Organizing a local community event is a different experience than hosting a national conference or trade show. Blogging, email, press releases, and other digital marketing tactics aren’t as effective to promote a community event. Instead, you need to take an on-the-ground approach that caters to the needs and preferences of the specific community.
If you’re planning a community event, you may be worried you won’t achieve the attendance you need, especially if you aren’t familiar with the community. While every community is different and the individual tactics you use to promote your event will vary, here are the best strategies to promote your local event.
1. Contact Previous Event Hosts
If you aren’t sure where to start promoting your community event, it may help to reach out to anyone who has hosted a local event in the same community in the past. You will want to ask three important questions.
“What worked for you?”
This question will help you uncover the most impactful steps you can take to promote your event. This is like skipping all of the trial and error and jumping right to what works.
For instance, the host of a previous community event may tell you to reach out to the local Rotary Club because they have a mailing list of local influential people. That is an extremely valuable piece of advice, and something you may not have learned on your own.
“What didn’t work for you?”
You’ll also want to know what the previous host tried that didn’t work. This will tell you what to avoid, so you don’t spend time and energy experimenting with pointless tactics.
For example, posting signs on a busy roadway may seem like a great way to build exposure. But if the host of a previous event tells you her signs were routinely vandalized, you may decide to spend your money elsewhere.
“What would you do?”
This is the most valuable question you can ask because it taps directly into the previous event host’s experience. Ask them what they would do if they had to promote a community event in the future.Organizing a local community event is a different experience than hosting a national conference or trade show. Click To Tweet
2. Leverage Local Influencers
The most impactful way to promote your community event is to reach out to local influential people who could promote on your behalf. This might include a popular community leader, a religious leader, a local politician, a school principal or superintendent, or anyone who has a way to communicate with the community.
A local influencer doesn’t have to be someone in an official position. It could be anyone who has sway with the community. For instance, if the area has a local Facebook group where people discuss local issues, you could reach out to the administrators of that group.
When you ask local influencers to share your event with their followers, make sure they have all of the details. It may help to give them some print materials to hand out.
In most cases, you will want to offer compensation to local influencers to get their help promoting your event. They may not ask to be paid, but they are more likely to go out of their way for you if there is something in it for them. Their compensation doesn’t have to be much. A small gift or free admission to your event is usually enough.
3. Look for Free Opportunities
Many communities offer free ways to promote local events. They’re happy to give you broadcast time, sign space, or print space as long as the event benefits the community in some way.
For instance, almost every library in the country has a bulletin board where just about anyone can post a flyer. You’ll want to get the librarian’s permission, of course, but they probably won’t mind. This is an easy way to expose your event to local people who are engaged with the community.
The local newspaper is another easy win. Local papers usually reserve ad space for community events. Call and ask if you can add an event to their community calendar. There’s a good chance they’ll publish you in the print paper, add you to their website, and even promote you on their social media profiles.
In fact, local papers want to know about these kinds of events because it gives them something to write about that’s highly relevant to their audience. If you ask to make an announcement in their paper, there’s a good chance they’ll put you in touch with someone who will write an entire article on your event.
In order to find free opportunities, you’ll have to ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask a restaurant or bar if you can hang a flyer, or to ask a radio station if they give any free ad time to local organizers. You’re bound to hear no more than yes, but the yeses are worth the trouble.
4. Buy Facebook Ads
You’ve heard us make this recommendation before, but it’s just as relevant in this context as any other. Everyone uses Facebook, so it’s a powerful way to communicate with any group of people. It also gives them the opportunity to share the event with others, which has the potential to balloon your promotions.
The trick to getting the most value out of Facebook ads is to take advantage of Facebook’s sophisticated targeting capabilities. You’ll want to drill down to people who 1) live in the area, and 2) like the type of event you’re throwing. Pay special attention to people who have interacted with similar events in the past.
Wherever possible, use photography from the area in your ad creative. This will help local people connect with your ads. For instance, if you’re hosting the event on Main Street, show a photo of Main Street that local people will identify right away. Don’t use stock photography, because that will just look fake.
5. Get Local Businesses Involved
Local businesses are fantastic tools to promote your event, providing you bring them in to the planning process as early as possible. The sooner you involve them, the more they will help promote your event.
Let’s say you are hosting a local block party, so you invite 10 or 12 local restaurants to setup tables and serve food. Those restaurants will promote your event to their customers to ensure they make sales on event day. Furthermore, people from the community are more likely to attend because they know and trust those restaurants.
It’s important to work with businesses that come directly from the local community. Stick with restaurants, bars, stores, and services that are well-known and well-liked in the area. Hire the local ambulance company as your on-site paramedic. Hire a local band for your music entertainment. If you hire any police for event security, make sure they come from the local police department.
Do not enlist help from companies outside of the area. Their customer base is less likely to overlap with your community. Plus, people from your community may resent the inclusion of an outside business.
Get on the Front Lines
As you can see, promoting a local event is quite different than promoting a national event attended by people from all over the country (or the world). Community events require a targeted approach to reach the right people. They also require you to show up in-person to meet people and businesses, as opposed to marketing from your laptop. Hopefully these strategies get you started.