How to Promote an Event: The ArtSpeak Guide
By: Jason Bowman | Communications & Marketing Web Design & Development
It’s launch day. You’ve thought through everything: the music, the message, the giveaways, the vibe. You’ve invested your heart and soul in this moment, and others have, too. But if you haven’t taken the time to promote your event intentionally through an awareness campaign, your hard work may be lost!
We don’t want that to happen to you. Though there are no guarantees, there are some best practices that will get you on the right track.
And though some know-how is required, most of the elements of event promotion are accessible to just about anyone.
And by the way, for clarity’s sake, we’re going to talk about “event promotion” for “churches” in particular. But that’s not all we’re talking about. We’ve used these techniques for:
- Grand openings
- Fundraising campaigns
- Church plant interest parties
- Sermon series
- Book launches
- Product sales
- And more
We’ve applied these techniques to for- and non-profits and seen them work similarly. But if you have a heart to love and serve people, these techniques don’t have to come off “salesy” or impersonal.
You can love people by letting them know you created something of value for them.
As we work through event promotion together, we’ll cover how to:
- Begin with the End in Mind
- Align Your Theme with a “Felt Need”
- Optimize Your Recurring Communications Efforts
- Promote Your Event by Creating an Online Funnel
- Measure Everything!
Ready? Let’s go!
Hold on. How do I convince my pastor we need an awareness campaign?
When it comes to marketing, people in ministry can tend to push back. Marketing campaigns can sound like: “We’re not going to be led by the Spirit here. We’re just going to blast people with clickbait.”
Yes, a lot of marketing has left a bad taste in our mouths, too. But churches who aren’t intentional about their marketing efforts end up sounding spammy or desperate. And not planning your communication has a few adverse effects.
For example, it’s two days before a big event, and no one’s signed up. If you flood people’s social channels, start making robocalls, and generally make a ruckus, you sound desperate. No one wants to do that.
Or, you say nothing. The event comes and goes, and people who would have wanted to engage end up not engaging. They might feel offended you didn’t tell them. Or they might wonder why you buried an important announcement in a sea of irrelevance.
Either way, you become a spammer who’s (at best) easy to ignore and (at worst) annoying. A plan — and one formed with empathy — changes everything.
1. Begin with the End in Mind
Life-changing events start with a great concept. Inspiration strikes. Then, someone announces it to the rest of the team, and everyone rallies to make it a reality.
But it’s a mistake to plan an event based on a concept — even a Spirit-inspired concept — before you’ve thought about what people will take away from it.
You can start by asking three “What’s.” What:
- Will people receive if they come?
- Value will we add to their lives?
- Action will we call them to?
Here, it’s useful for ministries to think about two specific types of takeaways.
First, what’s the spiritual takeaway? How will this enrich people’s lives, make them more effective, or cause them to grow?
Then, what’s the practical takeaway? Do you want people to sign up for something, take a specific action, or make a change?
Not only will this knowledge help you promote your event, but it will strengthen the event itself.
>>Related: How to Create a Church Planning Calendar
2. Align Your Theme with a “Felt Need”
Next, think about the event you’re planning through the lens of those you want to engage. Here, we’ll invoke the Communication Triangle.
Ask yourself, as honestly as possible, what:
- Challenge will this help people overcome?
- Fear will this address?
- Hope will this help them realize?
The “felt need” — the thing people want, even if they can’t articulate it — will help you choose a theme for your event, then find a name that appeals to your audience. Until you can state how your event will address a felt need, advertising the event won’t make an impact.
But if you can address that felt need, everything else you do to promote your event will be easier and more effective.
3. Optimize Your Recurring Communications Efforts
Every church has recurring communication channels. They usually include weekly announcements, an email newsletter, and social media.
But for many churches — and many other kinds of organizations — these channels are noisy. We try to communicate everything at the same volume to everyone.
If that’s you, we recommend the excellent book Less Chaos, Less Noise by Kem Meyer.
Here are a few ways to streamline your mass communications so more people will hear and understand what you’re offering.
Limit your on-stage and on-screen announcements.
Everything that happens at your church is important to someone, but very little is important to everyone. But imagine a church service with only one critical announcement during the service this week. Two at most.
Sounds like heaven, right?
That might feel like an impossible task — especially when you feel like you have to make an on-stage announcement that will only appeal to a few people. The reason usually has little to do with how we serve our congregation and more about how to appease an especially powerful voice. Here, we’ll refer you back to Kem Meyer.
Kem says if an announcement given to the entire church is “not affecting the masses, it’s just going to land like dead weight. Don’t punish the crowd to keep a few people happy (even if they are the most vocal).”
If you have a small segment of your people that need to hear something specific, contact them directly by phone or a targeted email campaign.
Which brings us to…
Clean up your email newsletter.
Church email newsletters can ask too much from their readers. They’re usually long, contain a lot of information, and are graphic-heavy.
Help people out! Give them a text-only, graphic-free email newsletter that will be easy to read on their phone when they’re standing in line somewhere.
Here’s what we recommend for your text-only (no fancy graphics) email newsletter.
First, create a headline. Not a headline that says “Church Newsletter” and the date, but something that reveals what value they’ll find in the email.
Second, create a two- or three-sentence executive summary. Let people know what to expect so they can decide whether or not it’s worth reading.
Finally, bullet point what you want to share with hyperlinks to landing pages. Open with your one main announcement.
Then, every other announcement should, in one to two sentences, communicate who would be interested and why they would be interested, along with a link. That includes your weekly pastor’s letter or sermon video.
Before you hit “send,” ask yourself if you would read the email if it ended up in your inbox.
>>Free Template: Church Newsletter Email (Google Doc)
>>Related Article: Brush up on your copywriting skills
Limit promotional social posts.
Social media is a chance to minister to people, provide insights, and encourage them. Yes — it’s also a great place to promote your next event. But people will start to tune you out if that’s all you do.
That’s why we encourage organizations to think of their social channels as a “Storyboard,” not a “Bulletin Board.”
In other words, use social media to involve people in the story of your church with great photos, quotes, videos, and more. Part of telling your church’s story includes promoting upcoming events, too. Just be careful not to overdo it.
>>Related Article: 4 Ways to Execute Your Mission through Social Media
4. Promote Your Event Online by Creating a Marketing Funnel
Next, you’ll need to promote your event to those who:
- Are distracted (that’s nearly everyone)
- Don’t attend your church regularly
- Have never attended your church
For this group of people, you need to build a marketing funnel if you want them to show up.
Here’s a very short description of a marketing funnel you can use to grab this group’s attention:
- Create an Offer or Lead Magnet
- Capture Leads
- Nurture Leads
- Follow Up
Create an Offer or Lead Magnet
Since you’ve aligned your event with a felt need, it will be appealing to people in your target demographic. Sometimes that’s enough to get people to opt in immediately.
For example, if your Easter Egg Hunt is inexpensive and promises to be fun, you can just ask people to buy a ticket. You’ll capture their information and be able to follow up with them when they make the purchase.
But sometimes your “ask” — showing up on Sunday, joining a group, making a commitment, or buying something a little more expensive — is too large to lead with. Instead, it can be easier to trade something of value in exchange for an email address.
Sometimes, it can be as simple as asking people to “reserve your seat.”
But if you have something like a great sermon series coming up, you can create a:
- Free downloadable PDF with some of the value from the upcoming series
- Email course with tips people can apply in their daily lives
- Webinar where you’ll be able to minister to people right in their homes
One of our favorite lead magnets is City Life Philly’s “I Quit” Campaign (read about it here). It included an ebook, an epic video, and even a meme generator!
It doesn’t have to be that complicated, though. You just need something valuable enough for you to …
In the world of online event promotion, “capturing leads” means:
- People give you their email address in exchange for something valuable
- You receive their permission to keep emailing them
You can start promoting in a million different ways. Billboards, traditional mailers, print media, and Google ads all have their place.
But selfie-style Facebook and Instagram ads are the bomb. They’re inexpensive, targeted, and measurable, and they’re worth doing well.
Thankfully, it’s not about spending a ton of time on production, but about relatability and clarity. To get started, you just need a simple script plus a knowledge of best practices. Download this to learn the basics: A Quick Start Guide to Facebook Ads for Ministry.
Next, you probably already have a pretty good email list. (If you’re not actively collecting email addresses, start today!)
Send an email sequence to (a) those who have opted in and (b) others on your list who would find your offer relevant.
(Don’t send a forty-year-old mom information about an upcoming seniors’ event. And don’t blast your seniors with information about youth camp this summer. Remember, we’re after less chaos and noise, so segment your list.)
Your email sequence will contain a call-to-action link that will go to a landing page. You’ll design that landing page to get your target audience to opt in to your lead magnet or the big event itself.
Note: This email sequence is not the same as your weekly newsletter. It’s a targeted campaign with only one call to action.
Once you’ve captured leads — i.e., gotten people to opt in — it’s time to follow up with another series of emails.
If you’ve promoted a Lead Magnet, you’ll still need to promote the event itself. Create a new email sequence asking people to opt in to your event by showing up, reserving a seat, or buying a ticket.
Once people opt in to your event, you’ll create an email sequence called an “indoctrination sequence.” This is a series of emails that:
- Reminds people of the value you’ll provide at the event
- Communicates any additional information you think will be helpful
- Gets people excited
The emails will gain urgency (and become shorter) as you get closer to the day of the event.
When it’s all said and done, don’t waste the momentum you’ve built! Follow up with people. Bask in the afterglow a little, and thank them for coming.
Post pictures and quotes to social media. Send a thank-you email the next day. And if you have any additional value to add — a download, a copy of your message notes, a link to the video — send it.
Then, if you’ve planned well, you can get them ready for your next event or show them how to get plugged into your church.
5. Measure everything!
Through the promotion process and the event itself, keep data in a single spreadsheet on:
- Email opt-ins
- Click rates
- Facebook and Instagram ads
- Steps taken after the event
All this data serves a few purposes.
First, it helps you make course corrections. Maybe you’ve found you’re going to have too many people show up at your event, and it would be better to provide a second opportunity.
Or maybe you’ve found your offer isn’t connecting with people. You can either tweak the offer so it’s more appealing, or change the way you promote it.
Second, it will help you plan for next time. Not only will you be able to predict results with more accuracy, but you can also gamify the process for your team, too. For example, you can say, “We had a click rate of 3.9% last time. Let’s see if we can boost it to 4.5%!” Or, “300 people showed up last year. Let’s get it to 350!”
>>Related article: Doing Church Online: Making Sense of the Numbers
Need a partner to promote your next campaign?
Event promotion is like a nesting doll. Each of these steps contains other steps, which contain even more steps, and on and on. It can get overwhelming!
That’s why ArtSpeak Creative partners with organizations to provide both strategy and ongoing support for ministries. Whatever your staff capacity or budget, we can come alongside and help you accomplish your goals so you can reach even more people.
It starts with a free 30-minute consultation. Book yours by filling out the form below or clicking here.(AND don’t forget to grab your Church Newsletter Email template!)