The Must-Have Action List for Event Marketing… with an emphasis on social networks

I have pored over this post for days and days, no kidding.  Staying up as late as 4 in the morning, all to make sure that I’m delivering you top value.  Having taught many good folks in my workshops on the “nuts and bolts” of marketing collateral, one of the recurring questions has been this:  What does it look like once it’s all put together?

Thus, the creation of THE MUST-HAVE ACTION LIST FOR EVENT MARKETING.  These actions have been formulated from actual plans that I have designed, implemented, and best of all, succeeded with in promoting theatrical performances, cultural events, social functions, and more.  It’s chock-full of fun and important details – on effective use of Facebook, Twitter, and more.  When you get to the end of this post, I guarantee you will want a copy to take with you.

So… I made you one!  A well formatted and pretty (if I do say so myself – images, graphs, and all) PDF file for free download.  All on this ONE CONDITION.  That you spread the wealth. Please help out your fellow artists, entrepreneurs, and organizations.  You MUST promise.  If you love this document enough to own a personal copy, then simply SHARE this post with at least 5 people via email, or 5 of your social networks (Digg, Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) via repost, or any combination of either.  But at least 5.  You can do this super-easily when you tap the “share” buttons at the bottom of the post.  Don’t cheat – This is for EVERYONE.  That will be our fair trade, yes?

Ready to start?  Here we go!

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THE MUST-HAVE ACTION LIST FOR EVENT MARKETING
This must-have action list for event marketing can and should be tweaked, tricked out, and customized to meet your exact needs.  As it is, this sample blueprint is designed to promote a hypothetical arts event where you are spearheading the marketing efforts on behalf of an organization.  The action list itself is analogous to a recipe.  So naturally, we have to first inspect the required ingredients to make sure you have all the right elements and tools:

  • A rock solid understanding of what marketing is and isn’t
  • An iCal or Google Calendar
  • A Facebook (FB) account
  • A Twitter account
  • A Youtube account (optional but certainly a plus)
  • A dedicated website (also optional but highly recommended)
  • An email address
  • A phone
  • And of course, an exciting something that you would like to promote

What Marketing Is… and Isn’t
Particularly, the marketing I engage in and teach isn’t centered on fancy logos, junk mailing, fliers underneath your car’s windshield wipers, or expensive print ads.  I deal primarily in effective referral marketing or inbound marketing, sometimes also known as word-of-mouth marketing or evangelism.  The kind that is driven by excitement instead of inundation.  Be warned, it’s a thin line between love and spam.  It is of utmost importance that you deeply comprehend the difference before you take on any of the action steps, or you will risk reversing the desired effect – that is, you may actually repel people from buying into your event, product or service.

Even though I’m about to show you how to systematize your marketing, please know that at the ground level, the best and only marketing that matters is that which is based on relationships and human-to-human communications.  In other words, these tools and methods can only be extensions of your real self – your personality, your values, and your interests.  Having said that, if your marketing is a little bit annoying in person, the public will experience your marketing as hugely annoying when you apply the strategy herein, perceiving you as self-involved and cold.  If your marketing is sincere in person, the public will actually receive your shout out as a favor to them – not to your self-interest.  It’s a giant contrast.

Does Your Marketing Make People Irie or Irate?
The techniques I’m going to share with you I aced as a Program Manager at a nonprofit arts organization.  But the finesse with which I refined my techniques, I learned as a longtime patron and part-time promoter of nightlife in both New York and San Francisco.

Let me paint you a picture.  You leave a club after last call.  Throngs are filing out of the venue and there’s a gal parroting the same line over and over again while handing out flyers.  Something like, “Fundraiser, benefit, fundraiser, benefit, fundraiser, benefit.”  You take the ad and actually like what you see.  It’s one of your favorite acts playing next weekend.  You say thanks and ask her a few questions about the event.  But she can’t answer you because she’s too busy papering everyone else with flyers.  She has you sign the phone and email sheet for the “guest list”.  And when you go to the function, she hardly remembers you before parroting a line for another event she’s promoting.  Then you realize she generally hosts parties for a music type you don’t like at all.  But now you receive emails and texts for events you don’t care about and have never shown up to.  There are no opt-out features on the messages so you have no choice but to label one spam and the other harassment.

Was this fictional promoter a bad marketer?  Worse.  She was a poor empathizer, an awful listener, and not anyone that you’d consider a trustworthy colleague or friend.  She’s an example of ‘outbound’ marketing, also interruption marketing, and a straight-up message vomiter, repetitively copy-pasting language and motions.  Sad.  If she had done some of the same actions with sincere empathy and listening, the outcome might have secured a new alliance, repeat patronage, evangelism, and we might not think of her as such a pest today.

That’s it.  That’s the BIG secret to marketing!  Care for your audience and your audience will care for you.  So simple, no?  But I’m not here to teach you how to be selfless, available, and generous.  That’s your personal assignment.  And there’s no faking it either.  Patrons are very wary of cons and have developed a sensitive eye and ear for them.  There’s no plugin to download and install for that.

Basic DOs and DON’Ts
Let’s start with the DON’Ts…

  • DON’T promote robotically, even if you are using automation tools.
  • DON’T copy-paste, except for URLs.  NO letter templates either.
  • DON’T use negative emotions in your campaign like guilt or fear.
  • DON’T use the words “benefit” or “fundraiser” even if your event is one – see above bullet. This includes “support” which values the promoter’s interests over the patron’s.
  • DON’T promote indiscriminately.

For DO’s…

  • DO clarify the advantages for your audience.
  • DO identify and prioritize your loyal fans.
  • DO personalize your missives to individuals.
  • DO vary the language in your periodic mass messaging.
  • DO immediately reply to questions.
  • DO publicly and personally thank and acknowledge your supporters.

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PREPARATION
These are the preparatory steps you will take prior to executing your plan. It is critical that you have a good relationship with your calendar, allowing yourself the ability to zoom in and out of the details as needed. For example, you should be able to easily go from the three-month plan and focus in on a particular week or any single day at will. Structuring your marketing schedule far in advance will help you do this.

1. Open your scheduling program (like iCal or Google Calendar) and create a unique calendar for your event.

2. Mark significant dates starting back three months from the event: T-Minus twelve weeks, ten weeks, eight, six, four, two, one, target date, and lastly, T-Plus one week.  For example, an event on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 would have the following as significant dates:

  • January 26
  • February 9
  • February 23
  • March 9
  • March 23
  • April 6
  • April 20
  • May 4

3. Create a daily check-in list.  It may look something like this:

Review Social Networks
* Check FB page
* Check FB event page
– Reply accordingly to posts, acknowledge supporters, give thanks
– Invite more friends, post on friends’ walls, post on artists’ walls

* Check Twitter account
– Reply accordingly to posts, acknowledge supporters, give thanks
– Post more tweets, retweet shout outs, retweet valuable info from other sources

Check in with artists
– Call each

Review Press Release and Copy for Mass Emails
– Get feedback from proofreaders
– Send by due date(s)

Check in with staff
– Encourage comments and suggestions
– Make sure website info is up-to-date

This is only a sample.  The most important thing is that you have a master list that has captured EVERYTHING, every detail and required task, from which you can make sublists for specific categories and/or delegation.  In addition to the above you may have bullets for your ticket vendor, volunteer coordinator, graphic designer, and co-presenters.  Review this frequently.  The more confidence you have in your list, the more peace of mind you’ll have as action revs up, which will definitely come in handy as you approach the target date.  If you haven’t used it before, you might like Evernote as your organizational tool of choice. It’s perfect for list-making and the pro version even lets you upload files to your notes.

4. Create a project binder to house and keep all your materials organized.  It will contain among other things:

  • A Contact Sheet for staff, artists, venue contact, vendor contact, etc.
  • Your daily check-in list from above
  • The tailored Must-Have Action List which we’ll review in the next pages
  • Any hard-copy samples of any language or graphic design materials: flyers, posters, press release, photos, discs, etc.
  • Day-of event materials list
  • Day-of event to-do list

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THE ACTION LIST
Make no mistake, the key to evangelism is 360-degree exceptional products & services! Period. However, the key to exceptional referral marketing is frequent and “organic” interaction and approachability.  While the schedule should be a well-oiled machine, the communication itself should be ANYTHING other than mechanical.  Super important.

12 weeks to event:
* Collect all relevant bios and photos from your artists.  By the way, photos are extremely important.  Often times, a newspaper may print an awesome photo even if they didn’t originally care much for the event itself.  All photos should be high-res (minimum 300 ppi), no graphic design, and all uploaded to a service like Google’s Picasa for easy download.  These pics should be of people.  Faces are a plus.  And action photos – staged or not – do really well.

10 weeks to event:
* Have a fun writing/brainstorm session with your staff and key volunteers to think up cool headlines and tag lines for both the Press Release and the Mass Emails.  Where’s the “twist”, the angle, the funny, the rarity?  Include in this brainstorm, potential partners and places to promote, both online and in the real world, e.g. Online: Craigslist, Squidlist, FlavorPill, Yelp, etc.  And in the real world: schools, specific professors, certain school clubs, arts venues, events, and cultural organizations.  Schedule working these partners and co-presenters into your calendar. And also, assign personnel to give presentations and manage the design and distribution of collateral for each.

8 weeks to event:
* Create the 1st draft of your press release.

* Post the event info on the homepage of your website, prominently featuring any cool photos or promotional video, with special attention to event basics: where, when, ticket link, info phone line.

* Start Social Networking buzz utilizing the collected information from the brainstorm.
Publish your FB event and begin invitations.

A critical word on FB events and invites: Sometimes, I see poorly coordinated team members creating multiple event pages for the same function.  This is a mistake.  Having more than one event page confuses your invitees – big time.  Especially when you need to make special announcements. Also, guests are spread out over different event pages so even if you have a good number of “yes” rsvp’s, it appears otherwise, that not many people are interested.  To the new page visitor, this leaves a negative impression and dissipates your social networking juice.

Rule: Do NOT send mass invitations to start off with.  Target high-quality invitees first.  By high-quality, I mean folks likely to say yes or champion the event even if they can’t go.  As they rsvp “yes”, publicly thank them on FB, tell them you look forward to seeing them, and kindly ask them to repost.  This is crucial to building social networking momentum.  As others plainly rsvp “no”, delete them from the invitation entirely. However, the “no” rsvp’s that went out of their way to write on the event’s “wall” are still showing support. So you keep them on the list, reply to their comment by publicly thanking them anyway, and ask them to help promo the event via repost if possible.  As the yes’s pile up, continue to invite more folks, and repeating the above steps as needed.

Why the slow invite rule? The general public is risk-averse and is more likely to attend what has already been “socially proofed” by trusted sources.  Those trusted sources are friends and respected members of the community.  And they are also the masses of people giving your event the green light.

By more mindfully inviting guests to your FB event page – in a sense more organically – you can monitor the replies and insure that it is in fact socially proofed right up till the event launch.  On the reverse side, impersonal promoters invite everyone at once.  Let’s see what that math looks like.  Say you have 500 “friends”.  But because FB is international, only 100 actually live in your city.  Now, let’s say 50% of the out-of-towners automatically rsvp “no” and the other 50% don’t reply at all.  Of the people who live in your city 20% (your die-hards) say “yes”, 20% say “maybe”, and 20% say “no” due to schedule conflicts or general lack of interest.  Those are actually decent numbers! However, now, when the remaining 40% of locals show up to your event page, they’ll see 20 attending, 20 maybe attending, 220 not attending, and 240 awaiting reply, i.e. unimpressed.

Regardless of programming content, you tell me, does this event look like it’s the happening place to be?  A big fat NO to the WAY.  And that’s what slapdash marketing produces.  Not just indifference, quite realistically exponential rejection. Keep your attendance ratio on the plus side.

* Post an announcement on your organization’s main FB page.  Use the “wall” to publicly thank each and all who comment or repost.

* Twitter.  Most people and organizations highly under-utilize their Twitter accounts.  You should be posting frequently on relevant topics even if they’re not directly related to anything you’re promoting.  A good way to do this is to simply retweet interesting info from relevant organizations, news outlets, or high profile people.  This way, your audience will associate you with valuable – and relevant – content no matter what, and this will keep your folks from getting what I call “flyer fatigue”, i.e. unsolicited repeat announcements that one gets when leaving a club.  It is a MUST to keep the language fresh (no repeat copy-pasting ever) and try posting up to four times a day on anything beneficial or fun in the context of your organization’s mission.

6 weeks:
* Create YouTube videos!
– A well-made video can be a very powerful tool.  Emphasis on “well-made”.  An editor with an eye and ear is key.  Following the typical length of film trailers, do 2.5 to 3 minutes maximum.  These can be interviews, mini-docs, or music videos.  Anything fun, clever, mysterious, and no matter what, engaging.  Include titles for the event details: name, tagline, date, place.  The best part: if done right, these will be re-posted by your artists and the network at large.

– NOTE:  Some of your artists may already have awesome videos.  These should be leaked a little at a time via social networks, e.g. a new video highlighted and multi-posted per week.

* Review and edit the 2nd draft of your press release.

* Continue everyday management of FB and Twitter accounts.  Email artists to check in with them and remind them to post event info on their pages and sites, and to distribute flyers where their audience gathers.  Another great way to cross-promote is to use the [@name] option when plugging the event on both FB and Twitter.  This will automatically multi-post for you.  Remember to check for retweets so you can thank people in public for supporting your event.  Also, it is not uncommon to retweet retweets!  It’s an easy way to let people in your network know that others are cheering you on. An easy sample below: 1. I tweet something, 2. which is then retweeted and commented on by a friend for her followers, 3. which I then retweet back for my followers. Voila!

* Send Mass Email #1.  This email is a “teaser” and as such, should be concise and written and subject-lined as a personalized email, perhaps even signed off like one, e.g:

Thanks!
Anthem Salgado

-or-

Would love to see you there!
The Art Of Hustle Party Planners

4 weeks:
* Send the final draft of your press release to all local media – newspapers, radio and television, if applicable. For papers, see what departments (e.g. theater, arts, culture, and definitely all calendar listings editors) your event may be submitted to, possibly more than one.  Include links to high-res images and to your YouTube video(s) so that writers and editors can view and download materials easily.  Many papers also have event forms to complete online – make sure you’re following the directions.  Even if you have rarely or have never appeared in the paper, don’t discount it.  Even if editors and writers aren’t plugging your events, they are definitely still reading your press releases so it’s a good way to keep relationships, informing key media officials of your organization’s doings.

* Continue everyday management of FB and Twitter accounts.  At this point, you can safely add more and more invitees to your event, keeping in mind NOT to re-invite folks you’ve already deleted for their “no” rsvp. Doing so would be annoying and potentially damaging.

* Post the event invite to the FB pages of specific high-quality people – individuals with lots of FB activity, leaders, EDs, ADs, visible community folks.  Remember, this is NOT spam.  Each one should have a personalized hello and should be reserved to people you would actually love to see attend.

* Call your artists.  Calling your artists personalizes the experience for them so they don’t feel like they’re being marketed to either.  It helps them feel connection and buy-in, and it’s a good way to check the pulse of the buzz momentum.

* Send Mass Email #2.  This would be your official announcement including all the important details.  Include any media hype or supportive quotes. Because this may be fairly detailed, remember to format it so the eye can easily scan to certain bits of info:  When is it?  Where is it?  How do I buy tickets?

2 weeks:
Call, call, call.  This is a good time to make personalized phone calls to key individuals (good friends, leaders, visible personalities).  These should NOT and NEVER should be marketing calls.  These are genuine check-ins that ask, “How are you?  What are you up to?  (Offer advice, tips, resources).  Great, let me know how we can collaborate… (And mean it!)  By the way, did you hear about our event next week?  It should be a lot of fun.  Can you make it?”

A NOTE ON COMPS: Naturally, complimentary tickets should go to people you owe favors to (mentors, longtime supporters, etc.); however, strategically thinking, consider also who would be likely to champion the event, i.e. talk up the show amongst their peers whether in person or in public via social networks. These are not deals or trades of any kind, but rather calculated bets on folks who might multiply your audience by virtue of social “stickiness”.

1 week to event:
Send Mass Email #3.  This should be a combination of personalized and official email.  Start off with the informal hello and announcement, followed by the official details and information.  Again, include any media hype or supportive quotes.

At this point, every tweet should be related to your specific one event, and nothing else.  Again, up to four or so times a day, maximizing on retweets and any quotes and press.

Event day:
* Publish your last tweets and FB announcements.  I would even include a warm text message reminder to key friends.  Though most of your energy should really go towards operations and prep.

– STILL, you should have designated digital camera persons for both still and motion pictures.  These people needn’t be professionals but they should definitely know their tools exceptionally well in order to maximize on the archival process.  You will need these photos and footage to report back to the public post-event and for future promotions and all around “social capital”.

– Also, for a social boost, designate a real-time tweeter, preferably someone with a smart phone.  Taking pics and tweeting about the fun is a very effective way to generate last minute walk-ups.

Post event, T-Plus 1 week:
It’s not over yet.  Not taking care of follow-up post-event is a HUGE waste of momentum.

* Upload selected event photos to an account (e.g. Flickr or Picasa, and certainly FB).  Edit and upload the super fun event video to YouTube and FB – again, something short and sweet, event highlights and audience feedback, like those old Broadway TV ads – “Oh, it was better than Cats!”

* Email and call key individuals (your die-hard believers) to thank them personally.  Publicly thank everyone possible via twitter AND on each person’s FB page.  Include the links to the photos and videos for your guests.
– Your guests will feel loved.  And anyone who missed the fun will wish they hadn’t and will know not to skip the next one!
– This is the natural life cycle of marketing for ANY event.  You’ll notice when you follow this routine that you will get huge spikes in online interaction, plus new “followers” and “friends”.  Congratulations!

FINAL NOTE:
You’ve done it! You have learned the importance of:

  • Empathy in marketing
  • Planning far in advance
  • Utilizing a reliable calendar system
  • Having a master list for project details
  • Understanding social networking etiquette and customs
  • Personalizing your communications
  • Momentum-building and follow-through

This information equips you with a solid map to be tailored to fit your needs. And this is only the beginning! As you may have learned from reading the many posts at the site, Art Of Hustle is a brand and philosophy that favors never-ending education and action. Continue to train yourself and your team on effective language, communication, project management, outreach, team building, and more! Revel in your journey. There is a lot to take in and to enjoy. I bid you relentless thrill and curiosity.

Spread the wealth! Help out your fellow artists, entrepreneurs, and organizations.  Simply SHARE this post with at least 5 people via email, or 5 of your social networks via repost, or any combination of either.  But at least 5.  You can do this super-easily when you tap the “share” buttons at the bottom of the post.

Then download your free pdf copy of this detailed action list here!

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Comments

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Comments

16 responses to “The Must-Have Action List for Event Marketing… with an emphasis on social networks”

  1. Lisa Hsia says:

    Awesome! Definitely sharing this 🙂 Thank you for all the thought and care you put into this post!

  2. okay, this is the 3rd time i had to rewrite this…stupid CAPTCHA!

    Anyways…Hello, bloggers/viewers:
    I am a Theater Producer, Event Manager & Artist. And I have never seen such a comprehensive and FREE Marketing toolkit/packet/map such as this one. Kudos on all the info and awesome pictures!

    This will definitely help with my launch and promoting my one woman show next year. Thanks so much, Anthem. Def reposting on my Blogger and Tumblr. You rock! Much appreciation.

  3. Dianne Que says:

    As the program manager for Kularts, a non-profit arts organization and as an art+craft entrepreneur, I have to say this action list is MONEY. Thoughtful, calculated, and effective – such a powerful reference tool. Thanks for sharing, Anthem!

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  7. Such a fantastic and invaluable read! Thank you for creating and sharing this list. I immediately printed a copy and placed it in my own project folder. And I hope to have the opportunity to use this guide in the future.

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