In times of never-ending budget haircuts, liquid marketing budgets are often first to get clipped. Events especially are top targets for trimming because they may seem redundant with other marketing strategies.

This is unfortunate because creating your own event, your own marketplace, is an extremely valuable and rare opportunity to interact live and in-person with audiences, building connections and relationships. 

De Standaard’s recent event, “Nacht van De Standaard” (A Night with De Standaard), is a prime example.

Nacht van De Standaard was an interactive event for 1,500 attendees at De Singel.
Nacht van De Standaard was an interactive event for 1,500 attendees at De Singel.

All year long, news staff at our Belgian newspaper, De Standaard, works behind closed doors, doing desktop publishing. Our most frequent direct communication with readers is from a weekly customer service report, in which we read about complaints and a ranking of main reasons for unsubscribing.

This should not be the case.

De Standaard, like any news media company in the world, should make it a top priority to talk directly to readers. That is why we decided to host our own showcase.

Nacht van De Standaard was a lively, interactive, exhibition-style event that filled the house at De Singel in Antwerp, one of the main cultural halls in the country. More than 1,500 attendees experienced 18 multi-disciplinary presentations, ranging from a political debate to virtual reality, an architectural tour, wine tasting, a film, a jazz concert, and more.

De Standaard staff talked with readers at the event.
De Standaard staff talked with readers at the event.

To plan our event, we closely studied leading examples of similar events, such as Nacht van NRC (Handelsblad) and The Guardian Members. We put together a scenario in which our network of journalists, columnists, photographers, opinion leaders, gastronomy writers, cartoonists, etc. all gathered to offer a view on their domain and interact with the readers of De Standaard.

Guests could choose their menu of activities to experience, picking whatever they liked best about De Standaard. Everywhere there were journalists meeting and chatting with heavy readers of De Standaard, each of whom gave their uncensored opinion on our medium.

The night was unforgettable and carefully directed. Every domain of the newspaper was covered, and it brought De Standaard to life for the readers, who were grateful for the experience and left as not just readers, but also ambassadors for our newspaper. Nacht van De Standaard was also shortlisted for the 2016 Best Event Awards, and a video was created with scenes from the evening.

Attendees could choose from a menu of 18 multi-disciplinary presentations during the event.
Attendees could choose from a menu of 18 multi-disciplinary presentations during the event.

An event on this scale takes a lot of energy, but it is a worthy investment because there is no better way to engage with readers this intimately. When our staff returned to the newsroom on Monday, they not only knew what they were writing, but also for whom they were writing it.