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Festivals and events: Cutting through the noise to maximise your media

Across Australia, thousands of events and festivals are held each year and large or small, they are all are competing for our attention. The experience economy is still the driving factor in what draws crowds, so it’s essential to paint a unique picture for prospective visitors in order to cut through the noise and secure a place in their calendar.

On any given day there are multiple events for audiences to choose from. In order to sell the experience, the media and marketing strategy needs to create a sense of FOMO by sharing strategic content that builds buzz around the event.

While many businesses have the advantage of being able to build their brand by speaking to their target audiences year-round, in the case of one-off or annual events, the challenge to build and maintain a dedicated audience is much greater.

One of the clients we work with who faced this challenge is the Brisbane French Festival, Le Festival, which just wrapped up its ninth year celebrating French community and culture. Working with the Le Festival team reinforced for us the challenges of being a clear and desirable voice in a crowded market, especially when you aren’t ‘speaking’ all year round.

For those who find themselves in a similar boat, there are a few things you can do to build awareness, create buzz and grow your audience:

1. Creating and sustaining presence
Your event might only take place over a couple of days, but promotion can begin months beforehand and requires consistent and persistent activity. Working with journalists across radio, TV, print, and online will ensure the presence of an event is registered across multiple mediums. Each piece of information needs to offer a new insight into the event and build the overall sense of experience. Pairing traditional media with social media and additional marketing activities will ensure that you are everywhere – or as many places as you can be.

2. Word of mouth is powerful
Traditional marketing and media channels are common ways to find out about upcoming events; but a recommendation from those whose opinions hold weight with us (and also those of complete strangers) can have far greater impact. How many of us now search online reviews before eating at a new restaurant? Getting the conversation started is key and working with media to coordinate interviews for event spokespeople, artists or participants will spread the word and build anticipation.

3. Find the hook
Depending on the size of the event, event programs can be extensive. It is essential to home in on the newsworthy aspects of an event which will help pique the interest of media and clearly differentiate your event from the crowd. Consider your key audiences and break down your event program into themes that you can promote individually. This will help reach multiple groups of people who have varying interests – such as food, wine, markets or live entertainment in the case of Le Festival.

4. Shoot for the stars
Brisbane is host to hundreds of events each year, all vying for their spot in the limelight, so managing coverage expectations versus aspirations is important. Having a strategy that involves attainable and ultimate media goals will mean working toward a good foundation of local coverage paired with high yield state or national coverage. Always aim high with media as you never know who might be interested, but should a pitch miss the mark, there needs to be a plan B. Your Plan B should be an expansion on Plan A, meaning that you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, you just need to come at your strategy from another angle.

For clients like the Brisbane French Festival, the most effective approach requires constant attention and monitoring to determine what does and doesn’t work. Even for an annual event like Le Festival, the media strategy needs to be malleable in order to maintain public interest. Beginning with a clear strategy but having flexibility to adapt is essential. It’s important to recognise what you can do yourself – both from a perspective of expertise and available time – and when to seek guidance or advice.