Why Brightcove Pivoted to a Virtual Customer Conference
What is it about live industry events?
They’re addictive, and sometimes unforgettable. They can drive huge results for our brands, and are always somehow completely exhausting.
But we love them.
Some elements of events are irreplaceable in a digital form: The energy of a crowd; the satisfaction of our wanderlust; the immersion of being on location.
That’s why, when Brightcove announced that we wouldn’t be gathering at the Encore Boston Harbor for PLAY 2020 due to the pandemic, I was disappointed. I’d spoken at PLAY in previous years and had been looking forward to emceeing fireside chat interviews and moderating panel discussions this year. I was ready to learn from each of the speakers, meet attendees, and to ride the unspoken thrill of all that could go wrong in a live experience.
When it was cancelled, I’d expected the same fate for so many events in 2020: a virtual seminar experience.
I was so wrong. And I wanted the chance to explain why I’m so excited about what the Brightcove team did instead.
[A full disclaimer that Brightcove is a client - more on that below - but this post was my idea. I have a reputation for calling out the marketing industry’s bad behavior, earning me the nickname “unapologetic marketing truth-teller,” but I believe in celebrating our high points and proud moments. PLAY TV is undeniably one of them. Carry on.]
Here are three lessons all teams can takeaway from Brightcove’s new, Netflix-like, binge-worthy streaming experience, PLAY TV, which launched this week:
1. Change begets change
When is the right time to take a risk? There’s no easy answer, but times of immense change create the best environment for further change. Looking at the pandemic through this lens, it’s a phenomenal time to go big.
“We were originally thinking this would be a pivot. It was actually a total transformation,” said Brightcove CMO Sara Larsen, when we chatted via Zoom to talk about the experience of bringing PLAY TV to life.
“Unlike a live conference, it requires totally different content formats more akin to a TV, broadcast, or entertainment experience. When you program a live event, there’s a playbook for that content. There was no playbook for this.”
Of course there’s no playbook. This is not a conference, it’s a totally new streaming service. It’s got live scheduled elements, oodles of on-demand video, and it’s all available right now on mobile, TV, or the web. It lives on well beyond the 1-2 days of a conference, too, with new content planned.
This is no virtual event. It’s an entire buffet.
This shift meant that goals must of course change as well. Sara revealed that even with a turnaround time of less than 60 days, the team immediately crushed their original signup goals before launch.
Without the physical barrier to entry - literally, the need for hotels or flights, companies could send 5-10 team members rather than the traditional 1-2. (The price point likely helped here as well. FREE is a very compelling offer!) It’s a lesson in going big and changing what we know to be the status quo. If not now, then when?
2. Play to your strengths
Brightcove is running PLAY TV on its own product, Brightcove Beacon™, their new SaaS-based, OTT platform. Talk about drinking your own champagne… what better way to demo a product then to immerse users in it?
“New products succeed not because of the features and functionality they offer but because of the experiences they enable.” - Clayton M. Christensen, Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice
“This was a company-wide effort to ensure our own technology could reach new audiences at scale, no matter how they wanted to watch this content - apps, web, mobile and smart TVs,” Sara told me.
The strength of this platform is how well it aligns with the modern consumption habits of video viewers today - our proclivity for binging, our short attention spans, our desire for content on-demand.
“While some of the same content could translate from the original on-site plan, the format had to be different,” she explained.
The team constructed a true Netflix experience, including series with multiple episodes, original content in specific channels, all delivered in a way that allows the viewer to navigate across themes.
3. Remember what matters
What makes this streaming experience really work is that it celebrates one the most fundamental parts of any live event: the content itself.
“In a streaming experience, the convenience is there. It’s all about the content,” Sara pointed out.
I asked her how they decided what content would make the cut for PLAY TV: “We looked at what type of content was most relevant to our audience in the past at earlier PLAY events. We knew that they wanted thought leadership content, inspirational stories and keynotes from people that can help them think differently. Just as important were specific how-to series with content that is both practical and actionable. Finally, we knew customer content and stories are critical.”
I had the opportunity to interview Brightcove’s Chief Product Officer, Charles Chu (live on PLAY TV now) and a variety of Brightcove customers (coming soon.) Personally, I can attest that our conversations will be helpful to peers navigating the world of video, as they get to the heart of our industry’s accelerated adoption of digital transformation - it’s people! I had the opportunity to interview remarkable people at the center of the shift to digital, and to tell their amazing stories.
Brightcove’s team stepped up with creativity and resilience in a time of wild uncertainty to bring PLAY TV to life. They did it of course to firstly protect the health and safety of all involved with the event, but it’s also a testament to the power of adaptation. In my opinion, they’ve raised the bar for all teams to reimagine conferences as we knew them.
Those who adapt, thrive
This a weird new normal, I’ll admit. We’re living in a time when the Met Opera can be live-streamed, globally (also, by the way, a Brightcove experience.) But just as change begets change in-market, it must do so within ourselves as well.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin
This is a creative and bold statement from Brightcove on what an industry conference can be.
Will this become the new battleground as conferences are put on hold and the world of business content goes full Netflix? Though I will miss in-person events for a while, if this shift forces all teams to raise the bar YoY on high-quality content, delivered through digital experiences that are uber-convenient, count me in.