Nobody Cares About Your Event: Promoting Church Events
Dude, coming in strong right away this week with hurtful words.
But in a world where you can quickly youtube your favorite entertainment personalities or learn pretty much anything you want if you just know how to say it right on Google, getting out of the house is a pretty huge ask these days.
But you’re going to have events and honestly, events are great for people because it restores our humanity to simply be around other humans irl for a minute. What kills an internet troll besides kindness? That’s right, sunlight.
But to get them out of the house and to your event, you’re going to have to do a few things beyond “telling them about it.” Here’s a few principles for getting someone who recently didn’t care about your event, to explode with anticipation. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but these are good things to do…
The Goal is to Cut Through the Noise
The average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 marketing messages per day. Today’s consumer switches screens up to 21 times an hour and our attention span has actually dropped to 8 seconds (the same as a goldfish) and some say we’ve even dropped below that to 7 seconds. Have you ever watched a goldfish? Probably not. You’d lose interest in what they’re doing slightly faster than they would. But they’re ridiculous.
So if you’re asking your people to get out of their homes, brave the weather, spend the time and energy to get themselves and their kids there, you’re going to have to compete with 9,999 messages to convince them they should. Oh, and you’re going to have to do it in 7 seconds or less.
Gone are the days where there is an agreed-upon ethic that church is good, good for you, and everyone should go. So just putting info out there and asking them to join you probably won’t do what it used to do 20 years ago. You have to convince them to either give up soccer to come to your event or you have to move the event to a time where they can attend. Those are your choices these days.
Create a Growing Crescendo of Excitement
Like in music, your promotion should grow more exciting as the event nears. You want to build excitement up to the event steadily because if you drop all your truth bombs and info stabs on them at once, then after week 2 of promotion, it starts to become noise.
When I say noise, I mean like when 21 Pilots comes on the radio. You either ignore it or are strangely compelled to make the noise stop. I don’t like 21 Pilots.
Also, when you hold back a little of your promotion, you don’t run out of new things to say or new ways to say the same things as fast. Week 1 is an email with a sign up link. Week 2 is a mention in the bulletin or worship guide. Week 3 is a mention in the bulletin and a poster. Week 4 is a poster, mention, and it’s in your video announcements or on social. Week 4 is a produced video ad/commercial spot that show the excitement of the event and an email blast with the poster still up and a social media post or two. See where I’m going with this?
Let’s Talk About Promotional Timelines
I find it’s easiest to work backward from the date of the event to determine when promotion needs to take place. When is the event? When is the last day to sign up? When do the leader spots need to be filled? When is the money due? All of those things are necessary to know when and how you’re going to promote an event.
From there, you can work backward from the event to work out your promotion plan. Will you give it 4 weeks or 6? Based on that, you can spread your promotion out a little and develop a crescendo plan that builds excitement and avoids becoming noise.
For regular events (excluding things like camps, VBS, and conferences), here are a few suggested timelines…
A big event for all church: 4-6 weeks of promotion
Department specific event: 3-4 weeks of promotion
Minor event with a small crowd: day of or before – 2 weeks of promotion if at all
The weeks you promote these events don’t necessarily mean that they are in a row. You might talk about a student event to get sign ups and then skip two weeks, then talk about it again. They get 3-4 weeks of promotion total.
Promotional Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t Focus on Features Instead of Benefits
Features are things like “There will be bounce houses, food, entertainment, etc.” This is helpful, but often not the reason people choose to attend events. Benefits answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Tell them that there will be a lot of ways your family can have fun in a safe place. Tell them how it will benefit their life and what life will look like after they attend.
Don’t Hammer them with information for 6 full weeks
Websites have information, social media and stage announcements are about inspiration. Find ways to change up how you’re talking about the event. One week is an information announcement, but the next one is a video or a flyer, next one is a social ad. Be creative.
Don’t Leave off important details that will matter
People are busy. Respect their need to plan by giving them start/end times of events and an easy-to-remember place to go get the info later like a short url. Also, it’s a generally good idea to state what the event actually is. Who, what, when, where, and how much?
Respect the Hierarchy of Events
If you promote everything everywhere with the same frequency, it makes all events equal, and they are not. Some events are more important than others and you need to have a way to decide what events get the main promotion and which ones have to take a backseat.
Don’t Rely on one medium for all promotion. Use relevant/likely mediums.
If you’re relying on stage announcements as your only mode to talk about events, then you’ll only get the people who were there when you said it. Likewise, the same thing happens with flyer/card handouts at the door. Use Social media to talk about your events and reach more people.
Also, utilize your small group/home group leaders for making announcements as well when they have their groups. Send an email out before the group time and just say “Hey Bill, before you teach your wheels off heresy study based on a dream you had, announce this…”
Events are always going to be part of the life of the church, so it’s good to have a plan for how you’re going to get people to them so that they can connect with new people, form relationships with others, and grow closer to God in community.
Feel free to drop you promotional tips in the comments!