With the availability of free resources online, there are countless ways to promote your event, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the most obvious things. PR specialist Lara Page, and digital guru Emma Davies from boutique marketing agency Voiceboxx, lists their five top tips to attracting guests and making your event a success.
Create a dedicated event page on your website
The first step is to have full event details your website for people to find out more about it. It doesn’t have to be pages long; just a succinct paragraph on what it will involve, who it’s aimed at and why it’ll be exciting, along with all the particulars like date, time and dress code, if applicable.
You could post this as news item in your News or Blog section, or you could create a page specifically for the event – but you’ll need a link that people can click to for more information. If you don’t have this facility, you could create an event using an online platform like EventBrite, which lets you list full event details as well as seeing who’s signed up to attend. However, we’d strongly recommend a page on your website as it’s a great opportunity to attract future custom.
Contact your local press (but give them plenty of notice!)
One of the first ways event promotion can fall down is by not giving people enough notice; and that’s especially true when it comes to the press. Whether your local newspapers are daily or weekly, publishers can work weeks or even months in advance and if you let people know about your event the day before, it’ll almost certainly be too late.
Getting your event into the local and regional press is the fastest and most cost-efficient way to reach an audience of thousands. Aim to send out a succinct, punchy press release – and perhaps a personal invite – to the relevant journalists or editors, at least three weeks in advance, so they have enough time to plan on including it.
Remember that for the event to be considered newsworthy, it’ll need to have an angle – such as raising vital funds for a charity or local initiative, or showcasing the work of local producers or artisans. If you’re struggling to gain interest from the newspaper, it may be worth taking out a small paid advert instead; but make sure it’s featured in a relevant section or on a popular day, such as a Saturday.
Most newspapers have a weekly events listing too, so check for specific contact details for these too, and don’t forget to contact the radio stations that cover your area; breakfast and drive-time presenters have the market share of listeners, so email show hosts with an invite and ask them to give it a mention.
Send personal invites by post or online
Electronic communication can often be far more cost-effective than a printed flyer, and have a wider reach as well. If you already have a database of email addresses from past guests or from people who’ve signed up to your newsletter online, you’ve already got the perfect list to target.
If it’s a fairly small list of less than 100 people, you should email personalised invites to anyone you think it’s of interest to. However, if your database has thousands of contacts then try a digital mailing manager to send out invites for you; websites like Mailchimp or GraphicMail provide email templates that you can easily customise with your logo and details, and they’ll also give you stats on who has opened your email and clicked on the link to your website.
For a local event you might want to create an elegant postcard-sized flyer, perhaps with a special offer, which you can deliver through letterboxes; make sure you specify that guests should bring their invite along to receive the offer; that way you can track how many people attended that received a flyer. If it’s more of a business or trade event, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or business networking groups to see if they’d be willing to invite their members on your behalf via their newsletter.
Make use of free online resources
A quick Google search of ‘event listings London’ (or wherever you are) will reveal pages of free event listing sites you can make use of. This might sound obvious, but most people don’t fully maximise these websites. For example, when you’re submitting your event, be crafty with keywords – the words that search engines love – which will help to bring more traffic to your website.
Keep track of all the sites you’ve posted your event on, and when people call or email to book you can ask them where they heard about your event; if you’re getting lots of enquiries through one particular website, you’ll know where to focus your efforts the next time you host something similar.
Get social with tweets, comments and hashtags
Social media is the perfect medium to create a buzz around your event; before, during and after. Most people now realise – fortunately – that social media can be the most powerful and cost-effective way to reach potential visitors and customers, but rather than bombarding your Facebook page and Twitter feed with constant advertising, be a little more subtle and creative.
Begin discussing your event weeks in advance, then start creating a real buzz as you count down the weeks. Post pictures or short video clips to give people a taster – if you’ve run a similar event before, post pictures of last year’s event to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram so that people know what to expect. If it’s a trade event, focus on LinkedIn. If it’s a consumer event, make use of groups and pages on Facebook, whether it’s a regional page or it’s for particular topics like weddings.
If any high profile guests are speaking or attending your event, include them in your posts with links and @ signs so that you can tap into their audiences and followers too. And don’t forget to use hashtags! Take the time to search Twitter and see what hashtags your potential guests could be searching for; the ‘hour’ hashtags are online networking events listed as things like #staffordshirehour or #bedfordshirehour. And if you’re short on time or tend to forget to update your social media pages, use free online tools like Hootsuite and Crowdbooster to schedule your tweets or posts at chosen times.