If you are an event organizer, you have a few sources from which you can get attendance for your events. You can grow your own distribution channels, or get publicity by being featured on various media channels such as blogs, podcasts, various YouTube channels, local event websites, or other large publications. In this article we will explain how you can get publicity for your event series.
The definition of publicity we will use is:
Publicity (pub·lic·i·ty) noun : when someone chooses to endorse you for free (although also available for purchase)
Good storytelling will help you get publicity
There is no publicity without a good story. People and companies get publicity because they are noteworthy, or make themselves appear noteworthy. Just about anyone can be noteworthy to someone else if they create a great story. Let me illustrate this with a few examples.
I am currently helping a smart watch app developer get publicity. It is incredibly easy to get publicity for him because everyone in business and technology is very curious about this topic. It is naturally a good story. But he didn’t approach me with that story. Instead, he approached me for help on a productivity iPhone app. There are hundreds of productivity apps out there and it would have been very difficult to generate publicity for that kind of a story. So I had to find an angle that would get media editors interested. And that angle was the smart watch apps.
Most people’s story may not seem nearly as exciting so let me give you an example of a very ubiquitous and seemingly bland event series that I was able to make very popular.
A few years ago I ran a hiking group. Hiking is fun, but it isn’t exciting or noteworthy to all audiences, so I had trouble generating attendance. Then I started to focus on creating stories and themes around the hikes. One popular theme was a hike to find shipwrecks during low tide. That hike was eventually talked about on National Public Radio (NPR). Since the storytelling of your event starts with your event title, let’s start with that.
Headlines that get attention are extremely important
Believe it or not, 50% of your entire event marketing is the title of the event. The title of your event will either grab a person’s attention or it won’t. I can’t overemphasize the importance of having a great title that grabs attention.
Let’s get back to my shipwreck hike event series. It was a local event in San Francisco which is a pretty large metropolitan area with 700,000 residents and a few million residents if you include nearby towns. An event like “shipwreck hunt during low tide” was either the best sounding event in the entire city that day, or at least one of the most fascinating.
What makes me say that with confidence? I say that because without me even knowing about it or soliciting it, the San Francisco Sunday newspaper published my event on their front page. The headline grabbed the attention of the newspaper’s editors and they endorsed my event simply because they thought it would be interesting for their readers.
That sparked an “aha moment” for me and I began doing themed events instead of the bland sounding hikes. After the shipwreck hike I did a cannon and old military base hike. After that I did social and beer hikes. I even had a hike to the Yoda statue in San Francisco. Since I ran the hikes on a weekly basis, pretty soon, almost every editor of local newspapers or event websites knew about my events, and I was able to establish relationships with local publications, and get extra publicity on a regular basis.
Note of caution: I have to admit that it is pretty easy to get carried away with making better and better sounding headlines. As the event organizer you must also make sure that your event is actually as good as the headline makes it seem to be, and that people who attend the event actually love the event. In the case of my shipwreck hike, people didn’t always love the event itself because the shipwrecks weren’t as people saw them in the movies. They were barely recognizable pieces of rusted metal sticking out of the water. For videos and photos of the shipwreck visit http://www.comehike.com/outdoors/shipwrecks.php
Put as much focus on making sure that the event quality is great as you put on making a great headline for the event.
Sources of publicity
As I alluded to earlier, you can gain publicity from a few different types of sources. If your event is a conference, people will fly in from different places from all over the world. But if your events are more basic, the attendance will be composed mostly of locals. That distinction has an impact on where you will get publicity for your event. Nevertheless, here are a few strategies that work.
First, you want to leverage large sites that cover events in your local area. Such sites are newspaper sites and local event websites. You can easily figure out which such sites to target in your local area by searching the term “events in your_city_name” which will show you what the major event websites in your area to target. Many of those sites will be crowdsourced sites which means that you can post your own event there.
You can also target radio shows and other online media. We’ll explain this shortly.
One effective strategy you can use is to buy publicity from the local event websites. It is typically pretty affordable to have your event promoted, and large local event sites can drive a large number of attendees to your events. This is especially effective if you are generating revenue from your event, and can afford to spend money on advertising.
Endorse thought leaders
If your event is the kind of event where you have expert speakers, or where there is some sort of a knowledge exchange, invite speakers who already have large distribution channels. Your speakers will help to promote your event, and it will help you establish a business relationship with them. Having a business relationship with people who already have large distribution channels will put you in a good position to get publicity from them again in the future.
There are a number of specific techniques and tactics you can try. We’ll cover them briefly in this section. For a full list and explanations check this resource on how to gain publicity: http://glowingstart.com/9-tips-ideas-strategies-get-press-coverage-business/
Every large city has a press club. These aren’t well known to the world outside of press, but if you find a press club for your local city and say that you can be used as a source in their journalistic stories, you can get publicity for your events. Similarly, you can sign up for helpareporterout.com to get free publicity on various publications. For publicity on radio shows and podcasts, sign up for http://www.radioguestlist.com. You can also cold-approach local bloggers and event websites to try to establish business relationships with them and try to get publicity.
You can also create a press release and send it out. The beautiful thing about press releases is that you can create and publish one each time you put on an event. So as soon as you figure out how to craft press releases that are effective at getting you exposure, you can do them on a consistent basis.