New Media Can Turn Annual Events into Year Round Promotions

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Lately I have been talking to many non-profit charities about how they might use podcasting, new media and social networking to boost the impact of promotions and community outreach and, eventually, fundraising. Many of these organizations have an annual event that is the cornerstone of their fundraising efforts. Since it only occurs once per year, they are very concerned with it being as large a success as possible, as so much depends on them.

As I was thinking about these projects, it struck me that rather than holding an annual event, why not make the live, face-to-face event merely one part of a year-round series of promotions. Imagine the response to the live event if you have spent the entire year promoting it, instead of just the 2 months or so prior. Why not keep your event in their sight throughout the year using photos, audio, video, webcasts and other technology?

Of course, how do you move from your traditional “annual” mindset to this new “throughout the year” mentality? It isn’t as hard as you think.

Your biggest asset in promoting next year’s event has always been the media captured at this year’s event. Did you take tons of photos? How about video? Did you interview someone? Too often, if this media is captured at all, it is not leveraged in the promotion of the event next year. Sure, you might use some photos on your web site or in a newsletter or other mailing, but most of it goes unused. Even worse, most organizations are not even thinking of capturing this information during the event, so all of this great, useful content is simply lost.

If you want to make your next event even greater than it already is, here are a few guidelines to help you use new media to enhance the effect of everything you do.

  • Promotion of next year’s event starts the day after the current event
  • The best time to plan for the future is when everything is fresh in your mind. How could you have used new media this year? What content were you able to capture? What can you do tomorrow, next week, next month to keep the energy rolling and the word spreading?

  • Launch a daily blog and weekly show to highlight the successes of this year’s event and help draw interest in the next
  • Your weblog is a focal point for all your event-related communications. It needs to be updated regularly with new content. The great thing is, it can also be used to release videos, in podcast or YouTube format, and any other media used elsewhere. Event photos, interviews, attendees comments can all be repurposed for the blog and help to keep the conversation going.

    Start using any content you collected to create regular shows and gather subscribers to share your message throughout the year. If you didn’t collect enough content this year, try to contact some of the speakers or guests and interview them now. Create video slide shows of still photos, if that is all you have. Do everything you can to continue the energy and good feelings created by the live event.

  • Plan to collect more media content during the next event
  • Start planning now for photographers, videographers, audio recording engineers and bloggers to capture all the happenings of the next event. Make sure these roles get prominent attention when asking for volunteers. In some cases, you might even be able to attract a donor to be the official sponsor of the event podcast, live web stream or more.

    Today there are a host of services that will allow you stream your event, live, on the Internet, so that those who cannot attend in person can still get some of the feeling and benefit of your speakers and events. Of course, these live events are then recorded and added to the collection of media you are gathering. Above all, make plans today for any live events, interviews or other media that might accompany your event. Don’t let it go to waste.

  • Use social media (Facebook, MySpace, discussion groups, etc) to engage in a conversation with your donors, year round
  • It is time for all organizations to reach out to the next generation of donors. This generation simply doesn’t respond to traditional mailers, newsletters and pledge drives. You need to meet them where they live and this means engaging in the new social media sites based on the Internet.

    Dedicate someone to this new method of engagement with your donors. You won’t be disappointed. Sharing your content through your blog, podcast and other methods is sure to generate conversation and you need to be present on social media sites to take advantage of this conversation. This new generation of donors wants to feel more involved in the charities and projects. They want more frequent information. They want to engage with other donors. They want open discussion on new methods and opportunities. Social media sites, along with your input, provides that.

    You can include your events in online event listings (See Upcoming.org), create groups on services (See Facebook.com) to highlight your events, photos taken by yourself and others (See Flickr.com). You can also hold discussions, contests and more on many of these sites.

  • Develop small, mini-events throughout the year
  • Using all the tools mentioned above, hold online and on-site mini-events throughout the year to keep people engaged and involved. Can you webcast an interview with an important expert? Can you podcast important sessions from a recent conference? Can you host an entertainment event online that allows you to get your message out in a subtle way? Can you hold an online panel discussion on the important issues surrounding your cause?

    The goal of all of these methods is to drive donations, membership, knowledge — whatever the cause you are promoting. You are doing this work throughout the year, so that by the time you open up ticket sales or reservations for the live event, people are ready to sign up — NOW!

    I think you will find that your live events will be more successful than you ever imagined, because you are not counting on the distant memories of last year’s event, or 2 short months of promotion before the event to drive interest. You have been communicating with your clients, your donors, your subscribers throughout the year. You have turned the annual live event into the grand culmination of an entire year of fun, engagement and activity.

    If you would like to learn more about how your group can start to leverage the power of new media, podcasting, and social media, email me at cip@welchwrite.com, post your questions or comments below, or call my listener line at 818-804-5049 and leave your questions and comments.

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