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Eastern Volunteers is a volunteer resource centre located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, which assists community organisations in recruiting and training volunteers.

This month I conducted a training session on planning and promoting events; following the success of a similar workshop that I held last year. The half-day workshop covered the following topics:

Developing a marketing approach

Events are a marketing activity and as such they need to align with organisational goals. All forms of interaction, such as attending an event, receiving promotional materials or customer service, results in an impression being formed. It is imperative that these impressions reinforce the key messages that an organisation wishes to communicate.

Events need a clearly defined purpose so that the organisation and participants are aware of the outcomes they wish to be achieve. Clear expectations also assist when evaluating the effectiveness of an event.

Do you wish to raise funds, or are you planning to raise awareness for your organisation? While there may be a crossover between purposes, there will typically be an overriding priority that defines the aim of the event.

Like any form of marketing, there is a need to understand the target market for your event. Who do you wish to attract to the event and why is it is important to reach this target market? Knowing the target market will assist in understanding the best communication tools that can be used to reach these attendees.

Planning and Executing Events

Events need to be planned from their end date, to ensure sufficient time for all required activities. Start with the key delivery date and work from there to identify milestones for essential activities. It is also worth considering the decision making structure for the event. Potential models include a dedicated events team, or forming an events committee to provide the opportunity to draw upon other expertise.

The right structure will depend on the capabilities of the organisation and the scope of the event.

It is particularly important to prepare for potential variables, such as poor weather that could deter participation in the event. Consider strategies, such as pre-registrations or marquees to encourage participation even if the weather is poor.

Sponsorship and Support

Events are often dependent on external support, including grants and sponsorship. Sponsors will want to see a benefit from the event and there is a need to demonstrate tangible value that can justify support.

There is a need to demonstrate tangible value to business partners, so that they are clear on the outcomes they receive. Value needs to be more than just ‘brand awareness’, it needs to demonstrate the tangible benefits that a partner would receive.

For example, does your event cater to a target market that is desired by the business, or will it provide an opportunity to leverage other activities? What is the reach of your event? How many people are you anticipating will attend?

Answering these questions will help identify potential value for business partners and enable you to quantify support for your event. It is often useful to offer several levels of sponsorship, with increased value provided for the higher categories. This approach enables you to involve a range of businesses and can provide opportunities to strengthen support in future years. Offering an in-kind category is also useful, as this ensures that non-monetary forms of support are suitably recognized

Engaging the Media

It is important to target the media that is right for your event. If your event is specific to an area then relevant local newspapers and radio would be worthwhile targets. The media needs a story that stimulates their interest and is relevant to their readers.

Media releases should be no longer than a page and must include the key details of your event:

  • What the event is
  • Where it will be held
  • When it will be held
  • How people can register and any payment details

Media releases should be sent via email, with the subject line including the title of the release. Content should alternate between quotes and background information to provide context for the release.

The content of the media release should be included within the body of the email to ensure that journalists can scan the information quickly. Attachments should generally be avoided as it is unlikely that they will be viewed.

It is beneficial to make initial contact with journalists and to follow up the media release to reinforce key comments. There is never any guarantee that a story will be run but a positive approach can assist in generating coverage.

Promotional Tools

The choice of promotional tools, such as flyers, brochures, posters, websites and social media will depend on the nature of your event and your target markets. Key messages should reinforce the aim of your event and the outcomes that participants will gain.

All promotional tools should have a clear call to action that spurs a response. For example, if your event require registrations, then the call to action should encourage people to register. Designs should reinforce the call to action and should be uncluttered to ensure that key messages are clear.

Your online presence should be complement off-line promotional tools, meaning that websites should include key event details.

Conclusion

Events are a marketing activity and need clearly defined objectives to ensure that you can evaluate performance. Evaluation ensures that you are able to make informed decisions to consider the event in future years.

It is important to understand the target market for the event, as this will influence the promotional tools and potential sponsors. Business partners will generally want a return from supporting an event and it is important that you can articulate quantifiable benefits, such as the ability to reach a desired target market.

All promotional tools should reinforce the key messages of the event with a consistent appearance and a clearly defined call to action that encourages participation.

Events can require a lot of work and dedication but can also successfully raise the profile of your organisation or supporting fundraising campaigns.

Alex Makin

Author Alex Makin

In a career spanning over fifteen years, Alex has been instrumental in transforming, reinvigorating and growing the capacity of businesses and not-for-profit organisations. He is a visionary who understands the big picture. Alex's expertise is a Certified Practising Marketer and as Chair of the Victorian State Council of the Australian Marketing Institute. Alex is also an accomplished speaker, author and mentor and former Mayor and Councillor for the City of Maroondah.

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