Digital media are becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix for corporate and exhibition management professionals, according to a report issued last week by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research and the experience marketing company, George P. Johnson.

The report, “Digital & Exhibit Marketing Insights,” is based on an online survey of 287 exhibition management executives and senior marketers, conducted in April and May 2009.

According to the report, more than three out of four exhibition managers (78 percent) promote their events digitally, compared to 62 percent of corporate brand exhibitors. Forty percent of respondents consider digital marketing to be a vital component in executing their events.

E-mail marketing is the most widely used digital marketing tactic— 95 percent of exhibition management executives and 87 percent of corporate brand marketers report using e-mail marketing. Exhibit managers are also marketing through their Web sites (74 percent), online advertising (69 percent), social media sites (62 percent), Web-based event management tools (42 percent), blogs (36 percent), Webcasts (31 percent), online video (31 percent), podcasts (26 percent), Google Adwords (26 percent), RSS feeds (22 percent), and virtual complements to live events (16 percent).

The survey also drilled down on virtual media, which it defined to include webinars, webcasts, web conferences, events in virtual worlds, and virtual trade shows. These solutions are used more widely by corporate brand marketers than exhibition management executives (40 percent versus 31 percent, respectively).

In a webcast held last week to discuss the findings, Vicki Hennin, vice president, strategic marketing and business intelligence, Diversified Business Communications, said she wasn’t surprised that virtual media is being adopted more quickly on the corporate side than the exhibition management side because corporate brand marketers are always looking for ways to aggressively extend their companies’ reach.

Paul Salinger, vice president, marketing, for the enterprise software company Oracle, added that using virtual media present “a real challenge on the exhibition management side.” There’s a question, he said, of whether that kind of content can be monetized, so it’s not surprising that exhibition management professionals are more cautious in adopting virtual media.

Webinars are, by far, the most common virtual-media tool. Of those respondents who do use virtual media, 83 percent of exhibition managers and 76 percent of corporate brand marketers run webinars. And almost half of those respondents plan live webcasts. About 10 percent do events in virtual worlds, while 38 percent of corporate brand marketers and 37 percent of exhibition managers have produced virtual exhibitions.

Webcasts and webinars remain “robust delivery systems,” said Salinger, while there is still some skepticism about other kinds of virtual media.

Why are virtual media being used? The most common reason given by survey respondents is that it helps them reach a geographically diverse customer and employee base. Almost two-thirds of the respondents also said that in the future they expect that the importance of virtual media will “increase strongly” when promoting events.