Trust me when I say I’ve been there. An event comes across my desk, and I roll my eyes, completely ignore it and hope it goes away, but I’ve learned that rarely works. Why? Because often when the event flops, the organizer blames it on poor promotion.
Some people can’t wrap their brain around the thought that there isn’t a huge crowd of people begging to be part of the 70’s and over, couples skydiving and paintball event, so when you roll your eyes at the thought of promoting that event on the last page of the bulletin or honorable mention on the corner of the website calendar, it only takes one person to say “I didn’t hear about that,” and now the event organizer is convinced that the event flopped, not because of lack of interest, but because of poor promotion and marketing.
So how can you kill that event that everyone except the event organizer knows won’t fly? Great Marketing.
If you promote the event with great marketing, put your full effort into it and create a measurable standard for what a “successful” event looks like, then the event organizer can’t blame marketing anymore. They may actually come to terms that the interest isn’t there for their event.
Here’s Where Clarity Wins:
What is the marketing team for?
In the event organizer’s mind, the marketing team may be to convince people to show up to events. In your mind, it may be to make people aware of the event and allow them to decide if they want to show up. Get clear on the differences for both you and the event organizer.
If you’re not, the event organizer always has an excuse to blame poor attendance on marketing – after all, in their mind, your job is to convince people to come, and since no one came, you must not have done your job.
Which of our church’s core values is this going to be emphasized at this event?
Is the goal of this event is to build relationships, reach out to the community, give people an opportunity to use their musical gifts, bring in outside donor funds for a new outreach facility, equipping parents to understand their kids’ health or help people improve their marriage? Which of our church’s core values is going to be emphasized, and how does that create a a simple goal for this event?
This isn’t time for a marketing slogan, alliteration or creating a perfect hashtag. This is one sentence that describes the one main focus of the event. This is easily framed with “If your neighbor who doesn’t come to our church asked what this event is about, what could you tell them to explain it?”
Some examples are “Helping people have better communication within their marriage” or “Going to build an orphanage in Peru” or “Dinner and dancing you can invite their friends to, so they can meet other people from church.”
What is considered a ‘win’ for this event?
I made the mistake too many times of not having this discussion before an event. After the event, we would get together for an after-action review (that’s coming further down the page) and I would say “Wow, you had 50 people at your event! That’s great,” and the event organizer (without fail) would say “yes, but I was expecting more. More people would have come if there was some additional promotion.”
Before an event starts, have a kick-off meeting, and set goals for the event. Ask questions like “Based on $20/person, how many people do you need to show up to cover the costs of the event?” or “How many people attended this event last time?” and (believe it or not) “How many people would you like to see at this event in order to consider it a success?”
That last question can be a can of worms, because that person may say 200 people want to attend the 70s and over couples midnight skydiving and paintball party when there are only 15 people over the age of 70 at your church, and you know the event organizer is probably the only one wanting to go skydiving and play paintball.
Instead of saying “That’s completely unrealistic” like I would say, (you can say it in your head) you could point out that there are only 15 people that this event could apply to, and ask if you could broaden the range.
Broadening the range may look like “Based on only having 15 people who would fit in your age range, would you consider expanding your age range? Expanding it from 70 and over to 40 and over would give us a better probability of seeing 200 registrations.” or ” Maybe a $200 dinner and dancing package might not be realistic for 60 couples. Would you consider finding a different restaurant to bring the evening down to $100/couple? How many people do you think that could include?”
If the organizer says “No, this is what the event is going to be,” then you need to say “Based on previous events, age demographics at our church, the average age of families in our neighborhood and the cost of the event, 200 registrations isn’t realistic. What do you think is realistic?”
Don’t move forward without that answer
If the event organizer isn’t willing to come to terms here, no amount of marketing/promotion/advertising is going to solve that. Bring in someone to help move the conversation forward, but don’t talk about how / what promotion will take place until that number is clear – It gives everyone involved a goal and target to push for.
It’s also possible that after this discussion, the event organizer realizes that this event is not going to be the success they imagined it may be. It’s helpful to allow the organizer to get to that conclusion, not heavily suggest that the event isn’t going to work. If that suggestion is yours, then the assumption may be that your team has already decided not to put in full effort.
Compare the anticipated registration to your promotional tiers
Here’s a video I created with Kyler Nixon about creating and promoting within even categories at your church. If these categories aren’t yet clear at your church, then create them and get clear. If not, everything becomes “top priority”.
Protip: When you talk about which category this event falls into, mention a few other recognizable and successful events that fell into this category. “The canned food drive was also a tier 2 event, and we had our largest donation amount ever.” or “This is the same tier that the Kids Church team used to recruit 20 new volunteers this past spring.” or “This is the tier we use for our yearly mission trip.”
The event organizer needs to know that the promotion they are receiving is on par with other successful events.
PRO-TIP: Throwing in a few ‘bonus’ promotions outside of the tier – maybe an instagram story, or organizing a facebook event or an extra in-service announcement will help give your discussion strength if you can say you went above and beyond, and the event didn’t take off. This goes against everything you want – I know – but it’s essential in helping the organizer understand if there’s an interest in this event.
Have an After-Action review
Be sure once the event is done that you get together to talk about the event. Did the number of participants match the considered “Success”? Bring a record of how you promised you would promote (based on your tier system) and the dates and times, print material, and announcements you used in your strategy. There’s no need to bring this information out unless your commitment to the promotion is questioned.
Phrase your ideas as questions to the event organizer “Do you think people may not be interested in this topic right now?” would be better than “This doesn’t work and we’re not doing it again.” and follow up with “Is there something else we can try to accomplish this goal next time?”
PRO-TIP: Let’s say the event was a crazy success. You have to be willing to say “wow, that response was great. Let’s do it again next year!”
This process isn’t about you being right, it’s about giving every event the best opportunity to be successful and have honest conversations about the events that were, and be willing to put an end to events that aren’t.