ImageWith SXSW Interactive upon us some marketers and communications professionals are excited about days on end of networking, parties, panels and new people all in one place. Others are panicking. 

Late nights, a few drinks and not just 100s but 1,000s of attendees is an overwhelming proposition and while it can be difficult to stay up to date with everything happening in Austin from afar, it’s absolutely impossible to keep up with what’s happening surrounding your company, event and industry while on-site and on the go 24/7. We’ve all been there – the backlogged email, the frantic texts from employees back at the office asking about how to respond to something you haven’t even read yet – while SXSW has the potential to be a game changing event for some marketers, it’s also a taxing one too. 

Additionally, marketers are being forced to evidence the value of sending squads of staff to SXSW each March. Many executives aren’t just blindly putting it under the expense category of “brand visibility” especially as analytics tools for deriving marketing ROI are getting more sophisticated. Photos on your Facebook of your team in branded t-shirts are not enough. As the recent Association of National Advertisers Top Concerns Survey pointed out, accountability, metrics, industry benchmarks and measurement tools are the number one concern right now for executives and those worries are followed closely by evolving digital, social and mobile media proliferation and traditional media growth and measurement.

With these top concerns in mind it’s critical that marketers and PR professionals don’t head into SXSW thinking it’s a fun break from the norm; it’s really more of a highly entertaining test to see how good you are. How well aligned are the analytics and automation solutions you’ve already adopted and put in place? Are they able to capture every piece of social, traditional, online and proprietary piece of web-facing information being shared around your brand during the event? Are you able to access and leverage that information while you’re on the go via a mobile app? Is the information reaching you faster than it’s getting into the hands of your boss or your competition?

A simple way to think about it is – you don’t know what you’re missing. But when you’re away and having a good time you’re likely to miss more yet be able to get away with it less. In order to maintain the budget that marketers are using to get to SXSW they have to think about these concerns before they get to Texas. They better believe someone’s going to take them to task if things slip while they’re gone. If you can’t keep up with the pace of online information while you’re traveling, networking (read: partying) and eating BBQ then this might be your last trip to Austin. (If you’re not heading to SXSW take a look at a board we built so that you can keep up with everything going on at the event from afar).

My recommendation: Think ahead about how you’re sourcing real-time information and look for the correlations to marketing ROI to be tied to that information at the front end – backing into it is much harder, trust us.

So much effort and money over the last few years has gone towards brands pre-planning their online activities. There are management tools to schedule every kind of social media correspondence and even others to help brands source the very content needed to feed their communities. With all the prep work to ensure limited fan and follower attrition (and hopefully growth), why not give keeping up with the non-owned conversations themselves and quantifying their results even greater consideration? That’s what’s going to grow your budget.

image:Ricardo Garza / Shutterstock.com