HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR EVENT FOR SUCCESS
(and on a Budget!)

I wrote this several years ago and it was posted on my real estate website. I still get inquiries about promoting events, so I figured I would share the info again. I hope this helps those putting on stunning events and raising money for our worthy Sonoma County causes!

We are blessed in Sonoma County to have so much giving and great causes to serve. That means LOTS of amazing events to help support our community, and now even more than ever. There are some fabulous events going on to serve those affected by the fires, offering services for free, as well as events to help raise money for those affected. No matter what event you may be putting on, you need great promotion! Most of these events are non-profit and want to maximize the amount of money they are raising for their cause. Even if you have a limited budget, there are some great ways to promote your event here in Sonoma County. Below are some ways to promote your event on a budget!

Many people know me from radio as well as my past life in marketing and the wine industry, where I was an event coordinator and promoter. I’ve been promoting Sonoma County events on 100.1 KZST as well as 93.7 The Bull for years. It is my pleasure to help you promote your events that take so much of your time and dedication!

I get many requests about the best ways to promote events, so I decided to write a blog about it!

Write a Press Release and distribute to various news outlets – FREE

If you are not sure how to write a press release, here is a great resource from Ehow. As far as getting that Press Release out, it may take some time to get the contacts you will need. Some newspaper/radio stations require you to fax it in and others prefer that you email it to them. You will have to make some phone calls and do the research in order to make sure it gets to the right person. You can also hire a company to distribute your Press Release for you because they have already done the research and know who to send it to.

Post your event on every online calendar you can find – FREE

There are so many online calendars that you can post your event for free! From Chamber or Visitors sites to wine sites, there are several to choose from. Send your press release to mary@kzst.com so that it gets included on all of our radio station’s calendars (KZST, The Bull, Jazzy, The Wolf and The Beat).

Here are just a few of the online sites you can access and post your events on their event calendars for free:

Here is the information you will need to post to online calendars. I suggest gathering all of this information into a word document and then copy and paste as you post to each calendar.

  • Name of Event
  • Date of Event
  • Time of Event
  • Location and address of event
  • Ticket price
  • 50 word description
  • 100 word description
  • Website
  • Contact Person
  • Phone
  • Logo or photo of event
Offer Ticket Sales Online – Free

There are several online services to offer your tickets for sale online if you don’t have that capacity through your own website shopping cart. The top two are EventBrite.com and BrownPaperTickets.com. The service is free to you, but they charge a service fee to those purchasing tickets, which most people are accustomed to paying for the convenience of an online purchase. Having this link makes it simple for people to sign up. They don’t have to make a phone call or find a ticket outlet to purchase tickets. Your event will also be searchable on their sites for people looking for fun events. This is a great way to promote your event!

Offer Ticket Outlets for Purchase – Free

Ask businesses that serve your preferred target market to be an outlet for tickets. They can post your flyer to help with the promotion, and you in turn can list them on all of your promotional materials as a ticket outlet. Some people like to physically get the tickets in their hands and this is the best way to do it. It helps drive traffic to your “Ticket Outlet Sponsors” and could boost sales to people who see the flyer there.

Email Blast – FREE

If you have email addresses of friends or others you want to invite to the event, send it out! A great service for sending email blasts is MailChimp.com If you are sending to many email addresses at the same time from your own email program, it could be tagged as Spam and never be received. Using a service like Mail Chimp can eliminate that problem. You can try it for a free trial and then there is a small monthly or a la carte fee you can pay to use the service after the trial. Get the email addresses of those that purchase tickets so that you may communicate with them via email and encourage them to invite other friends. Include lots of photos and links to a ticket purchase page.

Launch a Social Media Campaign centered around your event – FREE

These days you’d better have a social media campaign to promote your event. You can use a tool like Hoot Suite to schedule Facebook Posts and Tweets ahead of time. Stagger the days and times of your message and include photos and motivating content. You can include links to the event web page or the purchase tickets page.

  • Create a Facebook Event
  • Blog About it
  • Use hashtags for people to follow your event. Be sure to tweet before, during and after your event using those hashtags.
  • Post your event on other people’s wall or fan page if they have a lot of followers. Use this sparingly, as it can be annoying if you do it all the time.
  • Collect Twitter handles from those who have purchased tickets. Name them when promoting the event on Twitter.
  • Tweet, Instagram and Facebook before, during and after the event to keep the momentum
  • Talk about your sponsors in your posts
  • Post videos, your ticket link, your web link
  • Post information about your beneficiary
Get Sponsors and Use Their Resources – FREE

If you don’t have any sponsors, find some people sympathetic to your cause and be bold! Ask those companies to sponsor the event in exchange for promoting them in your marketing efforts – logo on printed material, mention them on your advertising, in your email blasts, on your website, etc. And in order for them to get even more mileage from the sponsorship, ask them to send an email blast to their people. It will show them to be a community hero by helping your cause. Invite the Top Dogs of the company to attend the event for free as an additional thank you to the company. You can also ask for tangible items that you may need for your event. Ask a printer to donate printing, or a rental company to provide linens or other rentals, ask the local florist to sponsor your table decorations. All of this reduces your costs and helps the proceeds go up for your charity.

Contact “Influencers” to Help Get the Word Out – FREE

Find the local influencers – bloggers, social media rockstars, personalities, etc – and let them know about your event. Offer a free ticket to the event in exchange for some online love. Influencers have LOTS of followers on Social Media and when they post it, more people hear about it and trust it. I have started doing video interviews with local non-profits about what they offer and it is a great opportunity to talk about an upcoming event! They post to my blog, Facebook and YouTube channel.

Make the Invitation Personal! – $

Promote your event on a personal level. Try sending a personal invitation in the mail to those people you think may be interested. We seldom get an actual invitation to something. This makes it more special and harder to say no to! You may want to make some phone calls to your list and personally ask them to attend that way. Yes, I know phone solicitation isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but some people are great at it! Find that person on your committee/team that will shine in this area. You can also try SendOutCards.com to easily send automated and customized cards through the mail. Simple, easy and actually quite affordable!

Make a Video to Help Promote – FREE

Video is king these days on the web. You can make a simple slide show video using stock photos and photos that you may have from last year’s event. If you have some good video footage, you can use that too! I use iMovie and there are several other programs that can help you make videos really easily. You can also make a personal video of yourself using your smart phone telling everyone how amazing the event will be and why you want them there! Post it on your website, YouTube, share it on Twitter and Facebook and in your email blast. Don’t forget to say thank you to your Sponsors in the video. If you need a professional voice over, here are my qualifications!

Print Promotion – $

You will want to spend some money on print promotion so that you have something to hand out to people and post up around town. You can get very inexpensive printing done online at places like VistaPrint.com and GRPrint.com. Of course, using a local printer is an even better idea, but could cost a bit more. As I mentioned above, ask them to sponsor some of the printing costs and put their logo on the marketing materials in exchange for the reduction in price or even free printing. Pass them out to friends, co-workers or anyone you run into. Ask local businesses to display your cards or posters in their business, especially if it is relevant to the event. Post them on community billboards at coffee shops and around your community.

As a recovering graphic designer, I implore you to hire a professional to design your promotional pieces including your logo. Here are some of the printed items you will need:

Postcard promo – for handing out or for direct mail
Flyer – letter and ledger size (double sided for posting in windows)
Business card promo piece – easy to give out when you are out and about
Printed Tickets

Direct Mail – $$

You can use your own mailing lists or purchase lists to send via snail mail. Depending on your event, this could be a good way to reach your audience.

Use QR Codes for Printed promotions – FREE

You may want to consider including a QR code (little black and white bar code thingy) so that people can scan it in on their phones and be taken directly to your website. Put this on all of your printed materials above as well as any print advertising.

Create An Event Web Page – FREE – $$

Some people on your team may have mad skills and can create a simple website for your event. There are lots of template based web creators that can make it really easy. This will take time. Of course hiring someone to do it for you, will make it quick and painless.

Advertising – $$

Although it can be an expensive technique, if used correctly it can be very, very effective.

Radio: Local radio is about the best way to reach your target audience. But don’t be misled by “cheap” pricing. They are likely not giving you very much airtime and at hours when your audience will NOT be listening. My recommendation for local Sonoma County radio advertising are the following: 100.1 KZST, 93.7 The Bull, 99.1 Jazzy, 102.7 The Wolf and The Beat 106.3) Contact me if you would like to see how far I can stretch your dollars in radio!

More about radio – FREE:

You can offer a handful of tickets to local radio stations for giveaways on the air. Sometimes they will do it and sometimes they won’t – no guarantees.

You can also ASK your local radio DJ’s to attend your event or even be part of it as a host. They are more likely to talk about it on the air if they are attending the event. Again, no guarantees, but it is worth asking! Many on air personalities have appearance fees, which may be worth it to have them host and promote your event. See more below about having a professional host your event.

Submit a PSA for FREE – you can do this online for KZST here.

KZST has an Instant Message service where you pay a small amount for your “ad” to be read on the air. Click here to sign up! Bonus Tip: whatever you write, they will read. So write it the way you would like it read out loud on the air.

Print Ads: There are several great publications in Sonoma County to get the word out and promote your event. The bigger ones are Press Democrat, Bohemian, North Bay Business Journal, North Bay Biz Magazine, Sonoma County Gazette. Also check your local newspapers as well. Make sure your ad has the pertinent information, but don’t try to crunch it all into a teeny tiny ad. Include the website so that people can get ALL the info on your site. Consider using a QR code as well.

Online Ads: Google Ads and Facebook ads are a great way to designate your demographic and reach your audience online.

DURING The Event

Post photos and videos online/social media and ask others to do the same. Don’t forget to use your hashtags!

Hire a professional photographer and let them know who to take photos of, like your sponsors. I say “professional” because you actually want GOOD shots, not snapshots to use for your promotions next year.

Have an event Host on stage – If you are doing a program on stage with a microphone, it is a good idea to get professional host (usually a radio personality or Senator Mike McGuire!) so that the program stays on track and there is a lively voice talking to your guests. I cannot tell you how many times I have been to events where the host doesn’t know how to speak in to thee microphone properly, cannot pronounce names in the program and who speaks in a monotone voice. I don’t care if it IS your CEO/Regional Manager/Head Engineer. If that person isn’t a speaker on a regular basis, get a pro.

If you are having a live auction, hire someone who actually does auctions. You will make more money on your auction with someone who knows how to do it. Again, here is where a pro is worth it. If you want your live auction to raise a lot of money and keep your audience engaged, get a pro. (Also Senator Mike McGuire!)

AFTER the Event – Keep the Momentum

Promote your event for the next year! Send a thank you email to those who were in attendance and invite them for next year’s event.

You may want to send a very short survey about the event to find out what worked and what didn’t from the viewpoint of your guests. You can use SurveyMonkey.com.

Post photos and videos of the event on your website, Twitter and Facebook.

Provide a disk or link with all of the event photos to your sponsors as a thank you. Make sure your photographer knows who the key sponsors are and get lots of photos of them!

Do a recap of the event with your committee/staff. Write down the things that worked and ones that didn’t. If you don’t already have a manual for the event, create one, so that you don’t have to recreate the wheel again next year.

RECAP

Hire professionals – photographers, hosts, auctioneers, web designers, graphic designer, event promoters and event planners. They are all worth their weight in gold if you truly wish to have a successful, memorable and profitable event.

This will take time – yes, you can do most of these things yourself – the phone calls, the legwork, the designing and promoting. Delegate to team members and when you come to realize this is a lot of work, refer to item number one above.

This truly is just the basics to fully promote your event. If you really want it done right, I highly recommend hiring an event planner/promoter.