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The best way to promote your event

June 3, 2008   |   AUTHOR: Julius Solaris   |   POSTED IN: event management

This is a collective effort of the Linkedin community to help you in promoting your event. We have a 1450+ Event Planning & Management Group there which I invite you to join. The community has so far answered on what makes an event outstanding, the top 5 qualities of the successful event manager and running your own event business.

If you missed this chance, try answering the next question.

Here is the question:

What are the top 5 ways to promote an event? Social media, traditional media, networking. What techniques have proven to be the most effective according to your experience?

The best answer (the first you’ll see below) was selected, as always, according to my own preference. You can use comments to vote yours.

I must say that choosing the top answer has never been so difficult. I really loved those talking about word of mouth as well as targeting and scroll down for the FedEx secret which I really enjoyed.

- Kerry Gleason – President, Gleason Public Relations says:

The best promotional vehicles for an event will vary based on the type of event and your budget. Gleason PR has a track record of creating successful events, and turning around annual events that seem to have lost their appeal. Here are some “Guerilla marketing” tactics that work:

1. First thing – Develop a good website that will give people the basic info they need. Incorporate the 5 Ws and an H : who, what, where, when, why and how. Include ticket prices and where to get tickets, if applicable. Better yet, work in a link through your online store or via PayPal where people may purchase the tickets online. You will want to direct people to this website in everything you do. Develop the website at least a month before the event, and be sure to submit the URL to all the search engines you can, and Google at the very least.

Use social media (MySpace, Facebook and others) to direct people to the website. We had tremendous luck using MySpace in this manner, especially with college-age groups and teens.

2. Public Relations — Write two documents: 1. a Media Advisory, that contains the 5 Ws and an H; 2. A Press Release, that provides additional details about the event, with focus on the benefits people will gain from attending. Submit the Media Advisory at least 3-4 weeks in advance to:

Calendar of Events Listings (Newspaper, TV and Radio)
News Assignment Editors (TV)
Department Editors (daily and weekly newspapers)
Specialized magazines

Follow that up with the full release. Submit that to:

Producers of top Morning Radio Shows
Producers for local morning TV interview shows, Community Affairs programs, specialized target media
Post it on a News Distribution website (e.g. Business Wire, PR Newswire or NY Newswire)
Any media you can

3. Use the Venue, Vendors and Sponsors. Last year, we introduced Pizza All-Stars (TM) to raise money for the ALS Association, and the venue that hosted our event had dozens of other events in the month leading up to the event. We posted flyers next to the doors for every restroom in the place and promoted our new event to people who were used to coming to that venue. Send flyers to vendors and sponsors, so they can inform their employees and colleagues.

4. Strategic Media buys. Dollar-off admission coupons are very effective in print. Radio is often segmented demographically, and you can find the radio station that reaches your target and blast some ads. Don’t spend a lot of money on radio that hits more than a week out, unless it’s a large venue and a chance of selling out. Radio builds impulse and word-of-mouth attendance.

5. Third-Party Endorsement. If you can get support from a media sponsor, or bring in a celebrity or expert who will tell people “Come on out and see us there,” it works! In the case of Pizza All-Stars, we were written up in a national trade publication, which inspired a lot of interest among the pizza makers. The magazine became a sponsor.
Links:

– Jason Doiron – CFRT Radio coordinator at Association des francophones du Nunavut says:

In my situation, a small community in Northern Canada, promoting an event can be done many ways. Here are some of them that find most effective in small communities or small groups within a city or town:

-Word of mouth : The best way to promote an event is to, well, promote it. Talk about it to others. Give out information, a pamphlet. Your approach will depend on who you want to reach.

-Social networking: Facebook, myspace, Youtube.com and other websites of the sort tend to reach the most people that know you right from the start. Your facebook friend will read more of your message than that of a stranger, right? Right.

-Multiplatform promotion: If you’re into media buying (and this for bigger events), you might want to prepare a multiplatform promotional tactic. Using radio, print, Internet, and posters on the wall will cost more than social networking, but might reach a more localized audience.

-Spokesperson: a spokesperson might revitalize the image of your event. Maybe a local celebrity might want to endorse your event. Who you choose depends on the type and importance of your event.

-Post-event promotion: If your event is a yearly thing, and you want people to talk about your event, even after the happening, invite a few journalists who might find it pertinent to write about it in the press. Local journalists might me more inclined to come if it is a community event, while national journalists might be more inclined to come if the event has a more global cause or goal.

There’s my two cents worth. Hope it helps!

- Ali Syme – Consultant at SB-Bioplastics says:

Paper cups! Printed cups are brilliant. An all day event for example, that’s a lot of drinks required, a lot of people standing and talking holding cups – photographers taking pictures, visible prints etc. I was at an event where they had a floor plan printed on the cup.

- Arne Hulstein – Consultant, entrepreneur and professional dreamer says:

I guess it is all up to the event you want to market. If it is local, then other techniques would suit it better than an international event. My first suggestion then would be to find out your target audience and find out what are their favorite hangouts both on and offline.

Regardless of the type, size and character of the event, there is one way that always beats any other. Enthusiastic word of mouth is the best way to pull people to your event. If people are suggested to go somewhere because their friends say it is ‘fantastic’, you stand a much better chance they would actually go than when you say it.

- Gabriele Lelli – Ufficio Acquisti – Centro Ceramico Bologna says:

I think it’s related to your target and his communication habits…

If it’s a local event and oriented to the public, some advertising (newspapers or radio) can help.
If you want high profile participation, a direct contact (as soon as possible) is preferable.
If you target is heavy Internet user, you should use a (dedicated) website, emails, blogs, facebook,…

Then, you can use your usual media in a smarter way: change frequently the key sentences in your email signature and instant messaging slogan, use web 2.0 sites (create content for flickr, youtube, upcoming,… and use standard tags to gain visibility and create a little “brand” for the event).

Try to find some enthusiasts to help you to promote your event. Word-of-mouth is yet the best way to promote something!

If it is suitable, participate directly to barcamps with presentation to promote your event. But be careful to give real content and not only advertising: the barcamp participants are upsets with “empty messages”.

- Brent Alexander – Director of New Business Development says:

1. Radio…Radio has shown amazing results lately, even with the satellite radio.

2. Web Advertising: Banner ads, trackable ads, rolling ads based of data segmentation

3. Personalized email campaign tied to 1:1 Direct Mail Campaign
-tracking the results of your web traffic. Not just the volume, but who is your traffic

4. Creative direct mail: personalized, packaging, offer/incentive, secondary domain tied to individual name or code

5. Follow-up: email, direct mail, radio and save the date

I know this is very basic, but this plan works and can be altered based off testing different methods. Tracking key data is the key to your success. Relevant content leads to results!

- Paula Bardell-Hedley – Director of Research & Marketing, LDS Tourism Services Ltd. says:

Without a doubt, printed literature positioned in the right place to catch the eye of potential clients/visitors is still one of the most successful (and cost effective) ways to market an event. Should the funds for your promotional campaign be very limited, then this method alone will usually suffice.

So, my top five would be:

1. Leaflet/flyer distribution & display campaign.
2. Announcements on local radio.
3. Adverts in publications aimed at your audience.
4. Regular plugging on suitable forums, business networks etc.
5. TV/cinema adverts – if you have a super-large budget!

- Suzanne Levison – Owner, SLS Creative and Staffing and Recruiting Consultant says:

My first question to you would be: What type of event? A well thought out campaign to deliver the most would depend upon your audience.

- Maria Galati Smith – Publicist & Media Consultant says:

There are a lot of ways to promote an event but the first question to ask is: who is your audience? Twenty-somethings? Use facebook or twitter. Families? Directly contact moms groups in your area. Business men/women? Include a free lunch and send information to HR contacts. The idea is to create “buzz” that hits your main audience. Of course though, the best way to create that buzz is to make the event interesting to local journalists. They, in turn, will make it seem interesting to their viewers/readers.

- Jeff Gunderman – Vice President of Sales at Plum Benefits says:

This is an interesting question. I have been in the event marketing business for a couple years now and my company focuses on working with ticketed entertainment events to help them sell tickets (or as our tag line says: put butts in seats). As such, I work with 100+ events every month who struggle with this exact issue. The types of events we work with are major ticketed entertainment events like Sports, Concerts, Theater and Attractions. Rather than speak about specific mediums of promotion or specific tactics because I don’t know exactly what type of events you are talking about, let me start with how the company I work for (Plum Benefits) approaches event marketing…

1. We believe firmly in “word of mouth” marketing. We call it the water cooler effect. If an influential person at a company or in a group likes something, they will tell their friends. So, we create ways to influence the influencer. Our model is to reach employees while they are at work with special offers for entertainment events looking to move distressed inventory or special VIP packages. As one of our influencer strategies we work with events to host a group of our most influential customers and treat them to the event for free during the early stages of the event and an off night where the tickets would have gone dead anyway. By turning what would have been a lost opportunity (a seat that would not sell) into a marketing tool, we influence many influencers who then share their experience with employees at their corporation or group, thereby generating word of mouth publicity.

2. We believe in creating cost-effective ways to reach end users to influence the purchase. To do this, we simply go on-site to organizations and companies and create a fun afternoon focused on the events we promote. We raffle off tickets to the events to generate awareness amongst hundreds or thousands of potential consumers.

3. When we speak about the event to potential buyers, we speak about the experience they will have as opposed to standard marketing speak. We typically have to fully re-write copy given to us from the event because we want it to speak to the consumer in a way that helps them understand the experience. We also customize the copy to speak to the target audience. For instance, if we are representing a major Broadway show and the copy we are given really promotes a Broadway star who is not in the mainstream media, we may focus more attention on the storyline if the audience is not theater savvy.

You MUST remember that interest and attendance is really driven by demand. You MUST be realistic about the mass appeal and focus promotional activity on the target audience. Don’t get caught up with thinking the event is “great” and then not understanding why no-one is coming to it.

4. Another really good approach if it is an event that is going on over many weeks or more or one that will be annual is to survey the audience and understand clearly what people like and what they don’t. Have a goal to really understand the demographics and psycho graphics of the people who respond positively and negatively so you can constantly tweak marketing to focus on the people who are most likely to attend. Most events have a budget and large or small, a focused approach using data and analysis will help maximize the marketing dollars spent.

The above is mostly for longer running events, but there are ways to adapt the above to a one-day or shorter type of event. To do that, you need to generate word-of-mouth marketing around the anticipation of the event or the “buzz” of the event. This is a tougher because you are relying on the event topic or presenter to carry the event. Spend the time really creating the value proposition(s).

- Michael Harris – President / Owner, Ardynn Media says:

For me the # 1 way to promote an event also tends to be on the pricey side but has worked extremely well for me.

I take a narrowly targeted invitee list and overnight the invitation via FEDEX with CONFIDENTIAL stamped on the outside.

People assume that because it is an overnight package that it MUST be important and tend to open right away. I then tend to freak them out a little by having each delivery recipt emailed to me so I can call them as soon as I have been notified of the delivery. As long as you are not experienceing any delays in your email service you can be pretty confident that it shocks the invitee that as they are reading your invitation you just happen to call to verify reciept. If nothing else it is a terrific ice breaker and gains you a little more respect in the invitees eyes for being that creative. Now what else can you do for them? I have actually been ablke to close the deal before the event ever took place.

- Phyllis Shelton – Public Relations & Event Management Consultant says:

1. Hand out fliers at your place of business, with customer orders, or networking events
2. Announcement can be made first with a press release to publications that reach your target market.
3. Word of Mouth
4. Call local radio stations and ask them to do a live remote from your event.
5. List your event on cable TV station’s and local community calendars.
6. Event Listings on Websites
7. Posters
8. Mall Exhibits & Ticket Giveaways
9. Fliers in Chambers Newsletters
10. Target Specific Groups

- Sulabh Singal – Management Consultant at Accenture says:

Rather than a text book approach, I’d choose to cite some examples to make the point.

1. Launch of a TV Serial in India : Although, this is not really event promotion, I’d still use the example for the same could be usefully employed for effective marketing. The marketing of the launch of the program (Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin – means The one and Only – Jassi) was done through various regular media including Electronic Media, Outdoor Advertising etc but the most unoque aspect of their marketing strategy was to use word of mouth like never before. They hired common people and asked them to travel in public transport all day. They would start talking about the program amongst themselves but loud enough for people around them to hear. This created enough interest in the telecast that other high profile launches including ones featuring top film stars ( a program called Karisma) could not cope with the ‘marketing’ blitz of this launch.
2. Reliance IPO: Reliance is one of the lagest business houses in India and has interests in varied industries. For the launch of the IPO (Initial Public Offering) for Reliance Power – a power generation company, the marketers very effectively used a network of “Dabbawallas” (a large network in Mumbai who deliver lunch boxes across the city in various corporate offices). The IPO Forms were delivered to lakhs of executives in the city in time for them to subscribe to the IPO. I must inform you that the largest IPO in the history of India (approx 3 Billion USD), was over subscribed by 14 times!!
3. Movie Release: A movie (“Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina”), starring not so popular filmstars was to be released. Media advertising for the movie was getting lost in the clutter amongst bigger movies. The productiion house used an innovative way to induce interest in the movie. They created an MMS clip of an intimate scene in the movie and put it in the market. This method of ‘viral marketing’ costlittle and did manage to make it to the mobile phones and discussion tables of many!! The amount of interest generated in the movie was phenomenal. The movie was not a superhit by any stretch eventually; however the awareness about the movie saw a huge jump across movie-goers and others alike.

I am afraid I have mentioned only Indian examples but I guess the point of effective event marketing could very well be brought out through these factual events. The same, I am sure are quite re-usable to the arena of Event Marketig as well.

- Amy Vercruysse – Owner, Combo Platter says:

There is no pat answer here, it completely depends on the event and what kind of audience is being targeted. For an existing event that generates great attendance, then word of mouth works great; so does inviting VIPs in the industry to attend, and if possible participate (as a guest speaker, emcee, interviewee, etc.). The latter is also a pretty good idea for an event that is still trying to find it’s legs.

Beyond that, spend as much as possible on a marketing MIX that targets your ideal audience. That might mean custom ringtones, text messaging and viral video (for those under the age of 30 or so), or it might mean direct mail and print ads (for 40+), a TV campaign, a retail POS/sweeps promo, or it might be all of those and then some.

Just as with events, marketing and promotion does not come in a one-size-fits-all so the best campaigns are created on a case by case basis that creates a perfect match between the event and the target attendee demo.

- Robert L. Flott – President & CEO/Principal, Flottsom Communications Inc. says:

The best idea is to try more than one approach.

For four years, I helped promote a local Blues festival. We created posters. We did morning, midday and evening news programs. We contributed many press releases that were published throughout the year. We got ourselves on festival websites (including our own) across the nation.

We took advantage of the five colleges in the area, and made certain that those media sources were tapped as well. We generated buzz

We also incorporated many outside groups–we asked a local fraternity to clean up; a church group monitored the doors; we offered free admission to anyone with a military ID. We generated word of mouth.

The ideas worked. The festival continues to grow, with 10,000-15,000 people attending each year. IT has become one of the biggest events of the year in our little corner of the world.

I really think the secret it that we did not place our faith in any one method, since people today glean information from many different sources.

- Julie Gengo – Independent Marketing Guru says:

Their are many ways to go about promoting an event and as most of these contributors have expressed, it comes down to the event at hand.

My first and most important bit of advice is to do everything you can to get people involved prior to the event and during the event that are connected to your key demographic. People love to help and they love to participate especially if there is some sort of recognition or value in the experience for them such as a backstage pass or a chance to mingle or be featured with the VIP’s in some sort of Web 2.0 outlet.

Get advice from someone who has run a successful event that is very similar to yours. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. No matter who you are experience is the best teacher so get it from someone who has already experienced it.

Prospective attendees, if this is a high-end event, feel special when they are contacted in a personal way. With all the technology out there, the human touch is quite valuable.

Don’t forget to be funny. People love to laugh. Stay light and airy in whatever avenue you choose to promote your event.

Here is one specific idea that has proven successful for many types of events:

If you are marketing to anything that deals with family or children, you may want to contact the local elementary schools and get flyers into their take-home packets. Most schools will for a small fee or none at all if you are dealing with some type of non-profit that is connected to your event will include a flyer that goes directly to the parents and provides the information. Go directly to the district office as they are the decision makers in most cases.

- YYRenee Liu S – Telecommunications Professional says:

a popular one here: word of mouth….

others range from media, various campaigns, news, infomercial, …etc.

- Kim Brame – Executive Producer- creative illusions Productions/ DoYouStream multimedia/VOD South says:

You need to note that there is a common thread here..Promotion depends on the audience and the type of event..some types of promotion just don’t work for certain types of events.
A charity ball and a street festival for the same charity can have a totally different target audience.
I produce content FOR event planners. We shoot video pre-event for ticket sales/public relations, at the event for public relations and we also use the event video to start promoting next years event on line and in the broadcast media about 3-4 months prior to the event.
But the main methods that I have seen successful planers use include;
1. Direct marketing
2. Press release to publications that reach your target
3. Online Media-videos and flash submitted to local sites that are directed to your target audience this is including banner ads, getting mentions or even ads on blogs directed at your target audience.
4. Social and Face to Face networking
5. Listing in local community calendars and websites
6. Posters that match all direct mail on online media
7. Radio promos including tying in with local station remotes that appeal to your target audience this will also work for PODCAST.

- Tricia Woods – Regional Sales Manager at Promotional Products Firm UCC Midwest says:

If you know your target audience, I would recommend sending a “bulky mail” piece to invite them to the event. You could do a direct mail piece with some type of imprinted product inside. You can do a product that has two parts to it and send one part with the invitation and the second part they get at the event. You have to use packaging that invokes a response.

Talk to a good promotional product professional.

- Ed Hernandez, MBA – Land Acquisitions Broker, Bay East Realty says:

To effective market an event, one must create a thought-out marketing plan that includes these marketing tools:
1) E-mail Marketing to market base and partner organizations (ie. Constant Contact) while provide payment options for paid events through Acteva.com
2) Face-to-Face Promotional Partner Events
3) Targeted Hard Mailers
4) Your LinkedIn Network
5) Luck!

- Stuart Aizenberg – Highly Experienced Exhibition/Events Marketing, Operations and Sales Professiona says:

My top 5 not necessarily in order of preference and a combination works best:

Website and email notification works great for your “choir”, those folks most receptive to your message.

Direct mail is still very necessary in many instances to build awareness beyond your choir, especially to new markets.

Word of mouth is golden. You can’t beat folks talking about your event and how wonderful it is.

If you’re event is B to C rather than B to B, then an advertising campaign is likely necessary. Especiallly if it’s the masses you’re trying to reach.

I love sponsorships. Getting other folks, companies, organizations, etc to put out the word for you is a wonderful way to expand reach and frequency at minimal or even no cost.

Well that’s 5 so I guess I’m done!

- Michael Miller – Director of Sales & Marketing at Tiki’s Grill & Bar / Holokai Grill says:

People want to be invited to events! So invite them!

1. Get signs or banners up at the venue space.
2. Send press release to publications, radio, web, TV that reach your target market.
3. Print up invite cards, or tickets. A hard copy on paper works the best.
Email invites can supplement your efforts. Use the words “You are invited” or “VIP Invite”
4. Event listings on networking sites and event sites.
5. Get other partner groups and product to sponsor the event!

- Sanjay Verma – Owner, One To One Marketing Consultants says:

Hey, i think the top 05 ways to promote your event are as follows:
1) Agenda/Concept (Has to be very Strong & unique)
2) Continues hammering to the audiance looking for (forget print media the value of the same is just one day)
3) reach out to the target audiance in less time and make them aware that there is something like this happening.
4) eDM (electronic direct mailer would reach fast)
5) Speaker or promoters has to be serious one.
There are other ways as well like doing few Below the line and through the line Marcom activities, since if people can see it they would believe it.

- Ja War – Owner, Music Industry Connection says:

It has been my experience that proven techniques continue to change as more people become comfortable with using new and emerging technologies. Additionally, your target market and region will dictate what are the best ways to promote and event.

With that being said here are my findings.

Networking has always been most effective, however I must admit that I’m speaking about music industry related events and the music business is a close knit community of people. Often when people participate in a music business event it is because of networking. For instance, in other industries one may attend a trade expo, because it seems as though it will be good for business, however in the music industry one would attend a music conference, because several people have said it is the place to be to drum up new business.

Social media may be the next best way to promote an event given that your event is being held in a relatively large city and to a younger audience or tech savvy persons.

Traditional media such as television and radio often work to legitimize and event and to give that last major push, given that grassroots marketing and promotions have been done.