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This evening I tuned into an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” on Netflix called “Man In a Hurry”. In this episode, Mr. Tucker is a businessman from the city that unexpectedly stops by Mayberry on a Sunday morning due to car trouble, and finds no one willing to fix his vehicle until Monday, even though he has a meeting first thing the next morning. The stranger can’t believe the snail’s pace of life and easy going attitude of the citizens he runs into. The episode aired in 1963.
Contrast that with life 55 years later. In 2018, we’re bombarded everyday with literally thousands of messages competing for our limited time and attention. Whether it’s the trailer for the newest Star Wars film on Youtube, an Outlook inbox that never seems to diminish, or endless cable television, the world is relentless in its quest to attract our eye or ear and subdue other competitors for our limited attention span. That is why it’s vital to design a comprehensive plan of communication for your event that grabs attention and locks it down until your call to action has been answered.
As the launch date for our summer 2018 event fast approaches, there are a number of communication best practices in place to elevate audience awareness and bring success for the 5 charities we’ve selected to benefit from our endeavors. Here is the short list of what we’ve found works best to capture that moment of opportunity with the crowd we’re working to engage.
- PERSONALIZE IT – This is highly effective, particularly once you have a few events under your belt and you’ve developed office knowledge of what you do for charity. Practical Application – Last summer, the actual name/logo of our game was spelled out with letters that were created using the names of the players of our past events. Who wouldn’t check out the poster if you’re name is on it?
- SAVE THE DATE! – Just like a wedding, if you want to be sure someone shows up for the event, give them advanced warning, while saving the bulk of the information for the launch poster. Practical Application – We post small posters in break-rooms, the cafeteria, and any other high traffic areas. Additionally, we use a tagline that plays to the theme of the event. For example, for “Humans vs. Zombies”, we advise readers to “Save the dates…then save yourselves!” A little humor goes a long way.
- WORD OF MOUTH – Don’t discount the power of people talking to one another about your event. Use every reasonable opportunity to publicize it on a personal level to create buzz. Practical Application – Water cooler talk doesn’t only work for “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones”. When questions about your game come up, give just enough information to whet their appetite and get them talking to others.
- LAUNCH POSTER – Above all, don’t be boring. Unleash your creativity (or that of your marketing gurus if you have them) beyond what others may do in the same situation. Keep the details to a minimum while also making certain you are still conveying what your event is all about (the what, where, when, who, and why). Practical Application – In 2015, for a game called “Legend”, the launch poster featured our very modern building set in the same recognizable locale, except for 100 years or so before…it featured dirt roads, billboards advertising prior year games, along with the details about the upcoming event. It gave us that “double-take” moment to grab attention.
- ADVOCATE IN ADVANCE – If your office is like mine, people tend to be shy about committing themselves to participating…particularly if the concept is vague or involves the possibility of embarrassment (which of course equates to “entertaining” if not done in a malicious way). The answer to hesitancy is bringing the concept to them before the game begins. If you’re selling merchandise (t-shirts for example), have your organizers wear them at an informational table where you can answer questions about the event, while also providing a first hand look at the shirt. Practical Application – During our version of “Lip Sync Battle” in 2016, we brought the equipment and the music to our cafeteria and let people hear and test the system before the competition began.
- SOCIAL MEDIA – Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Reddit are just a few of the most popular social media platforms available to publicize your event to your friends, family, colleagues, and even those you don’t know personally. Practical Application: Plot out your social media roll-out to take advantage of the best times to post for each specific platform. For instance, some experts say the best time to post to LinkedIn is 10-11 a.m. on Tuesday or Wednesday, while those same experts recommend posting to Facebook at 3 p.m. on Friday. The point is, do your homework, and take advantage of free expert advice.
- EVENT WEBSITE – This is command central…get your audience here and you’ll get results. Keep it dynamic. Keep it cutting edge. Keep it fresh. Keep it simple. Practical Application – Several years ago, I needed to allow groups of people to form tribes and collect donations during our version of “Survivor”. After doing considerable research on website options, I located my friends at MyEvent, which allowed the tribe set-up I was searching for as well as credit and debit card transaction capabilities that sent my donation totals through the roof for the first time. I highly recommend them.
- E-MAIL COMMUNICATION – Leverage your office communication channels to spread the word and coordinate with further personal public appearances to answer any questions about your event and your messaging. One helpful suggestion is to seek to differentiate your event messaging from the routine e-mails that are sent out throughout the workweek. Practical Application – For our 2018 event, we are using a company approved e-mail message that incorporates green rather than blue within the template so it will be noticed when it hits all those inboxes (blue is our standard). Plus green is so much more zombie-like than blue.
- ONGOING COMMUNICATION DURING THE EVENT – Depending on the structure and duration of your event (does it happen in an afternoon for a few hours or every Wednesday over lunch for 8 weeks?), be prepared to keep the channels of communication open until a winner is declared. Practical Application – Once you have your participant roster finalized, create a distribution list on Outlook (or other e-mail platform you use) so you can drop a message to everyone in the game at a moment’s notice.
- IMPROVISE – Be certain to keep your options open at all times. If an idea comes to you in the middle of the game or event (assuming it’s more than one day), and you feel it’s a winner, change the game. Practical Application – If you change things up, make certain that the change does not negatively or unfairly impact those competing. I’ve had situations where after the game’s begun, a portion we thought would work either took too much time or fizzled spectacularly. In those instances, the game must continue with the flawed plan in place in order to maintain the event’s integrity as a whole.
- WRAP IT UP – Lastly, be sure to share with your larger office audience the final results, the winner(s), the impact your efforts had on others (charities for example), and if possible, provide a subtle hint at what’s to come next. Practical Application – Announce the name of your next event with no further details in your wrap up…and you’ll start the office talking.
I’m always looking to discover new communication channels, so please share in the comments section anything you feel would be advantageous for my readers to know. A kernal of wisdom…like something you sometimes learn from spending a half hour with Andy Griffith. I appreciate your interest in MotEVENTure and hope to see you again soon.