Creating your Promotional Plan
Implementing a solid promotional plan will ensure the best chance of getting a good turn out for your event. As a not-for-profit organization or community group, it is possible to employ strategies for promotion that are incredibly effective without costing a fortune. A bit of creativity and resourcefulness goes a long way…
A promotional plan should address:
- What your objective is (i.e. how many ticket sales)
- What you wish to communicate (i.e. “this is a great event, you want to be here!”)
- Who you intend to reach (i.e. your target audience)
- How you aim to attain your goals (i.e. which tactics/ tools you will employ)
- When you intend to implement specific actions (i.e. promotional timeline)
Who do you want to reach?
Being specific about exactly who your target audience is will help you tailor the message and decide on the best channel in order to reach them. It may help to ask: how old are they? where do they spend their time? what are their interests? how much money will they likely spend to come out to your event?
By asking these questions, you may also realize that there are certain groups of sectors of your community who are not currently being reached but who you would like to include.
Depending on where your organization is based, be it in a city, in a small town or in a rural area, you might employ different strategies to reach your target audience. The first step is to identify what resources you have available to get the word out. In an urban context, even though there are more outlets for sharing information, it may be more challenging to get noticed amongst all the "noise" and busyness. Because there are more people and competing activity, it is particularly important that you find out the best way to reach your potential audience or target group.
The specific timeline for carrying out your promotional plan will be determined by the scale of the event you are planning. For a one-day event or performance, six to eight weeks in advance is usually sufficient. For a full run of shows or a multi-day arts festival, you will need between eight and eighteen months advance planning to confirm venues, artists, etc. and launch your promotion strategy.
Make note of your weekly objectives in your day planner and meet with your team periodically to check that you are on target. In the run-up to the event, these are some things you might consider (intended as a guide only- feel free to add your own items to the list):
6 weeks before
- Design, print and distribute posters/ flyers.
- Post the poster to your website, if you have one.
- Upload a video of the featured artist to YouTube and/or link to your site. This is a good way to boost your online visibility and stimulate interest.
- Prepare a press release for your event and if you haven’t already, compile relevant press contacts in your local media (i.e. radio, newspapers, television)
coordinate interview requests and be the on-site contact during the event.
3 weeks before
- Send your press release to your media contacts.
- Make a follow-up phone call the next day to the media contacts, to ensure they received the press release and to gage their interest in covering your event.
- Submit the details of your event to as many listings sites as possible.
- Submit to the "what’s on" section of local free papers and community journals.
- Send an e-flyer out to your mailing list.
- Find a volunteer with some photography skills who is willing to take pictures at the event.
1 week before
- Go out and network at some related events in your community. When you give someone a flyer, you can point out that your event is the following weekend so they log it in their minds.
- Publish an update to the event on your Facebook page.
- Begin promoting the event on Twitter with relevant hashtags (e.g. #improv, #fundraiser #Chateauguay).
4 days before
- Send a reminder email to your mailing list with any final updates to your event.
- Continue posting event updates on Twitter.
Day of the event
- Make sure that your designated media contact person is at the event and available to coordinate with members of the media to schedule interviews and photo opportunities.
- Your volunteer photographer is ready and equiped to shoot a large amount of good quality photos of the event (both posed and action shots, including pictures of the artists, volunteers and dignitaries).
It may be that your local media do not have the resources to send someone to cover each event. If this is the case, consider sending in a couple of the best pictures that were shot during the event (by your volunteer photographer) with a short statement outlining the highlights of the event (i.e. how many people attended, notable dignitary guests, how the show was received by the audience, total funds raised and any other other newsworthy items). Be sure to thank any media sponsors, dignitaries and volunteers who have assisted in promotional activities.
The aim of a poster is to capture people’s attention and provide key information such as: the title of the event, the feature artist(s), a brief description or catch phrase, date, time, location of the venue, contact info and/or website. If it is a benefit or fundraiser, say so. List ticket purchase location(s) and the cost to attend (i.e. pre-sale and on-the-door ticket prices, as well as concessions for students/seniors).
Posters can be printed in black & white in or colour. When posting in stores, libraries, educational institutions and community notice boards, its best to ask permission- they may need a stamp of approval before going up.
A smaller version of the poster can be handed out at other related community events. If they are double-sided, more information may be included. Getting flyers directly into peoples hands is generally more effective than leaving big stacks in various locations (shops, etc.) where they may or may not be picked up. These can be laid out for print as a set of four on an 8.5” x 11” sheet, ideally, on a slightly heavier weight paper. One option to save money is to print them in black & white on coloured paper.
A electronic version (usually a PDF) of the event poster or the flyer can be used in mail-outs to your email list, posted on a website and/or attached as a photo on a Facebook page.
Write a brief description (i.e. who, what, when, where) of your event to be listed for free in the "what's on" section of the local newspaper, newsletter or magazine. Be sure to inform yourself of deadlines for these, so that your listing goes out in time for people to see it and respond.
Community Calendar Announcement
Your local radio station or television station likely has a “community calendar” to which you may submit your event. Write up a brief description (who, what, when, where, and perhaps why) which should be clear and succinct- no more than 1 minute in length when read aloud.
There exists today, an array of social media platforms for promoting not only your event, but also your organization. As in any social networking, there is a certain investment of time and energy required in order to build long-lasting relationships with the people in your community. Sharing updates about your latest projects and developments on a consistent basis and posting related items off interest is an effective strategy for increasing your subscriber base. Beware of trying to ‘sell’ yourself as this may put people off.
• Facebook, Twitter, Google+
These social media platforms allow you to drive traffic to your website and/or blog by posting the relevant link in your status updates. They are also useful as one avenue for promoting events, but should not be relied upon as the sole promotion engine.
Facebook events: You can set up your event page, along with a draft invite, in advance and make necessary adjustments closer to the time so as to be more efficient in the lead-up to your event. Reach additional users by making use of the 'tagging' feature.
An up-and-coming content sharing service that allows members to "pin" images, videos and other objects to their pinboard.
Websites, Blogs & Community Forums
The internet is a powerful means of reaching large numbers of people and communicating with your community about your current projects and upcoming events. In designing a website, before thinking about the aesthetics, consider what elements are the priority for you in terms of functionality of your site (e.g. profiles of the members of your team, a blog where you can post articles and news updates, a forum for communicating with other community members, a photo gallery, "join our mailing list" and "contact us" features, etc.) Certain functions will be quite specific such as the ability to post videos, to link to your social networks, or to sell tickets to your events via PayPal.
Website technology is constantly evolving. Do some research on the net to see which sites inspire you, from other organisations or groups with similar aims and interests. Remember that to keep a website fresh and dynamic, it will require regular updates. An open-source content management server (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal will allow for this. Consider how user-friendly a web platform will be, in consultation with your web-designer, to ensure ease of maintainance in the longterm.
There are several techniques for boosting your "web traffic". One important strategy is getting your weblink on multiple sites so that you rank higher in search engines. You can do this by having other websites link to yours (e.g. partner organisations, local businesses or artists) or by simply including a link to your site when posting in other community forums and blogs.
Further Reading: Artists: Improve Your Website Traffic by Jonni Good
Newsletters (electronic or paper)
Direct mail is still one of the most powerful ways to reach your audience. If you are considering publishing an electronic newsletter, you may opt to subscribe to email marketing service such as iContact, Mailchimp, Constant Contact or Aweber. These sites allow you to manage your mailing list, customise the design of email newsletters, share them on social networks and track your results.
Press Releases: Newspapers, Radio, Television
A press release is the accepted means of getting the word out to media about a newsworthy story or event. If you aren't already familiar with your local media contacts, be proactive about communicating with them. Find out when the best time is to reach them (mornings are usually best as they are often under the pressure of deadlines in the afternoon). Assemble a contact list which you can use to issue press releases and for your current and future events. Take note of when deadlines are for submissions and the prefered means of delivering press releases (e.g. via e-mail or fax). Its a good idea to be consistent in your communications by designating one person from your team as the main media contact and/or event spokesperson.
Tips for writing an effective press release
Keep it concise (i.e. no longer than one page)! It should address the "5 W’s and an H" – who, what, when, where, why and how.
Make sure the content is interesting and accurate. A catchy headline is important so as to capture the attention of the editor/reporter and generate interest in covering your event. Here are some examples of elements that makes a story newsworthy:
-a featured artist who is well known, up-and-coming or has had recent press
-event as good community news (e.g. fundraiser for a good cause, youth involvement, etc.)
-presence of high profile attendees
Be sure to include:
-the correct date and time
-essential information about the event
-relevant contact information such as phone number, email and/or webpage address
-the full names, titles and affiliations of the people mentioned
-a paragraph that describes your organization – known as a "boilerplate"
Do have someone proofread it before sending it off! Check for overall readability and correct any spelling and grammar mistakes.
Posting a short video online (via social media sites- Youtube and/or Vimeo) is a great way to boost your online visibility and stimulate interest. This can be linked/ embedded within your organization’s website, blog or Facebook page. Ideally it would showcase the artist(s) who will feature at your event, but it could also be a spotlight on a related event your organization put on previously, or a promo created especially for this one.Videos should be short (between 1-3 minutes) and dynamic!
Here are ten examples of videos produced by arts organizations for use in their promotional campaigns.
Sponsorship from local businesses may help to increase visibility for your event. Businesses stand to benefit from being perceived as active supporters of community arts activities. Many times, businesses will happily donate an item of value for use in a raffle at a fundraiser, for example. Similarly, your local supermarket may donate bottled water or other snacks/ refreshments for resale at your event. Consider approaching your local paper to see if they might donate some ad space to promote the event, in exchange for being credited (in the program and/or in promotional materials) as an official sponsor. Be sure to include all your sponsors in your 'thank-you' speech after a performance at your event.
Generate support by partnering with local groups, organizations or government. Consider collaborating on some cross-promotional events. Remember to invite local dignitaries such as the mayor or member of parliament (MP) to your event. Not only is this a means of having them see what you do as an organization, but having these guests at your event may also benefit you by attracting media attention. You will find the appropriate contact information on your municipality’s website.
Word of Mouth
The news about your event will spread naturally, via word of mouth, if your event is positive, fun and uplifting, involves local participants/volunteers and gives back to the community in some way.
Featured articles from the National Arts Marketing Project.
Marketing the Arts in Nonprofit Organizations from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
10 Ways Artists Can Use YouTube to Promote Their Work from the Global Centre for Cultural Entrepreneurship.