5 Creative Ways to Pack Your Next Campus Event

14 Jan

I know how tricky it can be to get good student engagement. You’ve got awesome events coming up that you’re bringing in because you truly believe students at your school will love them … but how can you convince them of this? Let me hit you with a few new ideas to get butts in seats at your next campus event.

First, do I even know what I’m talking about?

I cracked open my first book on marketing in 2006 so I could teach something I knew nothing about. I was teaching journalism at a rural North Carolina high school, and I needed a mini-unit to finish off the year after the yearbook was put to bed.

My students were disappointed, as they were hoping for a few weeks of doing absolutely nothing, but I found it fascinating. I continued to learn on the subject, which eventually led to four years working as a professional copywriter and marketing strategist.

What’s really been mind-blowing is how many times, over the years, that I’ve applied the fundamentals of sales and advertising in daily life. And it’s been invaluable as I’ve built my own business as a speaker. I recommend everyone study up a little on marketing.

Now, to the heart of the matter. (I’m counting on some of this being familiar to you already, but I’m certain you’ll find a few gems in this…)

5 Marketing Fundamentals that Can Help Pack Your Campus Event:

1. Know Your Audience

The first step in creating any marketing message – or even the product itself – is to know your audience and target them specifically. Who could benefit from your campus event? List your niche demographics and brainstorm where they spend time. Use this knowledge to get your advertising in front of them.

For example, let’s say I was visiting your campus to do one of my women’s empowerment presentations. Obviously, you’d want to hang posters in the women’s dormitories. Advertise in the women’s health center if you have one. Have gender studies professors spread the word (and offer assignment credit). Get the ladies’ sports teams to Tweet about it.

Try not to have one generic message for all of your marketing. Use some customization for each niche. If advertising in a clinic, your message may be, “How to empower yourself to stop abuse, discrimination, and self-doubt.” If marketing to athletes, maybe something like, “Women’s empowerment to help female athletes reach their full potential.”

If you truly know your audience, you can take it even further by focusing on each demographic’s specific needs, fears, or problems. As we say in the advertising business, “What’s the ‘pain point’?” Back to that athletics example, now: “How female athletes can reach their full potential in the male-biased world of sports.”

  • Your goal is that when anyone sees or hears your advertisement, they immediately think, “That’s for me!”

2. Use the 360º Approach

Never limit yourself to a single path of marketing. Period. You need to send your message out in all directions – 360 degrees. You know how there are all those different learning styles out there? This applies to marketing, too. Some people are more receptive to hearing an event promoted on the campus radio station. Some will notice a flyer on their dormitory’s bulletin board. Some spend every waking hour scrolling through Facebook, so your event had better be on there for them to see.

3. Keep Your Marketing Consistent

In sales, they say it takes at least seven “touch points” to make a sale. A touch point is any form of contact. The reason it takes so much interfacing is that you need to build trust and familiarity, and you may just need to catch someone at the right moment. Or when they’re actually looking.

That being said, as you create multiple messages in multiple directions, remember you need your message to be “everywhere” … but not compete with itself. What do I mean by compete with itself? Well, if all of your campus event’s posters and flyers and Facebook messages look and sound completely different, the subconscious will think it’s just a bombardment of a bunch of different ads. They’ll be dismissed. Tuned out. But if you keep a similar look, design, theme, even color scheme, your promotions will build on each other and accumulate those touch points you need for your “sale.”

4. Utilize Content Marketing

Content Marketing is a huge buzz phrase in the marketing industry. You see it every day, and most of the time, you might not even know it. SPOILER ALERT: You’re looking at content marketing this very moment!

Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, blogs etc. — Wikipedia

The key is that the content must be valuable: educational, interesting … not an ad. This very blog, for example – you’ve read this far because you’re actually receiving valuable information that you’re actually going to put to use.

Let’s say I were coming to your campus to do one of my invisible disabilities presentations. To promote my campus event with content marketing, you could see if someone from your campus news website might do an article on disabilities or accessibility on campus, and then add a mention at the end about an upcoming speaker on the topic.

If you can’t get local publications to do an article for you, you can buy ad space and create an ad that looks like editorial content. It’s called an advertorial. Here is an example of an advertorial from my personal portfolio (notice the obligatory “sponsored content” stamp at the top):
sample advertorial for campus event promotion blog

5. Use the Heck out of Free Marketing

If it costs you nothing but time, buy it. Use every social media outlet and use them constantly. Set up a Facebook event page. Set up a mini website. Use every bit of free talent on campus you can get your hands on. Just walk up to people and tell them. Whatever it is, if it’s free, do it!

That’s probably all extremely obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.

I want to add in something a little outside-the-box now. Use the booked act in any way possible. Ask them. They’ve probably got great promo materials to share. From spending years with ad agencies, I know a few amazing graphic designers, so I’ve got some awesome posters I offer to schools I’m visiting.

event promotion on local television

Christina Irene helping with event promotion on ABC27 WHTM-TV.

Personally, I like to do more than just forward photos, program descriptions, and posters. Like most acts, I arrive in town the night before a campus event and I’ll be there all the following day. I love doing radio interviews and television appearances. (Talk about great content marketing!) I’ll attend social mixers. I’ve even offered to be a guest teacher in classes I have expertise in, and I’ve been taken up on it! I love what I do, I love interacting with college students, and I especially love teaching.

If you have an idea about how an act might participate outside their scheduled event to help with promotion, it never hurts to ask. They’ll be just as happy as you to have a packed house.

I hope I’ve given you some good inspiration. If you have any questions, please leave a comment, or feel free to contact me here. I wish you the best of luck with your student activities programming!

– Christina Irene

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