Event planning isn't on hold - but it has changed in 2020! March event cancellations have continued through the summer, and while many events were canceled, some were rescheduled (and sometimes canceled again!) and others have been reimagined as virtual events. For nonprofit organizations, canceled events mean a loss in revenue that results in fewer services to the community they serve. Local nonprofit events are typically fundraisers so they can provide much-needed services. Canceling an event results in a loss of funds, a loss of fun and positive experiences.
7 Tips for Marketing Your Event During COVID
All event marketers know that even if you plan for every imaginable scenario, things just happen. In early March no one had heard of COVID (we called it coronavirus back then!). Today, everyone from meeting and event planners to school kids to brides to
1. Plan A Hybrid Event
A hybrid event is an event that takes place in person but has a strong online presence. If you plan a hybrid event and something unimaginable happens with your live event, you have the option of continuing with only your virtual event.
2. Let Attendees Know Your Health and Safety Precautions
If masks are required, or attendance is capped at 50% to allow for social distancing, or if temperatures will be taken at entry points, let your attendees know in advance. Don't assume everyone knows the local safety requirements - there are different health requirements for neighboring towns as well as neighboring states.
3. Plan Menus With Safety In Mind
If you're serving food at your event or have food vendors, follow local guidelines for health and safety. Designate 6 ft spacing for food vendor lines, skip the buffets and pass single-serve hors d'oeuvres or a sit-down dinner,
4. Market Your IRL Alternatives
Many of your event's regular attendees or supporters may be more cautious about attending your event this year. Let people know if they can't attend your event In Real Life, that you've designed a hybrid event with an online component for all or some of the activities.
5. Be Transparent
When marketing your COVID-era event, don't try and disguise why you've made certain decisions. Let your fans and supporters know you're doing things differently this year - and how you depend on their continued support. Let them know your event plans consider the safety of your team, your vendors and your supporters.
6. Be Safely Social
If you've designed your event with safety in mind, promote that safety in your event social media marketing. Don't show large crowds or people hugging - instead marketing your activities, speakers or vendor booths.
7. Stay Flexible
The last thing you want to hear is your carefully and safely designed event is going to be canceled. But let's be honest - it's already happened to many event planners, and it's likely it will happen again whether the reason is a virus, the weather or protest marches. Build a contingency plan into your event (like creating a hybrid event above) so if the unexpected happens, you have a Plan C.
Whether your event is virtual, in real life or a hybrid event that is a combo of both virtual and real-life, you need to promote your event. Here is a marketing checklist to help you promote your upcoming events.
Event Marketing Checklist
At MacManda Media, we use our event marketing checklist to create both virtual and in-person event marketing plans for our clients. Our Event Marketing Checklist helps keep you organized as you promote your event.
16 Weeks Out
1. Nonprofits can apply for Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits to promote their event or festival.
2. Update your website with current information and branding and optimize your copy for Search.
3. Determine your target audience and create client personas for your event marketing campaigns.
4. Determine your event advertising budget for associations (local Chamber of Commerce, county cultural council), paid event calendars, social media ads and traditional media. Once you determine your budget create an advertising plan for each.
5. Negotiate media and business Sponsorships or partial sponsorships to maximize your dollars and reach.
12 Weeks Out
6. Create an event landing page on your website to use in marketing and to collect visitor information, such as email addresses.
7. Set up an event registration page with automated confirmation and reminder emails.
8. Develop branded event marketing templates for graphics for social media, ads and mailings so you can have everything easily accessible and editable.
9. Create social proof event testimonial graphics and videos from attendees to previous events
10. Update all social media profiles to showcase the event using your event landing page link.
11. Created an event #BrandedHashtag.
12. Create a Facebook Event(s). Invite everyone you know that would be interested. Ask all board, staff, friends, volunteers to invite their friends to the Facebook event and give them directions on how to do that.
13. Create a list of all free event calendars within your target locations: local, regional and national.
14. Create a list of all media and journalists that you want to pitch to cover your event.
15. Create a content calendar and marketing plan utilizing using #6-14.
16. Create a digital package for brand ambassadors (sponsors, performers, vendors) that including content, graphics and links for them to share on their social media. Give them specific directions on how to promote your event on their social.
17. Make and execute a strategic social media plan. Tag performers, sponsors, advertisers in posts and stories. Utilize Facebook groups and messenger in your social media plan. Make sure to have a hashtag list to reach your audience and use the best hashtags for each social platform. Be sure to add a location to social media posts to provide local buzz.
18. Launch ad campaigns on social media. Invite new people to like your ads and boosts and to follow you on social.
19. Make sure you have a way to collect email addresses if you have a free event. Make sure your ticketing system is collecting emails for paid events.
20. Launch your email marketing campaign.
21. Make a list of all supplies you need for planning the event and for executing the event.
22. If you are a member of any associations like the Chamber or County Cultural Council be sure to utilize all the ways they will promote your event. Take advantage of networking opportunities to promote your event and connect with the community.
6-8 Week Out
23. Complete all your paid print and digital ads and submit them on time. If you have any media sponsorships make sure they are getting all of their benefits.
24. Add your event on all free calendars such as newspapers and social calendars.
25. Purchase all the needed supplies.
26. Write event press release(s) and pitch in a timely manner and follow up to confirm your event will be covered.
27. Write blog posts on your event for your website and as guest blogs for your sponors' website.
1 Week Out
28. Send reminder emails to presenters, performers, participants, sponsors, brand ambassadors and all other stakeholders.
29. Schedule a time to review logistics with volunteers and workers.
30. Set up the event including volunteer sign-ins and break stations, SWAG tables, speaker rooms, media kits, etc.
During The Event
31. Post photos and videos of the event on social media.
32. Write a post-event blog recapping the event, thanking sponsors, brand ambassadors, attendees and supporters. Add links.
33. Send post-event emails to generate positive online reviews and valuable information from your attendees.
34. Send a survey to key event stakeholders to get feedback on the event and suggestions for future events.
35. Schedule next year's event!
Every event is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all event marketing toolbox. But our event marketing checklist will keep you organized and on schedule so that your event is a success!
- Virtual Event Marketing: How to Plan Your Online Event
- Low-Cost Tech Tools for Event & Festival Planners
- How To Build an Event Landing Page That Converts