How to market events with a short lead time

Harvest Festival at Hemet, California – photo courtesy of Visit San Jacinto Valley.

We speak a lot about event marketing, but generally it is in the context of annual events, not events with a short lead time.

Quite often in destination marketing there are festivals and events that spring up out of nowhere; it’s great to have these new events, but they often give you a very short window to get the marketing together and get the word out.

Leslie has done this multiple times over the years with various DMOs and has a successful “formula” that we wanted to share with you as a checklist, to help guide you when something like this pops up.

Checklist for Marketing Events with a Short Lead Time

  1. Schedule a meeting with your partners ASAP (before you start the marketing) to discuss the new event and get their buy-in. Talk it through with them. They’re sure to give you additional ideas about how to enhance the marketing of the event, and they’ll probably also have some questions that you might not have thought of. This step is critical to the success of events with a short lead time.
  2. Put up a landing page or a blog post on your website – you want to be able to direct all digital marketing to that specific page/post. Never just dump people onto your homepage to hunt around for the relevant info! Since this is a new event you’ll want to have a place where you can put up additional information as it becomes available.
  3. Write a press release for all local media. Use the landing page/blog post as the link for additional information. Here are some tips on writing a press release.
  4. Post about the event on social media, driving traffic to the landing page/blog post. If you only have the time and resources for one social platform, make it Facebook. Create either a Facebook Page for the event, or a Facebook event tied to the organizer’s Facebook Page. Continue to post specifically about the event once or twice per week on all your social platforms to build buzz. Don’t be afraid to ask people to share the post to help you get the word out. Likes, comments, and especially shares are key to Facebook Page engagement and getting more eyeballs on your content. If you’re only on Facebook, an event hashtag is less critical, but if you’re also on Instagram or Twitter, definitely pick a hashtag early and use it on every post.
  5. As the event nears, put some money behind Facebook ads or boosted posts. Especially for a new Page for a new event, it will be incredibly difficult to get your Page posts in front of anyone unless you pay for it. Before you do this though, you must have a good idea of who you are going to target with your ads. Facebook provides such great targeting options that the better you have it nailed down on your end, the more successful your ads will be. If the event is more “local”, you can do really well simply boosting one of your current Facebook posts (pick one that’s already doing well organically – you know it’s working!) and targeting your local ZIP codes.
  6. Keep your partners engaged. Make sure that they have the latest information. Send out weekly emails or post regularly in a private Facebook Group (if you have one) for your partners.  ** Provide your partners with sample Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts that they can share to their connections. Send these to them digitally so all they have to do is cut and paste, including any event graphics or logos. Make it as easy for them as possible and they will help you with marketing.

To see a great example of how to make things easy for your partners, look no further than how American Express works with their partners for Small Business Saturday. While this is a seasoned event, the items that AMEX provides – from digital and print marketing pieces all ready to go, to social media posts already written – is an example that you can refer to time and again to get ideas of how your partners can help you market.

Have you got a tip regarding how to market an event with a short lead time? Please feel free to share it below in the comments and we’ll add it to our list!

Want to learn a lot more about promoting special events with social media? That’s covered in our online course Lesson 5, which you can purchase individually. It comes with a before/during/after event promotion checklist, too.

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What’s Happening on Our Social Networks?

**  Our top tweet this past month – a shared link to our guest blog post about Main Street marketing tips.

**  Our top Facebook Page post this past month – a fun photo in a small town shop window.

**  Our top LinkedIn Company Page post this past month – every tourism board should be doing this – a Swiss initiative to loan out personal hotspots to visitors. If you want people to talk about you online, make sure they can easily GET online.


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