AS MEETING PLANNERS, we spend most of our days planning, promoting, and executing complex meetings. And most of us are very good at what we do. We negotiate killer deals on venues, we recruit stunning speakers, we bring together hundreds or even thousands of attendees to our meetings, and we ensure that those attendees have a fantastic experience by orchestrating complex logistics with flawless grace. In the moment, we reign supreme.

But what does all of that matter if nobody else knows about it? If our customers — attendees, exhibitors, commercial supporters, joint sponsors, or other medical organizations who contract us to do their meeting planning — can't quite recall the name of our organization? If we don't have exposure for our accomplishments in the public eye, or if strangers don't immediately call our name to mind when seeking a new meeting planner? Where is the tomorrow in all of this fabulous today? Put more simply — how do we keep the lights on?

In order to thrive, we must make “the brand called You” an absolute priority. Carve out the time. Make it happen. It is the only way to ensure that today develops into tomorrow.

Your Three Key Messages

Marketing one's brand is a complex process. What's the story we create for our audience? We should know our own story so well that we can tell it to others. Start simple. Pick three key messages that succinctly tell your story. For example, “My organization differentiates itself from the market because…:

  1. We have one of the best repeat-customer ratings in the industry.

  2. Our programs have won awards around the world.

  3. Our staff are all certified meeting planners with years of experience.

Focus on what makes your organization different than your competitors. Do you have access to medical supply companies? This can come in handy when an exhibitor forgets a critical part to their wet lab exhibit. If you can help, you become a valuable ally in the success of that meeting. What separates you from the pack?

Whatever messages you chose, use these same three key messages in every story you tell, whether it's a press release, a letter to customers, or a Web site. No matter where a client hears or reads your story, s/he should hear the same thing. You build consistency and brand awareness in the mind of your audience.

Start Small

Start small. Marketing programs don't have to be expensive. A well-written press release can gain lots of free exposure if you take the time to communicate with trade magazines — or even your local newspaper. This kind of publicity is implied endorsement from the editor or journalist — audiences see it as a recommendation.

Other get-started ideas include placing an advertisement in trade journals read by your customers. Send a letter or an e-mail to medical advertising or public relations companies. Better yet, try to meet with key executives from these companies in person. Often, these agencies make recommendations to their clients, the pharmaceutical industry, about CME programs or other medical meetings.

Create a Web site and be sure that all your key messages are there. Keep it simple, focus on your message, and encourage site visitors to contact you for more information. The most important thing to do with your Web site? Get the help of a professional to make sure that your site hits the top of the list for the major search engines. Most pharmaceutical marketers turn to the Web first as a top-line research tool when selecting a new partner. Be part of the action.

Keep an eye on this column in the future. We'll bring you more tips on how to let the world know what makes “the brand called You” something to pay attention to. Meanwhile, get out there and start building your story. After all, if you don't tell it, no one will.

Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group, an international medical communications consulting agency. She can be reached at