In 2007, Forrester published our first report on engagement. We defined it as "the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence that an individual has with a brand over time." Fast forward five years: marketers still prioritize engagement in both principle and practice. Why? Two reasons, really. First, it's the right aspiration. When a brand gets it right and earns a place in the ongoing dialogue, its customers become its fiercest advocates and a kind of outsourced marketing department. Second, it's hard to do. Today, we're talking about ongoing interactions that somehow manage to stay authentic and personal despite the explosion of devices and customer touchpoints. So, as marketers, I believe that we prioritize engagement because we enjoy the challenge (Solving it makes victory all the sweeter!).

On May 23 in London, I'm hosting our inaugural Interactive Marketing Summit on the topic of Mastering Digital Engagement. Our external keynotes include Debbie Weinstein, Senior Director of Global Media Innovation at Unilever; Clive Roach, Social Media Strategist at Philips Healthcare; and Jermaine Dupri, Grammy-award winning producer, CEO of So So Def Recordings, hip-hop artist, and songwriter. I'm a bit in awe of their fabulousness. You can expect our keynotes to address key points such as:

  • How to stay personal and still scale.  Debbie likes to talk about earned media in terms of "over the garden gate" conversations due to the personal, high-trust nature of the exchange. That said, in any successful fast-moving consumer goods company, what matters is moving product at scale. So how do the two mesh together? Brands like Marmite and Dove routinely identify key influential consumers to help tell the story — in Marmite's case reaching the right 30 in order to reach 1 million for the launch of a new product. 
  • How to make engagement work in a B2B context. Clive talks about the need to stay engaged with key influencers throughout the B2B sales cycle, which is much longer than most B2C situations. This requires upfront research on their needs and interests, and the channels they use to get their jobs done. The efforts must always be grounded in the business objective. Clive shared with me, "The goal is not to be great at Social Media. The goal is to be good or better at business because of Social Media."
  • How to connect with the always-on consumer. Jermaine recently founded Global 14, a social networking site focused on hip-hop, fashion, and R&B. While the appeal of the site cuts across age groups, there's clearly a strong following of young "hyper-connected" consumers. The site has become a kind of living lab for learning about and reaching this group. I'll be sitting down with Jermaine to discuss the unique expectations of these consumers, and how they change the way that artists and brands alike must communicate.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, I will be hosting a Q&A with each of our fabulous speakers on the Forrester Interactive Marketing blog. So expect more online and even more at the event. There are details of the Summit here, or you can follow the Summit on LinkedIn here. I hope to see you in London!