I’ve been helping businesses and community organizations share and promote their services, products, and events for over 15 years, and this is one of my most frequently asked questions:
“What’s the best way to get the word out about our upcoming event?”
It’s usually followed up with,”We’re just volunteers, so we don’t have much of a budget.” So, to save my generous friends and neighbors some time and aggravation, here’s a quick summary of the best way to promote a Chelsea, Michigan event when you have a small budget. If you are located in another community, most of these tips will still be relevant, but you will of course have your own local Chamber of Commerce, community news, and event hubs.
In my experience with countless local organizations and events, I find that you’ll get the most bang for your buck with:
- Your website, social media, and mailing lists
- Sharing posters and postcards
- Local news
- Event listing calendars
- Chamber of Commerce
In general, these tips are for reaching people in the Chelsea area. For a wider audience, most of the tips are still applicable, but you’ll want to extend the reach to additional outlets.
1. Create something to share: press release, announcement, artwork
First, you need something to share. Typically this is a press release, poster, postcard and related artwork.
- Write a press release, and find appropriate photos to go along with it (such as photos from previous year event, event participants, etc.).
- Create fun, compelling and shareable graphics for your event. You will need various sizes for different media outlets, so make sure you plan for that when designing the graphics. These will vary from vinyl signs to social media icons. Make a list of where you’ll want to share before you begin designing the artwork. A vertical poster design does not easily translate to a banner-sized image for social media.
- TIP: Chelsea Print & Graphics is a great local printer, if you aren’t printing in-house. Whenever possible, try to shop local. These connections in your home town are very important for good will, and word of mouth.
2. Publish and share on your own website and social media
Believe it or not, this step is often the one people forget about. I’ve seen countless times where a flyer lists a website, but there is no information on their website.
- Create a dedicated page on your website for the event and include your press release or shortened version of it, photos and images on it. This is where all roads should lead in terms of your marketing, so it’s best if your URL is short and easy to share (e.g., chelseafestivals.com/holiday or balletchelsea.org/nutcracker). Make sure to have a great looking image, interesting description (tell people WHY they want to come?), time, date, location and any ticket or pricing information that is relevant.
- Feature the event on your home page with a nice image and link to the event page.
- If you have a sidebar on your website, feature your in the sidebar so it can be clicked on from every page on your website, to connect to your event page.
EMAIL NEWSLETTER / ANNOUNCEMENT
- If you have an e-news system such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp – email your press release to announce the event, and a reminder at intervals leading up to the event (don’t pester). Make it easy for people to buy tickets, if applicable.
- In your local network, check and see if other organizations can help share the announcement in their e-news as well. Ideas include related groups, local events organizations, your local Chamber.
- For social media, plan well in advance of when you will posting about the event. You will want to share it a few times leading up to your event in order to be strategically top of mind for people. But you don’t want to post so often that people get sick of it and start ignoring you… or worse, hiding your posts or unliking your page.
- If your business/organization has a Facebook page, create an event on your Facebook page. Make sure the description is short, compelling and shareable, and that you have a good graphic/image to go along with it.
- Share the event listing, and link to your website to your Facebook page. Encourage others to share it on their personal pages. Schedule the initial post during a time of week and day that you tend to have the most interactions with your page.
- When sharing on social media, tag your sponsors and partner organizations, so they can also share with their followers.
- If you have a Twitter account, tweet about the event with an image and link to your website, tagging other organizations as appropriate. Don’t just share your Facebook post. Not all Twitter users are fans of Facebook, and many will avoid clicking on Facebook links.
- If you have an Instagram account, design a special square-version of your poster that will look good on Instagram and share, hashtag, and tag related organizations such as @explorechelsea or @puremichigan. People also love it when you share pics of “behind the scenes” photos such as set design, costumes, rehearsals, etc.
3. Distribute posters, postcards, signs, etc.
IMPORTANT: Make sure the event info is on your own website before you start sharing the link to “learn more”!
- Distribute posters around town. 11×17 is good for a large size, 8.5 x 11 is good for places where less room is available. When you go to hang posters, be sure to politely ask business owners if it’s ok, and return after the event to remove them. If you want a very large poster for your own use, 24×36 is the standard size, but that’s too big to hang at someone else’s business. It’s also nice to have postcards or bookmarks to leave around town for people to take with them.
- Mail postcards if you have the list and budget to do so
- If appropriate for your event, you may also wish to design a large vinyl banner, which can be hung outdoors. Educate yourself about what sign ordinances are in place before purchasing a large banner.
- If appropriate for your event, yard signs are often placed strategically around town. Be sure to check sign ordinances in the city before spending time and money on signs of any kind.
4. Submit to local news and event calendars
- Submit your press release (doc and pdf format) and photos (jpg format) to ChelseaUpdate.com, The Sun Times, and Chelsea Guardian. Depending on your audience, you may also wish to submit to Ann Arbor, Jackson, Dexter, Manchester, Grass Lake news outlets.
- Submit your event to local calendars, including ChelseaMich.com. Ann Arbor Observer, MLive, eCurrent. If appropriate, there is also Ann Arbor with Kids, and Ann Arbor Family. This is a separate task from sending an email or sharing a press release.
- If you are a Chamber member, ask if your event can be shared in the next Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce e-newsletter.
- If your event is school-related, you can also request to have flyers emailed out to Chelsea students and families. These requests go through an approval process through Community Ed office. School events can also be submitted to the school office to share in announcements and for CHS, the school newspaper.
5. Paid Online & Print Advertising
- Purchase digital ad on ChelseaUpdate.com (see pricing: chelseaupdate.com/advertise)
- Purchase digital ad on ChelseaMich.com (see pricing: chelseamich.com/advertising)
- Paid promotions or boosts on social media to reach a wider audience
- Print ads are often out of budget for small community groups, but if you do have a budget for it, consider placing ads in the following outlets:
Do you find these tips helpful? Do you promote events and have other ideas to share with local organizations? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org