If your church is hosting a special event, it's important to market the program to people who may be interested in attending or otherwise participating. Since church events usually aren't limited only to people in the congregation, you'll want to promote the program to a broad audience of potential attendees. Use the marketing tips below to raise awareness of upcoming church events to help boost attendance.
Promote Events Via Online Event Calendars
Many people go online to search for local events to attend, so it's a good idea to promote your church's events via online event calendars like Eventbrite.com or Brown Paper Tickets. It's also ideal to use local event calendars that let community organizations post events for free. For example, if your church is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, or if there is a local magazine or entertainment-focused website in your area, those groups may have online event calendars that you can use. Local TV and radio stations often have event calendars on their website. Make a list of free event calendars in your area and set up accounts for your church, then get in the habit of adding new church events to each calendar as the schedule is updated.
Publicize Events on the Church Website
When your church schedules a special event, be sure to advertise it on the church's website. Not only will church members see it, having the event published that way may capture web traffic from search engines and lead people who aren't familiar with your church to its website. If the church hosts a lot of events, you may want to set up an events tab that features a running list of church activities. Otherwise, simply feature details about the event you are promoting in a block on your organization's home page or news feed, depending on how the site is set up. If the church's website has a blog component, write and publish a blog post that's designed to entice people to attend the event.
Send an Email to Promote the Event
Prepare an email marketing piece focused solely on promoting the upcoming event and send it out to the church's full database. Don't limit the distribution just to active members. Use your entire database, including not only active members but also people who have requested information via the church's website, those who have visited the church, past members, and others who may have attended church-sponsored events in the past. Be sure that the content of the email piece provides all relevant details about the event, along with a link people can click to get to a place to register online. If your website isn't set up to process tickets, consider using Eventbrite, Brown Paper Tickets, or a similar website to facilitate that service.
Share Events Via Church Social Media Pages
It's important for churches to have an active social media presence. If the church has its own social pages and profiles, share information about upcoming events on a regular basis. This may involve posting details about the event with a call to action, as well as images of promotional flyers or postcards. If tickets are required, include links to where people can reserve seats or purchase tickets (if there is a fee). Facebook also has an events feature you can use. If your church doesn't already have a social presence, set up an organization page on Facebook and open Twitter and Instagram profiles. Start working to develop and implement an overall social media strategy, but start promoting your events via the church page in the meantime.
Encourage Members to Share News Via Social Media
Posting via your organization's social media pages is only going to get your message in front of people who are already connected with your church in some way. This is important, but you'll also want to let other people know about the event. To that end, put out a request to congregation members asking them to talk up the event you want to promote via their own social media pages. Put an announcement in your bulletin asking them to visit the church pages and share posts about the event via their own newsfeeds. You can also provide them with sample wording and/or images they can post directly via their own profiles. This can lead to viral sharing that may help boost attendance.
Hang Posters in Local Businesses
Print some promotional posters to hang in local businesses. Have a church representative contact or go around to businesses near the church that get quite a bit of foot traffic and ask if they would be willing to hang a poster on the door, in a window, or on a bulletin board. Restaurants and stores near the church probably get a lot of business from church members, so they'll be more than happy to help promote events. After all, the more people who go to your event, the more likely it is that they'll get a spike in business when the event is going on. Additionally, ask church members to seek permission to hang posters where they work, and to ask their friends and other contacts to do the same.
Distribute Windshield Flyers During Services
While the church is in session, enlist members of the youth group to go out to the parking lot and place two or three flyers under a windshield wiper on each vehicle in the parking lot. During the church announcements, tell the members of the congregation that this is going on, and challenge each of them to pass out the flyers to people they know who may be interested in attending the event. Suggest that they share with neighbors, co-workers, friends, family members, and people with whom they interact in other organizations, such as youth sports or school groups. Let them know where they can get additional flyers if they'd like to pass out even more.
Build and Maintain a Current Media List
Every organization that hosts special events needs to keep a current media list on hand. If your church doesn't have one, assign an employee or volunteer to put together a list of local radio and TV stations, magazines, newspapers, and news-oriented websites. Include the name of the editorial contact (such as the editor for print media or producer for broadcast media) and their email address. If the information isn't available online, you'll need to call each media outlet and ask. Simply tell the person who answers the phone that you're putting together a media contact list, and ask who the contact is for sending news releases about local church/nonprofit events and how to submit information to them. Update it every six months or so.
Submit Press Releases to Local Media Outlets
Having a current media list is great, but that alone won't help you promote your church's events. When an event is scheduled, you'll need to write a press release and distribute it to the contacts on your media list. Depending on the nature of the event, you may want to send out a few news releases over a period of time. For example, if your church is bringing in a well-known speaker or music group, you can send out a news release with a hook along the lines of "National Recording Artists to Perform Free Local Concert" as a potential news story. You'll also want to submit a general press release about the event itself. When the famous performers arrive in town, try to schedule them for on-air interviews at TV and radio stations.
Reach Out to Faith-Based Organizations
In addition to seeking publicity for church events online and via local media outlets, reach out to other faith-based organizations in your community and the surrounding area. Ask for their help spreading the word to the people with whom they come in contact. As long as your event isn't in direct competition with what those groups do, chances are they'll be happy to help get the word out about the event to their employees, supporters, and members of the public who benefit from the services they provide. Of course, your church should be willing to return the favor when those groups have an event to promote.
Church Event Marketing Success
Hosting special events is a great chance for churches to engage members, attract new members, and/or (depending on the type of event) raise money. Fortunately, marketing charity events like these doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. The tips provided above are all examples of free or very inexpensive guerilla marketing strategies. You can come up with even more options by encouraging church members to brainstorm for free marketing ideas. If you have enough money, you may even want to purchase paid advertising on local religious radio stations or relevant cable television programming. Put your creativity to work and you'll be able to get the word out about your church's special events as successfully as possible.