Soft Power at the Heart of Incentives

Soft power at the heart of incentives

Responding to the latest Incentive Travel Industry Index, 67 per cent of incentive travel professionals cited soft power as one of the most important benefits of an incentive travel programme, closing the gap with sales and profit (80 per cent) for the first time.

Four of the six top benefits named are connected with soft power rather than revenue. They are:

  • improved engagement of staff or channel partners – 74%
  • better relationship-building between employees and management – 68%
  • improved staff or channel partner retention – 67%
  • better relationship-building among employees – 64%

Now in its fifth year, the survey is carried out by the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (Site), The Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP), Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and is conducted in association with Oxford Economics. The study is a wide-ranging inquiry into the status and impact of incentive travel.

Respondents were almost evenly split between corporate end-users and agencies, representing 15 industries or sectors that typically use incentive travel as a performance-enhancement tool.  Financial services and Insurance, Pharma/Healthcare, Information and Communications Technology and Automotive were the top 4 sectors featured.

Authentic events with a soft centre

Although the focus of this survey was incentive travel, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the same soft power factors are the key to the success of all live events, especially in the context of corporate communications.  With such a diversity of social media that can potentially distort or detract from an important message, protecting an organisation’s integrity and reputation is a constant challenge. 

Live events provide a unique opportunity to deliver brand values, images and stories in 3-dimensional space, not off a flat screen with competing “noise” and digital distractions.  Social media can and does allow for corporate messages and identities to be reinforced and promoted widely, but there is much less control over the way the brand proposition is received. 

Creating the ideal environment and delivering an authentic brand experience requires subtle, soft touches and a shared feeling of involvement.  The visceral quality of live events cannot be replicated in other media.  Shared memories of an event reinforce the impressions of images, sounds, interaction and entertainment that live events create.  The keys to close harmony and outstanding performance include education, learning, continuous improvement and dialogue.  Engaging with partners and stakeholders is essential for any corporate enterprise to function efficiently. 

So, how does soft power translate into positive actions, reactions and results?  One key to understanding how live events achieve this transformation is the use of Event ROI (return on investment) methodology.  Because at the planning stage Event ROI starts with a set of criteria for success, it includes questions about objectives in terms of “relationship learning”.  The appropriate ambiance for the event, conducive to conversation, listening, participating and responding, is a vital element of the event experience.  The “soft centre” of an event is the unique feeling of recognition and appreciation that can be only be generated through personal contact and engagement.

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