Promotion: Staying Classy and Shooting to Kill | HN DIY

graphic courtesy of Jeremy Wardlaw and Duffy's Tavern

[Editor's note: This story is part four of our HN DIY series. Also read The Art of PosteringPromotion Online: A Band's Perspective and Promotion Online: An Industry Perspective.]

Some say promoting for events is almost like going to war with the public. You are a “death dealer" of sorts, and they are the heads you must acquire. 

The way I do things is hardly that savage, and most methods are similarly non-invasive. Promoting, postering, flyering, marketing — whatever you want to call it — should follow two precepts: “staying classy" and “shooting to kill.” Along with the necessary groundwork, you’ll need to tie both in with the world of social media.

Staying Classy

One of my biggest qualms with the promoters of Omaha and Lincoln and their strategies is a lack of class and organization. Your goal should be to market in a way that builds value for the event or show you’re hosting. At all costs, avoid digitally and physically spamming your event.

(90.3 KRNU benefit show flyer by Jeremy Wardlaw.)

Sure, everyone has had that show where it feels like everything is riding on its success. We sometimes go into panic mode causing some to throw logic, strategy and planning out the window. To avoid that, let’s break down the science of promotion.

People become mentally burnt-out when they see something repetitively unless they have a personal connection to the content you are posting, online or in public. Staying classy by scheduling your promotional surges is a good handful of work, and so is understanding it. It takes time and planning.

Along with this, you need to make sure you have the tools to be successful. This includes and is not limited to reliable transportation, a cell phone, consistent access to the Internet — if you can afford it — and a portable browsing/word processing device. I recommend a cheap tablet or netbook.  

I also recommend if you frequently promote shows and events, get a day planner/portfolio. You can usually pick up one for about $20, and it will last you years. The only thing you'll have to replace is the calendar and other stationary inserts. Along with physical tools, create a Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus account. I'll explain why these are important in the next section. 

(HN Presents show poster by Jordan Minnick.)

Once you have yourself a planner, add all of the events you know of into the calendar section. In the margin, create a list of all the possible places at which you could promote your event. Once you do that, draw a line to separate that list from the next.

In this next list, make a list of all the potential demographics, target groups, “scenes," clubs and people in general you could market your event to. Once you've done that you are now ready to move on to the next concept, “shooting to kill.”

Shooting to Kill

Shooting to kill is making sure everything you are doing all ties neatly together to be the most effective. It’s making sure you get the biggest return on the money, time and energy you've put toward promoting.

Nowadays with graphic designers, artists and organizations like Omaha Nightlife being a dime a dozen, quality design for a flyer or a poster is actually very easy and almost painless. If you would like a more in depth look at the art of postering and the creation of the poster itself, I definitely encourage you to take a moment to read a fantastic article written by Jeremy Buckley called The Art of Postering. I’ll skip past that instruction then and assume you've got a stack of flyers in your hand, your Facebook event is created, and you've just updated your Twitter feed with a link for tickets and to the event page. 

You are all ready to go. Or are you? Keep in mind the investments you’re making — money, time, energy, etc. — to maximize your return. Also, don't waste flyers, posters and an opportunity. Narrow your scope.

(Maha Music Festival poster by Doe Eyed.)

A close friend, long-time promoter and small business owner Dustin Dohrman, owner of HLN Productions Inc., gave me perhaps the best advice on how to be a better promoter and become more effective. 

He said, "Realize that people need some type of connection to what you are trying to do. When you go out to promote, talk to individual people, don't blanket flyer. Focus on one interaction at a time, building rapport with that person, and be genuine about it. Then say, 'There’s this awesome event I’m helping make happen that I’d love to see you at.’”

Pairing on-the-street promotion with online promotion is where the magic happens. I’ve seen events without a single flyer or poster that yielded attendance of 600 to 1,000 heads through the door. How did they do it? They did it by building a value in the event, making sure the event description was thorough but to the point.

The substituted hard-copy flyers for a online flyer that was shared and distributed quickly and broadly. They substituted posters for a promotional video uploaded to Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook video. What they did was they realized that yes, you do need to get out and physically talk to people. But with Facebook and Twitter, people are able to visualize, relate to and understand an event more than they would with just paper flyers and posters. 

During your week designate places online and in real life where you can promote. Set dates during the week when you will hit those places up. Make sure that your online promotional efforts like posting links, inviting friends to events, sharing flyers online, creating Twitter posts and links are all spaced evenly: two or three days between online surges is usually fine.

(Earth Day concert poster by Satchel Grande.)

On the days that you aren't using your online resources, hit the streets: Poster, flyer, make connections, do some genuine networking. You know your schedule better than anyone, but most big shows are on the weekends, so I usually save physical promotions for Thursday through Sunday. This system keeps you from oversaturating your potential audiences online and in person. Also this keeps you from getting drained.

It may take a lot of preparation and planning on your part, but once you get the flow going and establish a system that works for you, you can enjoy promoting and be successful. Remember to use all of your resources, stay classy and shoot to kill. You already have all of the skills and knowledge you need to be successful. Your only real task is manifesting it all.

Cay Combs works for Nerdtron Studios, which is "a group that host events, conventions, parties, all with one goal: to help those who have never felt a part of something feel a part of something."