the former Vice President of Brands and Events for FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME), one of the world largest creators, producers, and distributors of TV programs such as The X Factor, America’s Got Talent, The Apprentice, and American Idol.
Initially joining FME as Global Head of Events, Charlotte’s role involved managing the global events program covering trade shows, conventions, festivals, brand launch events, executive conferences, and sponsorship events. Overseeing a team of 10 people, she has produced events in locations such as New York, London, Las Vegas, and Cannes.
Prior to FME, Charlotte was the Head of European events for Apple and has also organized events for TV brands such as Lost and Desperate Housewives whilst at Disney ABC . In 2013, she left FME and founded her own corporate event agency, Saynor Events.
“Our core events center around trade shows, and we’ll often do brand launch events around those trade shows. For example, at MIPCOM in Cannes we would design and build a large self-contained exhibition stand housed within the main trade show, in order to showcase both our corporate brand and our portfolio of TV brands during the day.
Then we might hold individual evening or lunch events at separate venues to market and sell specific TV show brands, such as X Factor USA or Jamie Oliver’s latest cooking show, to international broadcasters, such as Channel 4 in the UK or Seven Network in Australia. For each brand we have to translate the theme of that brand, in this case a TV show, into something visual and experiential."
“The first step is to start with a brief, both for ourselves and any external event agency we may be working with to produce the event. Even though we may do the same event in the calendar every year, we still do a brief each time because things change and it’s just good to remember what the objectives are every time you start a project.
The brief will contain things like the objectives, what the budget is, and what the deliverables are—such as a screening of a show.
There will also be information about when it is, who the audience is, what the format and running order is for the event, what the brand values are, and—say for The X Factor brand—a synopsis of the show.
We include anything that might give a bit of background for an external event agency to engage with and understand what the program is all about and whom the stakeholders are."
"In terms of stakeholders, sometimes we own our own intellectual property (i.e. the brand/TV program) or we might co-produce a show like X Factor with Simon Cowell’s company Syco. Alternatively, we might acquire third-party brands where we work with the owners and we just market and sell them, e.g. Jamie Oliver; we just sell his shows internationally but he produces it with his own company.
To get all the information for the brief means liaising with the various stakeholders and internal departments, such as the brand managers.
So, there might be a brand manager for X Factor and they would need to input from a brand perspective; what the brand values are, what the competitive landscape is, what understanding do they want people to take away, the brand guidelines—what we can and can’t do, what the style guides are, etc.
Then there’s the commercial side of things to consider. You might get input from the CEO or the sales team, to understand what their sales targets are for that brand and what they’re trying to achieve from a launch event.
It’s not always about just selling a particular TV show brand. Sometimes it’s more about corporate positioning or publicizing a new relationship with a new production partner or talent."
"There are two key factors to consider: the corporate positioning of FME and those objectives, and the individual brand objectives for say, The X Factor. At trade shows, you’re often representing all different brands.
First of all, you’ve got to sit down and work out which of the core brands have to be represented and how they’ll sit alongside each other at a trade show—because often they might not. You might have a kid’s show and an adult martial arts/combat show. You’ve really got to think about how they’re going to sit beside each other; how are you going to represent that portfolio of shows in a way that’s going to make sense to people walking up to the trade show booth? So that they say, ‘I get what you do’."
"We pull all this information together in the brief and see what’s still missing, then we’ll use that to go back to everyone and say ‘is this what you want?’
This is important in a corporate environment because people aren’t always clear what the brief is or what they actually want from an event and you’ve got to be quite good at pulling that brief out of people.
The way I find works pretty well is to take what you already know, put it into a brief document, and then take it back to the stakeholders and use that as a framework to have further conversations. It’s also an effective way of getting them to buy into your ideas.”
“After the brief, you have to identify what resources you may need to make that brief happen. You might use different venues and suppliers for different types of events.
For example, if it requires a very creative event that requires translating something on paper into some sort of visual spectacle or experiential event, then I might use a company that does a lot of theatrical design, décor, and set building.
Whereas, I have other suppliers that I’ll use for building the exhibition stand and displays.
Similarly, I’ll have high-end catering companies that I might need to use for Jamie Oliver events—because, although we’ll be working with his chefs, I still need a catering company to provide all the fresh ingredients, linen, tableware, ovens, and staff—but I might use a different type of caterer for a more corporate event."
"We then write specific briefs for all the suppliers and then meet with them to discuss everything. They then present back with their ideas, designs, and costs and there’s usually a period where elements are revised, adjusted, or fine-tuned before contracts are signed. Then there’s a period where my team sit back and let them all get on with their respective roles."
"In the meantime, we might be sourcing brand collateral, such as specific artwork that has to be created for invitations, banners, signage, and brochures. Alternatively, I might need to get hold of scripts to get a better idea of how the show will develop, or I might need to get promo reels of footage edited to screen at the event."
"During this phase, we have weekly project meetings where we report to the entire marketing department about where we’re at and they feed into me about where they are with sourcing their individual elements. Those meetings really keep you on track, so you know what still needs to be done and this leads nicely into creating a production schedule for the event itself.”
“There’s lots of creative work involved in brand events, that’s what I love about it. Also, the brands are all different. You can go from planning an exclusive lunch and cooking demonstration for Jamie Oliver’s show, to a more highbrow event with Sir David Frost interviewing the director Oliver Stone live on stage about his program The Untold History of the United States, to creating a Wizards v Aliens experience for a kids show.
You’re trying to showcase a TV show brand at a launch event and you can have a lot of fun with that. But you’ve got to be creative and pragmatic to take an idea and turn it into something that’s going to work.
I think some people fall down on the pragmatic side because you can get quite carried away with the idea, but you’ve got to stop yourself at some point and realize that you’ve still got to make it work."
"In addition to the individual brand events, we also have to design and build exhibition stands, which is quite architectural. You’ve got to think in 3D and be able to visualize the space in terms of height and structure, thinking about what furniture you’re going to use and how many people you’re going to be able to fit in a certain space.
We recently built a booth in Las Vegas that was completely white but we put a bright green carpet in. It can involve making bold design choices, where you’re never really going to be sure whether it works until you peel back the plastic and see it in situ.
Then there’s all the graphics and printed materials, which might involve digital printing on fabric, mesh, PVC, vinyl or decals, and not forgetting video, both in terms of the equipment; the plasmas and LED screens, but also the footage itself for promo reels.”
“Budget is everything and you’ve got to be able to justify it against the return. You’ve always got to be confident that what you’ve spent is the right amount. I often speak to the sales guys to see what their sales forecast is for a particular show, which I can use to determine the budget for the event.
Sometimes an event might not just be about the sale of a show, it might be about leveraging a relationship with a TV production company, like the BBC for example, for future opportunities. We might spend more than you think we should be spending on a particular event because there may be a return on that investment in three years’ time from that production company.
You’ve got to understand what the parameters are, which means asking the right questions like, ‘What’s the forecasting against the brand?’, ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ or ‘Are you trying to sell the show off the back of this event, or will it be more about getting press coverage?’
You have to be strategic and commercial when you’re working on brand events. To be good at this role you’ve got to understand the bigger picture."
"I think measuring return on investment is one of the hardest things to do in events. ‘How do you prove that an event directly resulted in something? It’s very hard, but also an essential part of the job, more and more nowadays.
It comes back to making sure you have a clear brief and then checking back with that after the event to see if you achieved those things. A lot of that can be qualitative, rather than quantitative. Delivering in budget, getting the right people through the door, receiving positive feedback, and generating press coverage are all things we look at."
"After every event, we’ll do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis and include in that report all the sales data, details of who attended—broken down into key buyers, publicity, and testimonials.
Also, for us, whatever we learn from each event is also a return on investment because whatever you learn you take to the next event.”