I never really thought of what I do as “rocket science.” As a communication professional, most of it comes pretty naturally to me. Though communication is a rather broad term, for the purposes of this post, I am zeroing in on publicity.
In October, Lynn is set to have one of the biggest events in its history – the third and final 2012 presidential debate. This is an unusual case where EVERYONE wants to come to your event, but very few can even attend. The focus becomes just managing the message. This is not the usual case when it comes to promoting events, however.
During the height of activity here at Lynn, everyone has something to promote: events, activities, productions, etc. They wonder – and worry: How do we get the word out? How will they find out about it? How can we be sure they know about it? Will they come?
Well, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is there is no magic wand we wave, no tried-and-true formula that works for everything. But the good news is there are so many more ways to get the word out than there used to be – all the social media, digital platforms, iPhones, instant communication and 24-hour news cycles, etc. But because there are so many ways people can get confused and overloaded. It is far more effective to be strategic and go for quality over quantity.
Remember, that old cliché: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Well, it happens to be true. We can do a lot of leading (promoting), but if someone is not interested in going to something, there is nothing you – or we – can do to make them (drink). So, it’s important to know your audience and then market to THEM. It’s much more effective to market to a small, but targeted group, than just throw a dart at the entire board, hoping it lands in the right place.
If there is a trick, it is to first make sure you’re offering something people want (and that starts way in the beginning as you plan your event). It’s important to remember, that we in communications are not the programmers, but the promoters. So, once the event has been planned, scheduled and set; that’s where we come in – we use the words, language and images and strategically place the information in the appropriate venues, making it sound as exciting and inviting as possible.
However, it also pays to be realistic. You can’t make something sound great and then have people come to a not-so-great event. And you just can’t have an event for the sake of having it. It has to be the right “fit” for the audience.
If you don’t get the turnout you want, you have to ask yourself some hard questions. Is the money you’ve spent, the resources you’ve had to use and the energy you’ve had to expend, worth it? Does the end justify the means? And it’s not always about the bottom line. There are other benefits from having certain events, like awareness, involvement, etc.
There are of course the easy “sells.” Billy Joel sold out the house without any trouble. As a matter of fact, we had to really hold off on shouting it from the rafters since it was an internal event only. I’ve never spent so much energy NOT publicizing something.
Too bad you can’t have a Billy Joel every day.