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Event Marketing 101

How to Promote & Market Your Campus Event

The first step to planning any event is to think about why you're having it and what you hope to achieve. Consider these strategic questions to help you gain the necessary focus.

  • What is the goal of your event? To honor someone, present information, entertain, raise funds, celebrate an accomplishment, raise awareness about a topic or program or to get people to take some action? Is it a tangible goal of filling an event space or an intangible goal such as strengthening relationships between campus and your department or program?
  • Who is the target audience? Is it students, faculty, staff, the community or a combination? Who will be interested in the subject matter and does it have broad enough appeal for the general public or the media?
  • What message do you want the audience to receive?
  • Should the group be small or large? Who must be invited?
  • Is the event ticketed or require advanced registration or RSVP? What is the format?
  • Will the event conflict with or be held in conjunction with other campus events?
  • What is your budget?

Promote Events Early & Often

Allow a minimum of four weeks for maximum publicity, much more time—four to six months to a year—for larger institutional events that require advance promotion to seat a large audience or for an event series. Promote continuously over the weeks leading up to an event.

Use internal and external calendars, email, snail mail, social media, posters/fliers and advertising to promote your event to the campus community, area schools and colleges, listservs, professional associations, friends, etc. Have your event announced in subject-related classes.

Here are the most effective ways to get the word out about events and for reaching the largest possible audience.

Reserve Event Space

As a starting point, all in-person university events must reserve space through the EMS room reservation system. This allows events to be added to the university master calendar and to start a request for additional services, including room set-up, audio-visual set-up and support, security, catering, etc.

University Calendar

After receiving an approved EMS room reservation, submit events to the university calendar. Calendar submissions should be of general interest to the entire university community. Events with a narrow audience are considered for inclusion at the discretion of calendar administrators. The calendar is managed by Marketing and Communications staff.

Clearly note in the event description if an event is free, if there is a fee and if the event is open to the public, e.g., “Admission is free and open to the public.” Include important registration and RSVP information in the event description.

Events limited/restricted to the university community (not open to the general public) should include the following disclaimer in the event description: “This event is open to Lenoir-Rhyne University students, faculty and staff.”

Submit events to the calendar many weeks in advance (a minimum of four weeks is recommended to maximize event promotion). Events should be submitted to the calendar no later than 10 business days before the scheduled event, ideally earlier, whenever possible, to reach the widest possible audience. Allow two business days for calendar review and approval. Once added to the calendar, use the provided event URL in event promotion. Additional calendar information and requirements are detailed in the calendar policy and guidelines and best practices for calendar style, format and length.

Email Promotion

Events approved for the university calendar are included in a weekly email digest that is sent to the university community and public subscribers (coming in late February/March 2021). The email digest provides a 30-day view of upcoming events at each campus location.

Develop an email marketing plan and promotional timeline utilizing your email lists. Identify likeminded departments, programs and organizations who might be willing to promote your event in their email and enewsletter. Gather contact information for people who attend the event and add them to an email list for your next event.

Public & Community Calendars

There are a number of media outlets in the communities around each university location—Hickory, Asheville and Columbia—that accept community calendar submissions. This is an excellent opportunity to promote your event to the greater public. Typically, calendar announcements should be sent to the media a minimum of four weeks before an event. Review the community calendar for each media outlet for specific submission requirements.

Posters & Flyers

All promotional materials posted on campus must be approved by Student Life (Hickory), Business Office (Columbia) and/or the center affairs coordinator (Asheville). Only information that directly pertains to the campus community will be approved. No advertisements of solicitation will be posted except with approval by the offices listed above.

All information/advertisements must be posted on bulletin boards or other designated areas. Posting information on painted surfaces, glass or outside wall areas is not permitted. Students must supply materials to post their announcements and remove announcements following events. Advertisements for alcohol or events involving alcohol (by on or off campus groups) are not permitted on campus. A university official may remove unapproved information, posters or advertisements.

Personal Contacts / Word of Mouth

Reaching out directly to individuals and groups that have an interest in your event topic is one of the best ways to attract an audience. For example, share the event with professors and ask them to consider encouraging students to attend if the subject matter is relevant to a class or academic program (even offer students extra credit). Ask group/committee members, students, faculty, staff, alumni and members in the local community to share the event through their personal networks and social media channels also helps.

An effective method for generating word of mouth is to provide some prewritten event promotional text and photos that people can easily share via email and social media.

Social Media

Social media is an effective way to drive attendance at your events. Consider using all available social media platforms and customize event promotional messaging to what works best on each individual platform.

Use both department/program and personal social media platforms to tweet, create a Facebook Event, post to Instagram (including Instagram Stories) and Snapchat. Consider using Facebook and Instagram paid advertising if a promotional budget is available. Engage with the speaker/guest to share the event on his/her social media channels.

Assign and connect a hashtag to an event to encourage conversation and engagement before, during and after an event. Include the hashtag in event promotional materials and announce the hashtag and show onscreen (when possible) to event attendees during the event.

Digital Display Screens

Promote university events on digital displays on the Hickory campus, including screens in Cromer Center. Submit a graphic advertisement to Orca-TV at least 10 business days in advance of an event.

Lenoir-Rhyne University News

If an event features a prominent speaker or if the event is of wide interest to both internal and external audiences, submit a story idea. Provide Marketing and Communications with any details about the speaker’s itinerary while they are on campus, e.g., meetings with classes and students, etc.

For events that are open to the public, a news release can be submitted to our media partners. News releases will be written by university Marketing and Communications staff. In order to ensure sufficient notice to media and the public, content should be submitted at least four weeks in advance of the event date.

The best materials for a news release tell a brief story about what the event is and why it is worth attending. Providing background about the speaker, context about an issue, the history of repeating events and other detailed descriptions help draw attendees. Details of time, place and other practical considerations should be front and center. Photos (speakers, etc.) also help tell the story. Also, be sure to factor registration timelines into your materials, if necessary, so people don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of the events you are promoting.

An example of a series release features the Visiting Writers Series or the Institute for Faith and Learning. Another example of an event release features the 10-week COVID class.

Other examples include the annual Lenoir-Rhyne University Christmas event or promotion of Black History Month.

Please note: Marketing and Communications is most interested in capturing engagement with a speaker beyond just a photo at a podium. If an event speaker will engage with students during the day of their campus visit, those are the opportunities Marketing and Communications is most interested in capturing and sharing with the campus community, prospective students and alumni.

Information Table

Reserve space to set up an information table or pop-up information on campus in a central location with high traffic.

Provide an Event Sneak Peak

Provide a sneak preview of your event or speaker with images, video, displays, Facebook Live, Instagram story, etc.