8 Powerful tips for promoting community events
Kerri King / September 27, 2012
Event promotion is an art. Or maybe it is a science.
Actually, event promotion is a lot like gardening. You start with seeds of ideas. If you don’t fertilize those ideas with marketing and promotion, they die on the vine.
You need to look good—on paper and online.
It is important to make a powerful first impression and strong, striking visuals are the best way to do that.
Hire a professional designer to streamline the look of your promotional materials. People gravitate toward great design. Looking good begins with a powerful logo that conveys the spirit of the event. Use that logo consistently on everything you do. Your logo, combined with eye-catching graphics that represent your event, will reflect your brand. Many people skimp on this critical step, but your visual communications are speaking for you in places where you can’t speak for yourself and so I urge you to make sure they are saying the right things. Ask around a bit and then hire a good designer. Make sure you have this in the event budget right from day one.
Professional photography is essential to connecting with your audience. You need bold, powerful photos that grab attention, hold it, and compel your customer. Great photography always makes a difference, and will set you apart from the rest of the competition. If your budget won’t allow you to hire a professional, consider using an online stock photo supplier such as iStockphoto.com, for high quality images that can help you polish your look.
Consider hiring a copywriter as well. A professional writer can make your ideas shine in a way that most can’t. Again, if you don’t have the budget for a professional, ensure that you have a trusted person review and edit your content for grammar and spelling. Don’t rely on spell check. Above all else, use the right language to connect with your audience.
Word of mouth is your most powerful advertising medium.
You are on the right track when other people are selling your event for you.
How do you make word-of-mouth work for you? First, determine your target audience. Segment your market, and learn about them. The more you know about who you are trying to reach, the better.
The Power of Partnerships.
Be sure to keep your contact list up to date. People move. Positions change. Businesses relocate. Knowing the whereabouts of strong potential event partners will make your job to communicate easier.
Develop strong relationships with other business people, extended family, friends, clients and anyone you can tell about your service or event. One of the best places to build your contact network is your local chamber of commerce or board of trade. They can provide you with the opportunities to network, sponsor events, volunteer and show your expertise. You can further promote your events through their newsletters, websites and special events.
This is key: look for opportunities to help other businesses. If you work together with other people who are in businesses that are related to yours, you open up new worlds of potential and opportunity.
Always be selling.
Always look your best. From the way you dress, to the way you speak, and even the way you answer your phone, everything you do says something about you and your event. The way you handle voicemail, present your business card or email signature, will give people a reason to buy into you and therefore your event. If you want people to have confidence in you, show them that you have confidence in yourself.
Carry your promotional materials with you everywhere, and give them out freely. When you’re promoting an event, you’re always selling. Always.
Key messaging is your best friend.
Develop some stock phrases, or key messages (but not jargon!) that come naturally and easily to you. Use these key messages to elevate your message to your potential audience and to your social network.
Create a one-page backgrounder or online “About” page that provides essential information about your event with high-level information. This will give your audience something tangible to take away and study at their convenience. They also provide a complete understanding of your offering, considering they are brief enough to easily understand. Use language that your audience will understand to illustrate your vision.
To start, all you really have to do is expand on your key messages and answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when and why. Create your own backgrounder on your professionally designed letterhead or template that reflects your brand.
This backgrounder is a great base to create a news release highlighting your event. You want to develop a news release that is tailored to the media you are distributing it to. We’re talking clear, concise information, targeted for the editors of newspapers, radio and television. You want to grab the editor’s attention with first sentence and run with it.
Think of an inverted triangle when it comes to organizing your information. Start with the most important points, and provide details further down. Do your best to limit the entire release to one page if possible, or two pages maximum.
Use a spokesperson to sell your media release. Adding a quote to the release can break up otherwise factual information, and provide human interest. Distribute your release at least three weeks ahead of your event to get on to editors’ radars in order to generate some earned media.
Developing and maintaining relationships with the media is where it’s at.
Use your news release to strike up a conversation with the media. Reach out and cultivate strong relationships with them. Send them information on your event, particularly if you can tie those in to the local community.
To decide what editors want, pick up their publications, or tune into their programming to analyze their content. As you study each piece, ask yourself, “how can I adapt my messaging to this media outlet?” If you’re doing something that might make a good photo in the local paper, let the editor know, but bear in mind that they want to shoot the photos themselves.
Remember, every editor is very busy and only wants to hear from you when it’s valuable to his or her media outlet. Be very familiar with the type of content that they publish prior to pitching your event and make sure you pitch an angle that will work for them. Untargeted media releases are treated as spam by most media these days.
Build your relationships with local editors the same way you would build any business relationship. Provide value and earn their trust. If you witness a news event, call your editor to report it. Position yourself as a trusted source of information.
You can no longer afford to ignore the use of social media.
Keep an eye on social media trends and use them to provide value. Set up a Facebook account to help you stay in contact with the people who matter to you most. As you become more comfortable with social media, set up LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Using social media platforms for marketing is now a real job, requiring real social intelligence, so make sure the right person is operating your accounts if you are not the one doing it for yourself.
Don’t let the magnitude of social media options overwhelm you. Be mindful of the time you devote to it—it can become a huge distraction if you don’t. Consider this: it is better to be doing an excellent job on fewer social media platforms than it is to be frantically trying to keep up on a larger number which can really dilute the power of your overall social media efforts.
Whether you feel comfortable with new technology or not, you have to recognize its place in today’s fast-paced world. Social media platforms are not a novelty: they are the new cornerstone of how many people are communicating and your audience is most likely using them now.
Your media launch event sets the tone for your big event. Make it awesome.
Events are like candy for the media, particularly if they involve celebrities of some sort. It’s a fact that events and celebrities make the news. You will always be competing with other organizations and individuals to get the media’s attention, but with a solid launch event and an engaging celebrity guest, you can be sure they will show up. Also important for the guest list: local politicians. Get them on board with your event early, and get them involved.
One big attraction that will draw people is food…and wine, of course. It’s amazing how a couple hundred dollars worth of food and wine can buy you thousands of dollars worth of publicity.
Be sure to set your media launch for a day and time that suits the media outlets you are most trying to attract. Consider their deadlines, print dates and other obligations they may have in their schedules. Make it easy for them to say “yes” when you invite them to your launch.
If you consider the above eight steps as you plan and launch your event, you will add considerable momentum to both word of mouth as well as any paid advertising your choose to do. Best of luck with your events, and feel free to jump on Twitter and tweet your event listings to me to check out. If you have any further suggestions for powerful promoting of community events, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Kerri King is the manager of Tourism for The Regional Municipality of Durham in Ontario, Canada. She can be found on Twitter @KerriKingDurham