If you are planning an event, here are some suggestions that might be helpful in promoting it. Media folks don’t have time to share this with you, and they expect you to already know it. However, given my years working in media and PR, it has become clear to me that people do not know these things. I know many wonderful events don’t reach the audience they could because these simple rules are not being followed.
1. Plan ahead.
The further in advance you can plan, the better. Depending on the size of the event, it could be planned years in advance, but anything should be fully planned at least six weeks out. This allows time to get it on people’s schedules. We are all busy people. If you want people to attend your event, they need to know it’s going to happen. Please don’t be booking performers and scheduling venues a week out. Just plan to do your event another time and start planning for that now. Put the information out into the world so people know it’s happening.
2. Get your information on a website.
This does not mean Facebook, although you should certainly build a Facebook presence for your organization/group/etc. so you can use it to promote. But you want something searchable, something Google will index, so people can find you. Yes, they will index Facebook, but half of the population doesn’t use Facebook. Why automatically discount half your potential audience? This is another reason to plan in advance, so you have your information on a website and people will actually find it in a search. That takes time.
3. Write a press release.
This most basic promotion tool is far too rarely used. A press release should be written in inverted pyramid style, ready to be copied by any news organization.(Inverted pyramid style means most important information first – this is not who is sponsoring the event. That’s important to you, not the public.) Please use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.
The press release should also be on your website in time to be indexed by the search engines. This is yet another reason you must plan ahead to actually get the most out of your promotion.
Your press release should not be more than one page long. I don’t care how amazing you think something is, your press release should not be more than one page. Really. Don’t make it more than one page. Just don’t.
You should have your own mailing list, Facebook page, etc. but understand you’re promoting to the same group you always promote to that way. If you want to broaden support for your event, you’ve got to broaden your reach. Media, from bloggers to newspapers to television stations, is how you do that. That process begins with a press release. Include information in your press release on who to contact for details.
When someone does contact you for more details, respond to them. If they email, call, text or whatever, respond in a timely fashion. “Timely” in the news business means “immediately.” People are working on deadlines. Don’t make them wait very long or they’ll move on to the next story. There are plenty of things with which to fill a newspaper or newscast. Don’t make people work hard to give you free publicity.
5. Be Nice.
If you want to catch a fly, you’re more likely to get one with honey than vinegar, and the same is true with media coverage. Do not expect your event to get full page coverage. Be thankful if it gets a mention. If you are disappointed in the amount of coverage it got, keep it to yourself. Do not, and I repeat, do NOT, harangue the media outlet. Do not, and I repeat, do NOT, bad mouth the media outlet to anyone. Those things come back to haunt you. Instead say, “I’m thankful they helped get the message out.” If they didn’t help get the message out, reexamine steps 1-4, and you’ll most likely discover you dropped the ball on one of them.