If you’ve decided to shake up your events this year and strive for a “new normal”, be sure you also raise the bar for event promotion as well. After all, you need to get your message out in order to fill seats, promote your cause, and engage your members or supporters.
Try a “multi-touch” approach
Unfortunately, there isn’t one sure-fire event promotion vehicle or channel – it’s about finding the winning mix of communications for your audience. So if your organization has traditionally focused solely on a printed program sent by mail, maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Try a multi-touch approach by adding some new communications tools to your event promotion toolbox. There's a wide range of online and offline event promotion channels you can consider, including: direct mail; email; social media; websites; PR; event calendars; paid promotions and so on.
Here are 5 tips to help you get your event’s message out this year:
1. Start with a fresh idea
Since promotion is pivotal to an event’s success, the volunteers or staff responsible for event publicity need to play an active role during the initial event planning stages. If you want to take this year’s event beyond the status quo, you need to start with a fresh idea or approach. Those tasked with event promotion should help develop the entire event experience - from the theme through to exploring methods of promoting audience participation. Experts, such as Jeff Hurt suggest that the trends for this year include moving from “passive information consumption to actively contributing, discussing, creating and participating.” Event participants “want to engage with others about the content that is being shared or about the needs they face.”
So whether you are planning a conference, workshop or a fundraising event, start with an inspirational theme or format to engage your audience from the very first teaser or save-the-date message, and throughout the event.
2. Plan it and share it
If you are going to create a multi-touch or multi-channel promotion campaign, you need to start with a plan. This means identifying clear objectives; understanding your audience and how to best reach them; and developing key messaging for consistency across all communications. If you build in enough lead time, with effective planning, and willing publicity volunteers or staff, you can promote your event effectively with little or no cost.
And while one individual should take charge of coordinating this plan, you might consider delegating tasks across the communications channels. For example, a social media savvy volunteer might want to take charge of your Twitter and/or Facebook messaging. Alternately, you might ask the newsletter editor or forum manager to develop and publish a series of posts.
Once you develop the promotion plan, be sure to share it with the rest of the event volunteers and staff, who can get the message out via their networks.You should also involve your speakers, partners and sponsors in your promotion plans. They will likely be happy to promote the event to their networks. But make it easy for them to share by offering:
- guest posts for their blog or forums;
- a list of suggested tweets;
- draft text, visuals and links to event information
3. Move it online
If you’ve traditionally focused mainly on offline event promotion, maybe it’s time to try moving things online!
Focus on your website:
Your website is the first place folks can and should go for details on your event. Once on your website, participants should be able to find the information they need and register online. There are many opportunities for event publicity through your website – here are a few examples you can consider:
- Include a message about the event on your homepage -- in the “news” or “upcoming events” sections;
- Include an event listing in your online events calendar;
- Create a dedicated web page for your event -- that can include photos, details, maps and a link to online registration;
- Include information about the event in your Members-only Forum and create new discussion threads that your supporters or members can follow;
- Promote the event through a series of posts on your blog
Online tools can help you get your message out
Moving things online can also help streamline your outbound communication. If you are using association or membership management software with events capabilities, you can automate both your promotion and registration, making it easier on yourself and your registrants. For example, at a minimum you want to:
- Create automatic email event notices to all or select groups of contacts in your database (e.g., members, supporters, past event guests, etc.)
- Send automated email reminders few weeks or a few days in advance of the event
- Enable online registration and auto confirmations
4. Try getting more social
This year, why not try mixing it up – blend your traditional offline or email approach with some social media. But bear in mind that whichever social media you choose and regardless of who is initiating the message, you need to create consistent messaging across all networks. If you are new to social media, here are a few ideas for starting to get your events message out via social media networks:
- Enable social sharing. Make it easy for folks to share! If you haven’t already, be sure you enable social media sharing on your website. The process of embedding sharing buttons or widgets (for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) will depend on your web platform. Most system providers offer simple instructions for embedding code for these widgets.
- Twitter: Be sure to create a Twitter hashtag for the event and ask folks to use it when they tweet about key event information and updates. And be sure to include your hashtag on all event web pages, emails, blogs, etc. to build buzz.
- Facebook: If you don’t already have one, consider creating a Facebook page – so you can post information regularly about your event (share photos, blog posts, etc.) and folks can “Like” and share this with their Facebook friends. You can also “promote posts” on Facebook to get your message out to a broader audience. If you don’t have access to online events management software, you might consider creating a Facebook Event
- YouTube: Create and/or edit an existing video promoting your event and/or your organization and upload this to YouTube or Flickr.
- LinkedIn: You can promote your event to your own LinkedIn network by “sharing” an update with a link to your event page; Facebook event, etc. You can also use the LinkedIn Events Application to automatically promote the event to your network (the people you are connected to in the first level on LinkedIn).
5. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth
How can you harness the power of word-of-mouth to get your message out? Well, it might sound silly, but sometimes all you have to do is ask! It’s amazing how much sharing you can encourage just by asking all of your networks to “please RT”, please “Like” this post or simply, "kindly share." Ask your board, your partners, your speakers and sponsors to help get the message out via their social networks. And as noted above, be sure to make it easy for folks to share by providing sharing tools and buttons in all of your event promotions.
Of course, having an innovative concept will help encourage viral sharing. As discussed in #1 having an exciting, fresh and inventive event concept will make it easier to build excitement and motivate folks to help get your events message out.
If you'd like more information on event promotion or planning, you can check out some of the resources in our Membership Knowledge Hub, including our:
Image source: Businessman-with-megaphone, courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com