From ribbon cuttings to restaurant openings, event planning can be complicated and a lot of work. Weeks are spent getting all of the details in place, only to realize you aren’t quite sure if anyone will show up to your memorable soirée. If you’re tasked with putting a special event together (and what event isn’t special?), here are eight tips to help you set goals, stay organized and, most importantly, successfully put butts in seats.
1. Set your goal(s). Many times businesses and organizations plan events, press conferences, ribbon cuttings, grand openings and more without setting a big picture goal or goals. Be sure to know why you are planning the event and what you want out of the investment you put in. Limit the number of goals to just a couple or you’ll end up making a complicated mess of things.
2. Consider your timeline. What can you do effectively with the time you have? Your event plan should realistically reflect what you can do in the time allotted. If you have a longer timeframe, consider sending the media outlets a newsworthy story about your event. If the timeframe is rushed, spend time utilizing social media partnerships, event calendar listings and direct invites via email or phone.
3. Determine key messages. It’s important that all outreach efforts have a consistent message. Determine your event’s core message and state it clearly throughout all promotional materials. Determine the hook that will make your target audience attend your event. Remember, the first impression (promotional materials) will ultimately influence whether people will show up.
4. Determine your target audience. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s the best way to communicate information about your event to your primary audience?
- How do members of this group prefer to receive information? Can you reach them by e-mail? Social media? Traffic radio?
Once you identify your audience, you can establish the most efficient and effective way to reach them with your key message.
The next few tips will help create buzz that will circulate event details throughout your targeted community:
5. Build your event brand through social platforms. Give your event a branded hashtag to drive social media and ongoing attention to your business and special event. Social marketing, like the use of branded hashtags, can be used for promotional purposes before, during and after the event. In past events, Cook+Schmid builds awareness about the events using branded hashtags in social media contests. People win tickets through a drawing of people who post about the event. Encourage your wanted guests to use the event hashtag in social posts and photos on their personal pages, which ensure your message reaches far beyond those guests who were present. It’s also very inexpensive to “sponsor” or “boost” Facebook posts to reach friends of friends, which is another effective way to increase your reach.
6. Communicate with the media. If your goal is to earn media placement, media relations is one of the best investments of time. A media advisory and press release are great ways to get event details out through targeted outlets. If time allows, pitch the unique details of your event to gain interest, and ultimately placement, in local and even neighborhood publications. One other non-traditional media outreach tactic we like to use is to build relationships with local bloggers, local celebrities and movers and shakers. Identify who has a relationship with your targeted audience and offer them tickets on the house. Odds are they will post about it, talk about it in their social circles and possibly write a follow up story focused on your event.
7. Targeted Advertising – If you have the budget and the time, print advertising can be very effective depending on your audience. Find out where your audience is and what publications they read or even sites they visit before moving forward with an advertising purchase.
An example of a strategic ad buy was for a recent San Diego Beer Week event – Client: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse Publication: Westcoaster (beer drinkers Business Journal). Once this advertisement was placed and published we saw ticket sales increase immediately and other sources pick up and promote the event.
8. Email Marketing – If you have an existing email list, use it! Send your fans a reminder about the event. If your event does not have a targeted email list, get creative and send the details to local organizations that are specific to your target audience. Be careful not to overuse your list. Don’t bombard them with messages and be sure to mix in emails that provide solid value or you’ll end up with a list of people who won’t read what you send.
Events can be stressful and time intensive, but we hope these eight tips and tricks will help you plan a successful special event. If you have any questions about event planning, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Cook + Schmid.