Social value needs to be the foundation for all future live events
A view from Michael Gietzen

Social value needs to be the foundation for all future live events

Putting our emphasis on embedding social values into client events has huge potential to determine where best to invest resources.

"Social value", a term that has been in our vernacular for a while, is a global movement. For those of us in the events, marketing and advertising space this is a movement that it is vital we join and, most importantly, implement.

In simple terms, social value maximises the social, economic and environmental benefits a project has on local individuals, communities and society in general. For example, the value we experience, here at Identity's HQ in Eastbourne, from living by the sea and the South Downs is important to us but cannot be compared in the same way that financial value is.

Before setting up Identity, I qualified as a chartered accountant, so I absolutely appreciate the value of ROI and financial measurables. Nevertheless, by changing the way we, agencies and clients alike, account for value, we work towards a world with increased equality and a more sustainable environment.

On a wider level, putting our emphasis on embedding social value into client events has huge potential to determine where best to invest resources.

Social value and the G7 

Identity's preparations for the delivery of the G7 Summit in Cornwall is in full swing as I write this. Our ability to deliver credible, impactful and long-lasting social value, alongside everything else that is expected of an event of this calibre, is an important cornerstone of the entire project.

G7, commencing on 11 June, is the UK's first international live event since the onset of the pandemic and leaving the EU. For some event commentators, the G7 Summit might be "just another conference", albeit hosting some of the world's most powerful people. However, critical to its delivery is the implementation of a range of innovative and far-reaching social value that will leave a positive legacy.

For example, Identity is helping to up-skill a new generation of event and media professionals with mentoring and paid work-experience placements over the course of the delivery of G7. This ensures that the production of such a high-profile event is also a learning point for others.

We are networked to sustainable suppliers and, of course, will be delivering on a vast range of sustainable objectives (plastic-free, energy-efficient, minimal waste and so on), while also supporting the local economy with a commitment to work with local suppliers for the event.

Some of the team are volunteer mentors to help support local people adversely affected by Covid-19 back into work, alongside working with Speakers for Schools a careers programme specifically aimed at high-need schools with poor access to work experience.

Why is this important to the events sector in general?

Social values ensure that event projects and plans have society at their heart and make good business sense. It helps set tangible objectives that define positive outcomes for people, society and budget management – as well as positive outcomes for the clients' brands.

However, outside the public sector, I feel there is still a gap in understanding social values, possibly due to the inherent difficulty in measuring actual value with total accuracy. Admittedly, this is changing rapidly, particularly with the work of organisations such as Isla and Social Enterprise UK.

Operating a social value steering group for each event is a good starting point. For the delivery of the G7 Summit, the Identity steering group is tasked with implementing, monitoring and measuring our social value commitments for the delivery of the entire project. A similar steering group can be established for any client or brand to work in tandem with the delivery of their event.

A social value approach for all future events

The charge to incorporate social values in campaigns and events is being made by progressive brands and marketers.

The will is there, the skills are abundant within the sector and the positive outcomes are potentially "priceless". What brand or client would not want to be associated with that?

It shows a growing desire to do things differently. A desire to help communities thrive long after the event is complete and the last truck is loaded up and gone.

Relative value post-pandemic

The past year has been transformative. Agencies and brands have had to become even more adaptable and imaginative. These experiences have helped reaffirm our collective commitment to do good by our community and the environment we live in.

It has forced the events industry (clients and agencies) to look at the successful ingredients that make up a long-term client-agency-audience relationship. It has shown that to thrive in a meaningful way clients and their agencies must work together to deliver real value, not just financial value, to society.

Changing the way that we create and deliver events, enhancing the wider impacts on society and holding ourselves to account for these, is essential to achieve the transformation our society needs.

This is not just good for society; this is great for our clients' brands.

Social value must be part of the foundations for all future live events. Yes, I'll proudly hang my hat on that.

Michael Gietzen is managing director of Identity

Image: Gietzen and Janet Dodd, director of live events at Identity, visit Cornwall ahead of G7 Summit