Big Idea: Mark Dewings, SoundCloud

Mark Dewings, head of brand and marketing comms at SoundCloud, discusses how to stand out at SXSW.

Every year, Austin, TX, throws open its doors to thousands of musicians, technologists, filmmakers, and music fans for the South by Southwest festival.

For SoundCloud, SXSW still sits firmly at the intersection of everything that is important to our platform and the people who use it, people who love tech and listen to the latest music, podcasts, and comedy.

Last year, with a modest budget, we launched a product, held an event, and introduced brand and platform partners. We developed our strategy by applying the same set of principles we use when we go about building our product.

Building relationships
The first principle is to be part of the community. We looked at how best to service the needs of the artists and performers, including integrating our players into the SXSW website, ensuring we were represented on many panels, becoming an official showcase, and organized meet-ups.

Secondly, be engaging. In 2007, Twitter-mania struck as screens throughout SXSW displayed tweets about where the few influencers using the platform were having lunch.

Product launches at SXSW 2014 will struggle to get anything like that kind of traction, but it's still the perfect stage to engage users with your product, as long as you give them a place and incentive to do so. This year we're going to try to bring our community of creators and listeners in on a crowdsourced project. I can't give too much away, but it should be a fun experience for everyone and will live on long after the event

Creativity is key
We left our planning late last year, but found a venue that had never been used for SXSW before, only minutes from the conference center with a great view of the lake. It's not just about budgets, but also the concept, content, and community that create the event.

Finally, be visible. SXSW should be as interesting for people who aren't there as it is for those who are. Take advantage of earned media opportunities leading up to, during, and after the conference.

We did not bring our event properly to our social channels last year and missed an opportunity to engage our users. We will rectify that this year as we'll be creating and distributing content via our platform and bringing the event to life for millions of people.

As marketers and PR pros, we have a single aim: to cut through the clutter by being different. Whether it's at SXSW or a press hit, that's the goal. It should be no more difficult to stand out from the crowd at SXSW than anywhere else on the Web - or in the world. 

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