23 August, 2012

Open Letter To An Undisclosed Advisory Board : How To Promote Your Events Without A Budget Or A Marketing Guy

Your recent hand-wringing discussion about how to publicize your events was painful to hear. I was just a guest so I couldn't offer advice but I wanted to stand up and shout "Why are you pretending that you're still living in a time when you couldn't get your message out unless you owned a radio station, a newspaper or a TV station or unless you paid those media gatekeepers to publicize your events?"

In an age when every one of you can instantly notify hundreds of people abut your events through Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or through your own personal blog or website, you're like a man who freezes to death in the middle of the forest when he could have gathered some sticks, built a fire and kept warm.

While I like your idea of buying a sign, I'd like you to start using the free means of information dissemination that are already available to you.

And don't wait for your org's marketing department to do this for you. You can do it better, faster and cheaper yourselves. Let me prove it to you.

A few years ago I was part of a community-based effort to provide a job search seminar/workshop to help "older workers" who had recently been "right-sized" out of their jobs and were experiencing age discrimination as they attempted to find new jobs. We put together a coalition of headhunters, staffing agencies, a major university and, of course, AARP.

The AARP rep told us AARP would take care of publicizing the event. They had been involved in these workshops before and they knew that if they sent 5,000 post cards to members in the area they'd get about 30 attendees. Yeah, that's right; AARP's plan was to spend a lot of money to send 5,000 pieces of mail and only get 30 attendees. Phooey on that.

Had we left it to the AARP marketing department, we would have provided a workshop for about 30 older workers when we knew we should be reaching HUNDREDS of older workers. So we didn't leave it to AARP's marketing guy. We did it ourselves and we reached hundreds of older workers - and we did it at almost no cost at all.

First, we took advantage of "Earned Media". I took it upon myself to write a simple media release which I sent to a handful of radio stations, newspapers and TV stations. I think I mailed about 10 releases at my own expense. As a result of these media releases, I was invited to be a guest on 2 local radio talk shows and was given free space in 2 local newspapers.

And, of course, we used social media. Linkedin. Facebook. (I don't think any of us had Twitter yet but you do.)

Registrations for our older workers job workshop went through the roof. Even after our university partner provided us with a larger venue we had to waitlist hundreds of people and repeat the workshop. It was a smashing success. The only people who weren't happy were the AARP experts who had been shown up by our amateur efforts.

Don't freeze to death in the middle of the forest and don't wait for your marketing people to come save you. You can build your own fire.  Let's see, there are 12 people on your board. Let's say each of you types your event as a  "status update" and puts it on your Facebook pages, your Linkedin pages and your Twitter feed. Let's say some of you put it in your blog or your personal website. How many people will you reach? Hundreds? Thousands?

St. Albans is a small town. It's easy and free to reach most of the households in town. Don't pretend you don't have the means. I just told you how to do it.
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