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How to Promote a Local Event

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Local events can be a great way to get your community aware of, and involved with, your business or cause. Yet many clients complain that these events are poorly attended. Here are some tips on how to promote a local event to increase attendance and involvement!

Planning:

A successful event requires advanced planning. Yes, there are always things we can do to help get the word out for an event next week but set yourself up for success by planning ahead.

Check your local community calendars. If you are setting up a family event or one where you want to draw parents, be sure to check the school calendar(s) for vacation days, the sports teams’ calendars for games and playoffs, the local theater for plays and any other events which would cause a conflict for your attendees. Even if your target audience is adults, check the community calendar for concerts in the park, pub crawls or any other events which might keep them from attending.

Keep track of all the calendars you find so you can reach out to them with YOUR event info and request that they include it on THEIR calendars where relevant.

Branding:

Create BRANDED visuals. Create posters and fliers for print as well as digital platforms. Use the same imagery and colors so as you get the word out in multiple ways, people immediately recognize the event. Check how the imagery looks in B&W so if your budget is tight, you have the option of printing in B&W.

You may want to consider creating a logo for the event. An annual BBQ at a fire station may warrant a fun logo – or, if that is not in the cards, definitely include the fire company logo and/or the town seal on the posters and fliers so people recognize your organization.

Consider partnering with the local high school’s art department to have a logo design contest. Reserve the right to NOT use an entry as the final design (in case none of them really work well for you) and be sure to publicly thank the school and of course the winner, if there is one!

See if one of your organization’s members (or their child or spouse) wants to contribute and/or put the word out to the community that you would like design submissions. Having a local artist create the art for the posters and fliers can be a great way to build awareness of the event as well as community spirit!

Use consistent imagery. Using a photo of a family on a picnic blanket for one poster and a cartoon bunny on another to promote your Easter Egg hunt may actually confuse your potential attendees. You don’t have to use the exact same images on all your collateral but be consistent in the content and feel. Stick with photos OR cartoons and use similar colors.

Digital Support:

Create a Branded Landing Page. If possible, create a page, either a web page on your website or a Facebook Event Page, with the event info, the reason you are doing this, your monetary goal and the progress you are making towards it. Update this page weekly or daily, depending on your manpower, but be sure to keep it up to date. Use the logo and the same imagery and colors to reinforce your branding efforts.

Share this web address on the fliers, posters and any press releases. Be sure to have this set up in advance so you have the address ready to include on any collateral.

Visuals to show how close you are to reaching your goal, can be helpful. Update these along the way and at the end!

Before the event:

Use all means available to you to get the word out and be sure to ask your organization members to help as well!

Social Media: Many local communities have Facebook Pages – if you have one, be sure to post the event info there with a call to action to both attend and to spread the word. If you do not yet have one, now may be the time to set one up!

Use your own social profile to promote the event and ask others to share the news. Explain what the event is for. Are you trying to buy new computers for the library or equipment for the science lab? Enumerate the benefits to the community and let them know how much money you need to raise. Yes, everyone always wants to raise ‘as much as possible’ but let them know that the goal is a specific amount – you can always exceed it! If the event is purely to introduce your new business to the community or to thank the community for their patronage, that is fine too – just let them know!

Always give people a way to send donations. This way, even if they cannot attend, they can contribute. Let them know that you appreciate these contributions and that any amount helps towards the goal.

Give people a way to RSVP – a Facebook event will automatically have this functionality. This helps you get the word out. When someone RSVP’s ‘yes’ or indicates that they are interested in attending the event, their Facebook ‘friends’ will be notified of this, letting more people know about the event and hopefully, driving traffic to that web address so they can learn more about WHY you are organizing the event.

If you are truly a local non-profit, you may be allowed to put fliers in kids backpacks in the local schools. It may be worth the printing cost. Remember, you can do ½ page fliers if cutting does not add more cost than savings!

Bulletin boards: Many places, including restaurants and bars, the library, the post office, the community center, places of worship and the supermarket still have old school style bulletin boards in their lobbies. Anywhere that allows you to post a flier, do it. It can help with visibility and remind people of the event even after they have decided to attend!

Many community organizations also have VIRTUAL bulletin boards – places where you can post local information and events. Track them down and post there as well.

Outreach: Reach out to local places of worship and schools to see if you can get your event listing placed in any of their publications or mailings.

Local News: This is local news – make sure that it makes their broadcasts and digital copy! Contact the local print and TV media. Ask for help getting the word out and make it easy for them to cover the event live.

Email Marketing: If you have a mailing list, send out a ‘Save the Date’ mailing as well as a ‘Reminder’ as it gets closer. Be sure they are branded with similar imagery and include calls to action to attend, to check the website to learn more, to bring friends and to donate if they will not be able to make it.

Many digital marketers will suggest weekly or worse, daily, reminders but I highly recommend AGAINST this approach. Do NOT abuse your mailing privileges – that is the quickest way to get someone to unsubscribe or worse yet, to get reported as spam. If you nurture the list, you will have it for your next event and see it grow.

Strategic Partners: In addition to the local schools, teams and places of worship, think about other businesses who can include your info in THEIR mailings. Local realtors can be a great fit, as they frequently have good mailing lists and have a vested interest in building a strong community.

Have all the pertinent info ready to go. Make it REALLY EASY for any of your strategic partners to drop your info into their mailings. Have the date, time and location as well as a brief description of WHY you are doing this, who will benefit (hint, it should be THEM – the reader/community member!) a link to any digital pages and a call to action to attend, to bring friends and family and to spread the word. If this is an adult only event, like a pub crawl or something where children will not be allowed, be sure to clarify this. And include your logo or any imagery so they can help you reinforce your branding.

Press Releases: I don’t think that you can count on much visibility from a press release but if you have time, file a free one – it cannot hurt!

During the Event:

Live tweet. Consider creating a hashtag and asking people to tweet for you!

Use Facebook Live and any other platforms that you think may reach your community. If you are not comfortable with these platforms, find a community member who IS and ask for them to do it for you.

Take photos and video! This is another opportunity to get the high school involved. Ask them to send a photography student. And hopefully the local paper will have someone there as well.

Have someone socially sharing images and video with a call to action to join you. This needs to be done EARLY in the event so people can still jump in. Plan this ahead of time and be sure that they are comfortable with the tools and platforms.

Build an email list. Collect email addresses so you have a way to reach people next time. Do NOT use a signup list where people can see the names and/or email addresses of others. I suggest putting out strips of paper with prompts for names and email addresses CLEARLY WRITTEN and/or, if you have someone who can monitor it for you, use one of the signup tools where people can type in their info into a tablet or laptop right at the event. Using a service like Constant Contact, you can set up a ‘TEXT to JOIN’ link where people can text a word to a specific number to join your list, right there, from their phone. All this requires is a series of signs with instructions.

You may want to consider raffling off something to those who join the mailing list. This can be a great way to engage and thank any strategic partners.

If you do have a Facebook Page for your community, be sure to mention it and to ask people to like and follow it.

After the Event:

Post a thank you on the webpage and any other event pages along with an update on your monetary progress toward the goal as well as any photos and video of the event. Leave that donation page open and make it clear that even if they were not able to attend, they can still leave a donation of any amount! Even if you have achieved your monetary goal, include the call the action as there may be people who are still interested in what you are doing and who want to be a part of it – give them a way to do this.

Tell them that the page will only be open for one week following the event, then pull it down. If it is, or will become, an annual event, be sure to remind them of the date of the next one! Then remember to take it down. Do not leave it hanging open. If you want to keep it for future use, explain that the event has passed, leave the photos and videos and leave a call to action to have them join you next year.

If you did a mailing, you may want to send a thank you with a follow-up on meeting your goal as well as a reminder about the date of next one.

If you have a Facebook page for the community, post photos and an update on the page and ask people to comment on how they enjoyed the event. Ask them to share their own photos. If you are open to suggestions, ask for people’s thoughts on how to improve the event for next time. Be aware that you may hear many more negative comments than positive ones and be prepared to have someone with infinite patience, reply to each one, even if it is just a quick note that says thank you for your comment.

Then start planning that next event.

I hope you found these tips on how to promote a local event helpful and please contact me at 973.275.9497 if you need ideas on how to promote a local event of your own and click here to see more useful tips to make the most of YOUR events!

Through live and virtual classes and one-on-one training sessions LisaMarie Dias helps professionals optimize their digital presence and master online tools to grow their businesses.

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