Hacking it: how to use your hack day to market your company

Hack days are a great way to unleash your team’s creativity, bring people together and generate new products and services. They are usually one or two-day events where developers, designers and other come together to build new things. They are often competitive, with prizes for the best ideas. The more diverse the hack teams, the more interesting the hacks. That is why people often invite teams from other companies.

Transparency is one of the most effective ways to market a business, particularly a B2B one. If you’re innovative, collaborative, and open to new ideas, let people know about it. You’ll win more business, and recruit better people.

Happen worked with Octopus Energy to promote its hack day. Other innovative, tech-driven companies in the energy sector were invited to see what they could do with the Agile Octopus tariff. This gives people access to half-hourly energy prices, tied to wholesale rates and updated throughout the day. So if people shift their energy consumption to times when demand is lower they pay less.

So how to make the most out of your hack day as part of your marketing?

Think about what and how you want to communicate before, during and after the hack day. If it is an internal event or invite only, your communication needs to be clear and comprehensive. If you’re trying to reach new people, you probably also want a dedicated landing page or website, and an online event service to allow people to sign up. You’ll also want to promote your hack day on Twitter and Facebook and via relevant Google and LinkedIn groups.

You should also invite journalists and bloggers to your hack day. Bear in mind that they are much more likely to come if you ask them to judge the projects.

Plan the day carefully. It shouldn’t just run smoothly, it should also have a sense of drama and fun. Have an MC welcome everyone and update people about the time remaining throughout the day. Think about the presentations – don’t let things drag on too long – and have different categories (with different prizes!). This is particularly important if you’re filming the day. A hack day is a format, with a clear story, like the Great British Bake Off. So think about what key moments you need to capture, and who your key characters are. Make sure your MC and judges are good on camera, and that you show the true diversity of your company.

During the day itself, you will obviously need a robust network and excellent WiFi. You should also have a hashtag and to encourage participants to Tweet, post, etc about the event. You should do the same, ideally sharing photos and short videos as well as text. Be aware that not everyone likes being photographed and filmed – check that people are happy for you to snap them first.

If you’re filming, be clear about the type of film you want. A single camera operator cannot film every second of every presentation if they’re also capturing audience reaction. Octopus wanted a film giving a sense of the day. We filmed its key moments and captured a good mix of footage: interviews and fly-on-the-wall b-roll, including moments with natural sound, which help bring a film alive for the viewer. We used music to add drama and timelapse video to show the passage of time.

If you’ve inviting external teams to your hack day, think about how you can help them promote themselves, and you in the process. During the Octopus hack day, we filmed and edited a number of short films about individual teams during the day itself. Octopus was therefore able to give them the videos to share on their social media channels.

After the event, let journalists and bloggers know about the winners. Write about it on your blog and share your film on social media. But also think longer-term. If any of the hacks turn into something bigger, tell people about it, including members of the other teams. Make sure you explain how your new product or service came about, and how your hack day was so crucial to its success.

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