A nonprofit organization recently asked my advice on ways in which they can promote their fundraising event to raise awareness and maximize tickets sales. I provided them with several tips useful to any business who is promoting an event and needs to increase attendance, drive sales, or grow membership. Depending on the size of your budget, there are at least five areas you should consider, including public relations, email marketing, collaborative partnerships, digital/social media, and advertising. Here’s a brief overview of each idea and where to start:
Generally, public relations is marketing communication that is not paid, unlike advertising which one purchases specific placement in various media.
Press Release: this is a written form of communication describing your event. Think of it as the “who, what, where, when and how” story. Pointers:
It should be a short story of approximately 250-300 words. It is short so those who get thousands of these a day can sift through and get the main points quickly.
Have a catchy headline and start with a paragraph of why it benefits the community.
Have someone proofread it so it is free of grammatical errors.
Have a date, your website, and your contact person’s name, phone number, and email address.
The press release is sent to assignment editors at television stations, magazines, and newspapers, and to the community relations managers or program directors of radio stations.
The goal is to get someone in local media to carry a story about your event. The benefits are many, including establishing credibility, depth of detail about your event, and affiliation with the station or publication.
Should you have a connection with or know someone in media who has a particular interest in your story, you should email that person. For example, if you’re raising money for Autism and you know a local news reporter has a child with Autism, they make a great person to help you spread the word. Prepare to send him or her your press release.
Many media companies have free community calendars you can post your event or a link to your event. Contact the local television stations, radio stations, and newspapers to find out more about the process.
Email Marketing Lists
Send emails to all of the people who have attended your previous events. Include a brief introduction which starts with what’s in it for them to support your event. If you do not have a list or you have a small list, look for partners to collaborate with that do have lists.
Ask yourself what organizations are similar to yours that benefit from collaborating efforts. If you’re a nonprofit, what other nonprofits attract the same people as you? Sometimes people think these are competitors, but they can be mutually beneficial to each other. If you are in a for-profit business, what types of businesses are similar to yours, but not direct competitors? For example, you own a heating and air conditioning company, you can contact roofing companies, solar companies, plumbing companies, or organizations supporting your industry, Home Improvement. In addition, contact past or current customers and vendors to help get your message out.
Digital & Social Media
Include your event on your website. Create a special page or section just for the event. Make it prominent so people do not take too much effort to find the information. Link your event to your social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram. You want all these components working together. If you have a video of last year’s event, add it to your digital, social media, email marketing, and press release.
If your budget allows, invest in an advertising campaign. The reason you marry this with public relations is that you can guarantee your message is getting out to an audience because you are paying for the delivery. What media is best? It depends on your event.
Broadcast television is very effective if you need to reach a large amount of people in a large geographic area. Television is among the most influential media because it uses the power of sight, sound, color, motion, and emotion. Why do you see politicians take over TV during elections? Because it works in influencing voters and it will work to influence your consumers too.
Cable television offers two ways to buy, large areas and smaller communities. If you only need a small community of people to market to, this is a good investment. Broadcast and Cable television require an additional investment to create a commercial message, so it may not be the most efficient for small budgets.
Radio is another great option, especially for the ability to target specific audiences. For example, part of your event involves a country band, it is smart to look at the country radio station for a tie-in or promotional partner. Or you want to reach a young male audience, you can identify that too. Radio offers a smaller reach than broadcast television, however, it makes up for it with greater frequency. Imagine shouting your message out several times, that’s how people remember. Most radio stations produce your commercial message for free with your advertising investment.
Digital Advertising is another excellent option. The ability to target specific audiences is available too and you can track your efforts. There are many options from keyword searches, to display advertising, geo-fencing, and paid social media (like Facebook). The downside is there are thousands of options, so do some research to ensure you get what you need.
Print includes newspaper, magazines, and special publications. Depending on how big your local newspaper is determines how often they publish and the prices. You do not have to be on the front page to be effective, you can choose a section that fits your event and save money. In addition, many newspapers offer “native” advertising or “advertorials” which are articles that you pay to have them publish in the paper or online. Generally, local magazines are published monthly, so plan ahead if using this medium.
While this may seem like a long list of items on your to-do list, you do not have to implement all of the ideas. Determine your organization’s short-term and long-term goals, who you want to target, and how much of a budget, if any, you have to invest. Focus your energy on the ideas above that best meet your goals. If this seems overwhelming or you do not have time to commit, hire a professional to help you with your event. The investment is worth your successful outcome.