Promoting community events requires time, forethought, planning and good communication skills. Thanks to email and social media, event planners can reach larger audiences and increase attendance. To promote your event, you’ll need to build a good relationship with media outlets and potential attendees with an efficient and easy-to-understand stream of information.
Plan early. Have the details finalized for the events at least 3 months in advance. This is the time window needed to submit your event to most magazines. For statewide calendars of events, have the basic information such as date, place, time and contact information ready at least a year in advance. This will allow your community events to be seen by a much wider audience, since a state’s department of tourism may send out an annual planning guide for visitors. Newspapers, television and radio stations will usually accept information for a community event a month ahead of schedule.
Write a press release. A basic press release for an event should be no longer than one page, and it should include all the essential information such as who, when, what, where and why at the beginning of the release. Other details, such as a quote from an organizer or featured VIP, can flesh out the release after the basic information is covered. Newspapers and radio stations may not have the time or space to run the entire release, so they will often run only the first paragraph with the basic information.
Build a media kit. Your media kit for community events can be just the press release and a few photos on a CD, or it can include a “ready to run” video piece and finished articles that media outlets can pull and use. Event organizers can post an online media kit on the event website, making it easy for journalists to pick out what they need to promote the event.
Build a media list. While some companies offer media lists for sale, you’ll get better results by doing the legwork yourself. Visit websites of magazines, newspapers, radio and television stations you want to contact. In either the “Contact Us” or “About Us” section, you’ll find exactly who should receive your information. Sending your event information to the right person will make the difference between your event receiving media coverage or your release being sent to the trash.
Send out your press release. A few publications and media outlets prefer press releases or media kits by postal mail, but the majority use event information sent by email. Some even have online media forms where you can enter your information. Follow each outlet’s guidelines to receive the best chances of promotion. Include a contact person’s name, email address and phone number in the email so that interested reporters can get in touch if they want more information.
Use social media. Set up a Facebook fan page and Twitter account for your community events. Promoting via social media does take time, so build a fan base for your event a few months ahead of schedule. Social media is also an excellent method of keeping individuals apprised of last-minute event changes.
Advertise your event. If you don’t have funding to buy local advertising in the newspaper, use the tried and true method of fliers on area bulletin boards. These community boards are a low-tech way to reach people in public places such as grocery stores, community centers and laundromats.
Take advantage of any co-op advertising opportunities available. You may reduce the cost of print or television advertising by grouping your event information with other special events.
Network with community leaders at Chamber of Commerce open houses and business gatherings. Many of these people will have valuable connections to the media and can help you promote your event.
Always use the Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) option when sending out a press release by email. This hides the list of other recipients and protects their privacy. An emailed release that shows all the press contacts involved is considered amateurish and unprofessional.