13 smart, affordable ways to promote events

Start early, seek a strong news media hook, and give publishers plenty of lead time.

13 event promo tips

Nearly 90% of executives believe in the power of events, and 30% of marketers say events are the single most effective marketing channel, according to the Bizzabo Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends report.

Of course, people must know about the event for it succeed. Try these 13 steps to maximize your event marketing efforts.

Start early. Get PR involved early in the planning process to help select a date and location, advises Sabrina Hutchinson, CEO of Defiant Public Relations. Events may gain little media attention if scheduled on the same date as another major event. Events in locations far from the central hub of cities also tend to draw less coverage.

Plan a wide-ranging media strategy. Identify all the national, regional and local news, trade, business and broadcast sources that have audiences likely to be interested in the event. Review the publications, and determine how they typically handle event announcements. Will they run stories or just a listing? What types of stories promoting events do they favor? Might they interview the featured speaker? Will they send a reporter or video crew to the event?

Seek a media hook. Before you send news announcements to outlets, consider why the event might warrant their attention, advises Gary Campbell at Davidson Belluso. Ask yourself: Does your event have a broad appeal? Does it have general interest, or is it unusual or even an oddity? Have you seen similar events or incidents of this scale in news coverage before? Does your keynote speaker or main draw have broad appeal?

Create presenter interviews. Interview speakers or performers by phone or chat sessions shortly after they commit to the event. Use the interviews to write teaser articles about the speaker’s presentation—and distribute the article to news outlets and on social media.

Give publishers enough time. Sending news announcements too late may be the most common mistake in event promotion. Give media outlets plenty of time to publish your news. Print magazines need months of lead time, and even daily newspapers prefer a week or two of advance notice. You can continue to release news about preparations or event enhancements, but give publishers plenty of lead time regarding crucial details.

Persuade journalists to attend (virtually). Reach out to local and regional journalists who are more likely to cover your event, says Dan McCarthy at Social Tables. Contact individual journalists directly, rather than simply submitting website contact forms. Build relationships with members of the press, comment on their stories, and pursue face-to-face meetings. Offer them phone interviews with the featured speakers or performers, and freely issue press passes or passcodes that enable them to easily listen in.

Record the event. It’s become quite manageable to record webinars and other educational events for livestreaming on your website or on social media channels such as YouTube. The online availability of the recorded event can and should be promoted, but secure written agreement of presenters before recording.

Report on the event. Plan to write and distribute news that summarizes the event (and establishes its success). The report, including quotes from speakers’ presentations, should spread the key ideas presented during the event to a wider audience. Immediately after the event, supply video to TV stations.

Digital and email promotions

Your website. Announce the event on your website’s homepage. You can also create a separate website or webpage dedicated to the event. Include such information as a description of the venue, history of the event, speaker bios and photos and a prominent “register” button. You can also include event-related videos, such as interview videos with your main speakers.

Blog about it. Write quick blog posts that consistently update event activities as they unfold.

Email marketing. If you have an email list, email marketing may be your best channel. If you don’t, you may ask partners, speakers or friends to mention the event in their emails, says Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media. Send emails several times. For large events, email potential attendees months in advance to announce the speaker lineup and to offer early-bird registration discounts.

Email just before the registration discount ends, and again as the event approaches, Crestodina says. Finally, send an email a few days before with reminders of the time and place, and a final pitch for new registrations.

Event promotions on social media

Social media offers a superb event marketing tool that should not be ignored. Post event notices on the organization’s social media accounts. Encourage employees and partners to post event notices on their social media accounts. Consider creating a special social media account for the event itself on Facebook, Twitter and other appropriate social media platforms. Produce a short video promo for use on YouTube and other digital networks.

Share on social media. As the event date comes closer, continue to share content about to the event. Pin the event announcement to the top of your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. Including strong visuals can help gain attention. Encourage attendees and speakers to mention the event and share updates with their own followers to help spread the word.

Create a hashtag. Create a hashtag for the event that’s relevant, unique and short. Be careful that it cannot be interpreted in unintended ways. Place the hashtag on your event website, dedicated emails and social media networks. Attendees can use the hashtag to converse with event managers, speakers and each other.

William Comcowich is the interim CEO of Glean.info.

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