As a Miles editor whose market (Louisiana) boasts more than 400 festivals annually, I spend a lot of time browsing and researching event websites and social media pages. Those include the state’s many gumbo fests — five, by my count — as well as such offbeat parties including the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival and the Giant Omelette Celebration.
As the nation puts away its winter coats and springtime festival season rolls around, it’s a good opportunity for organizers to update their websites and marketing campaigns. Your friends in the media will thank you and, more importantly, so will your visitors and vendors.
The best way of getting attendees through the gate is by letting them know where and when it’s happening. Right? Surprisingly, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, event dates from the previous year will still be on the calendar. That’s a problem for visitors who wish to make travel plans that include the fest. It also makes an editor’s job a little tougher, since we need to know event dates months in advance.
Put festival details on the front page of the website. Underline and highlight important dates, the location and cost, color the text with neon and glitter, put it in 70-point font — whatever it takes to get the who, what, when and where of your event out there immediately and effectively.
Show Us What You’ve Got
I’ve had a few awkward conversations with festival planners who ask why I didn’t promote their event. It’s often simply because I didn’t have much to work with. Here, in-depth event details are key. Does your festival have an interesting backstory, unique features or top-shelf talent? Is admission free? What kinds of foods, crafts, pageants or contests should attendees expect to find? Tell your media contacts, and we’ll tell the masses.
Good photos are a big part of the marketing puzzle. If they’re good, media outlets will find some way to use them. Here’s something to consider: display advertising costs money. Editorial content does not. When your event appears in print with photos showing people having a ball, readers are more likely to consider adding it to their itinerary.
Join the Crowd
Festival organizing is a team effort, and by working with a wide variety of hotels, destination marketing organizations and other stakeholders, you’ll get the word out while networking with fellow tourism professionals. Talk mutually beneficial marketing opportunities with hotels and restaurants that your attendees would be interested in. Get input from CVBs on local businesses to partner with, and promotional opportunities beyond the city limits.