3 Nonprofit Marketing Tips to Get Free Publicity for Your Next Event

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In life, you get what you pay for.

Looking at you, 1997 Dodge Neon that broke down twice in the first week of my solo driving career. 

Couple that idea with the fact that ROI is critical at a nonprofit, especially given how hard it is to fund that letter ‘I.’

You want to maximize gains while minimizing what you pay in, which is a tricky balance.

But what if I told you that your investment could be zero? You’d be as excited as me driving a new car, right? Not everything is free, but we can show you how to save precious dollars when it comes to event publicity.

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Get rolling with these nonprofit marketing tips:

1. Use social media

Social media changed marketing forever, as evidenced by Ellen Degeneres’ Oscar selfie tweet seen ‘round the world – part of an award show sponsorship by Samsung.

Take the social reins and use this free  tool for your organization’s pre-event marketing.

Each platform has its advantages when it comes to publicity:

  • Facebook – use it to create an event page, and then post regular updates to get potential guests excited in the days and weeks leading up to your event
  • Twitter – get the buzz going with frequent tweets about your event (linking to the Facebook event, registration page, and any other relevant site content), and spread your event hashtag
  • Instagram – give followers a behind-the-scenes look at event prep, with all the filter-y details of the event that they should be excited about
  • YouTube – share clips of previous events, or the preparations that are making this year’s the best yet

No matter which tool you’re using, keep in mind your goal. Sure, you want to get the word out, but ultimately the point (of any event, of any social media post) is to advance your nonprofit’s mission.

Craft your content with that in mind: Tell followers how their attendance will make a difference. They’re not just buying a ticket; they’re changing lives.

2. Take advantage of free postings

Repeat after me: It never hurts to ask.

No one expects nonprofits to be rolling in the dough, so many groups will be willing to assist where they can.

Seek out opportunities for publicity. Say it again: It never hurts to ask.

Does you event venue put out a newsletter? Ask for a mention. Even better, do they have a place where you could leave a sign or promotional flyers?

Many local media outlets have free calendars and/or event listings to help get the word out without spending any money. Since you’ll be competing with other events for attention, use your most convincing calls to action, and the event’s connection to your mission, to stand out.

Don’t forget old-school methods, either. Got a favorite coffee shop or juke joint? Ask about hanging a poster or leaving cards by the cash register.

3. Pitch it

No, not in the trash, silly. Get your event noticed by pitching it to a journalist.

While I was covering nonprofits for a newspaper, I picked up on some of the common mistakes nonprofits make when sharing a story with reporters. Steer clear of them, and you’ll be that much more likely to nab valuable earned media.

Reach out well ahead of event time – not the Thursday before your Friday gala. Some news organizations only write previews, not reviews after the fact, so that means making contact with enough room for a journalist to research, interview, and write, followed by an editing process before the piece runs, ideally more than a day prior to the event. Plan for at least a week.

Most media groups divide up their staff by topic focus, or beats, so you should try to connect with the person who tends to cover nonprofits or community events. Poke around previous issues and the website if you’re not sure. If you can’t find specific contact information, the editor is usually the best point of contact, and he or she will assign the story to the right member of the team.

You don’t need to have a perfectly polished press release to get in touch with a reporter. If you do, all the better, but make sure you include all the important event details: who, what, where, when, and why.

The “why” deserves the most attention, because it’s your chance to tell journalists why your event is worth writing about. In turn, you hope they’ll communicate that to their readers or viewers.

To answer why, start with the big picture – your mission, and how this event fits into it. But if you’re asking for coverage of an annual event (especially one that might have gotten media attention last year), you need to explain why this year is special and warrants reporting on again.

For more targeted advice on working with the media, check out “Getting the Media to Care About Your Data” on Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com and “How to finally & easily engage the right reporters on Twitter” from M+R.

Conclusion

These tactics can get your nonprofit publicity without the pricetag. That doesn’t mean that your organization’s marketing strategy isn’t worth investing in on the whole, but every little bit helps when getting your events in the public eye.

What’s your advice for free publicity? Share in the comments below!

Header by Abby Kahler

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About the Author

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Hannah S. Ostroff

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Hannah S. Ostroff is a writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, she spends her free time cooking, singing, reading, and watching videos of baby animals.

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