Daniel Heather, Coffs Harbour City Council / Stadium & Major Events

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Tell us a little bit about yourself, Daniel … 

Born and bred on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, I have spent close to 20 years in event management running major events across Australia and New Zealand. While I wasn’t really looking to leave Sydney, the position with Council came up, and after researching the Coffs Coast, I felt compelled to put my name in the ring. Now two and a half years on, my wife and I have settled in happily at Emerald Beach and welcomed our little boy, Taj, to the world, who spends more time at the beach than me – yes, slightly jealous!

What is your role at Council, and what does it entail?

As the Section Leader for Stadium and Major Events, I work within the City Prosperity team, which also oversees industry and tourism development. My role is twofold; firstly, venue management for the C.ex Coffs International Stadium, which is largely operational management of the venue and the Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park precinct. I work with an incredibly talented team of greenkeepers, event coordinators, sports development and event bookings officers. Our team also maintains around 20 local sport fields throughout the area. The second area I focus on is attracting and assisting with major events. This might be hands-on organisation of major events on behalf of the city, or working with other groups and businesses to help get their event over the line.

What role do you play in bringing major events to the Coffs Coast? 

Largely, it’s a support role. Councils can sometimes be perceived as blocking creativity or creating red tape, and this would be challenging for event organisers trying to bring events to the region. The Stadium and Major Event section of Council doesn’t want this label. We take a proactive role in working and partnering with event organisers, suppliers and venues to make running events on the Coffs Coast easier. Events are a big economic driver for all sorts of businesses across the region, and one of our goals is to attract, grow and keep events in Coffs Harbour – so making it easier is a logical starting point.

There have been some major events held on the Coffs Coast in recent years, such as National Oz Tag, AFL and soccer matches. What’s planned for the future? 

Coffs Harbour is in a strong position with the C.ex Coffs International Stadium. The playing surface is nationally regarded as one of the best, broadcast capable lighting allows us to attract televised games, and the Leisure Park Precinct provides large volumes of playing fields capable of hosting major tournaments. Now with the grandstand upgrades taking place in 2018/2019, we are really cementing our position as regional NSW’s premier sports facility.

We have also worked hard to develop strong relationships with sports like AFL and cricket at a state and national level, the FFA and many others. A big part of our success as a regional venue is thanks to these relationships. Just recently we have seen OzTag confirm Coffs Harbour to host four competitions each year through until 2021. Touch Football Australia also announced another four year partnership with the city, and we are working on a number of events to coincide with the new grandstands being completed.

There seems to be a positive movement of new public events on the Coffs Coast, such as Blues & Berries, Jetty Food & Wine Festival and the Screenwave International Film Festival, just to name a few. What role do you play in assisting these events to come to life? 

I think it’s fantastic to see growth in this area. Coffs Coast has several regular (and spectacular!) annual events and festivals. The ones you mention happen largely thanks to some very passionate local people. However, there is room for more. Recently we saw Midnight Oil and Paul Kelly play in Coffs, as well as a number of other great acts; without a purpose-built entertainment centre or outdoor performance space, we can be overlooked for these types of events. Whether we are working with local operators or national touring companies, our team can help identify possible event sites, and help navigate the complex requirements needed to run a safe and successful event. Major events often require many different groups to work together, and we can help to facilitate this.

What would you say are the key positives about doing business on the Coffs Coast? 

I am continually impressed by the level of quality, professionalism, creativity and passion from businesses in Coffs Harbour. I am sure some regional areas would need to look to capital cities to get quality products and services, but not in Coffs … we have it all right here! There is also a high level of collaboration between businesses on the Coffs Coast. It feels as though many businesses share the “big vision” – that by supporting each other and supporting events, it will ultimately help grow the region and in turn, benefit businesses.

Building strong relationships with stakeholders must play a large part of your role; what is your approach to this? 

Absolutely; it’s a big part of the role. I have always taken pride in building rapport with people. I think being able to adapt your style when working with different people helps greatly. It doesn’t mean you need to change your values or not be true to yourself; however, being able to relate to people and find common ground just allows you to work together with ease. Events are very collaborative projects, and their success relies on many stakeholders working together, so being able to have a good working relationship with everyone involved is essential to get the job done.

What marketing tools have you used to promote events in the past, and what do you find most successful?

It is important to understand your target audience, and make sure you are using the most effective channels to reach that audience. If your event targets women over 50, you would not have the same campaign if your event was targeting 18 – 25 year olds. A well rounded advertising campaign is always good, if budget permits.

More and more people rely on social media, and don’t get me wrong, it can be very effective, but it should be just one part of your marketing mix. Generally people need to see a new message numerous times before they act. So if they see a Facebook post, an ad or editorial in a magazine like FOCUS, a street poster, and hear it on the radio, you’ll have a higher rate of success than just relying on just one medium.

Your “call to action” is also critical. Creating awareness is hard enough, so think about what you want people to do when you have their attention; for example, “buy tickets online now”.

And finally, something I have always found works well is creating engagement with your event before it actually starts, through a competition, for example. A high level of engagement creates a high level of “word of mouth” and excitement around your event, which will ultimately be your most powerful marketing tool.

What excites you about the Coffs Coast?

What’s still to come! On a personal level I love where we live, surfing and exploring the beautiful region, and from a professional perspective, I feel as though the Coffs Coast is on the verge of big things and am so thrilled to be part of it all. It’s exciting times!

Thanks Daniel.

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