By Rachel Hewitt
Vice President, University of Iowa PRSSA
Born and raised in small-town Iowa, I’ve seen people get excited for just about anything. Whether it’s an organized bicycle ride around the lake, a municipal band concert in the park, or an antiques show on Main Street, you can bet there will be a crowd and a good-sized article covering the “event” in our local newspaper. When Iowa City became my next educational destination post-boondock living, my eyes opened to a whole different kind of local event promotion. Massive chalk announcements camouflaging the walkways, university-wide mass e-mails, and even downtown posts bursting with neon flyers were novel to me.
I was fortunate enough last summer to land an internship with the Iowa City/Coralville Convention & Visitors Bureau for planning one of the greatest events in Iowa City (fully biased): FRY fest, “A Celebration of All That is Hawkeye.” While I was initially overwhelmed with the 20,000+ members of Hawkeye Nation who would attend this event in September, I came to look forward to my days in the office where I had the chance to come up with new ideas for promoting FRY fest. First step, implement a street team. The closest thing I could think of in this area was a flash mob I once saw in a movie. For this local event it was appropriate to start small with a public promotional team. Street Team appearances at parades, festivals, and University events initiated a buzz among area natives, and word spread from there. The right mixture of grassroots and statewide promotion has put our local Hawkeye event on the map for four years in a row.
Most importantly, “FRY fest Baby” – our most popular product of the Street Team, a music video parody to “Call Me Maybe” – was created and went viral. Check it out if you call yourself a true Hawkeye.
Social media, a standard ingredient in any promotion of this scale, was also crucial in order to engage our followers and fans. We got people excited and involved by using trivia prizes and event-day teasers among regularly scheduled blasts. . In this case, community relations was the key for the Bureau. Community event calendar submissions also allowed for maximum announcement awareness.
No matter how large, glamorous, or otherwise your event is, use these strategies to build your local event’s image and reputation. Take it from the small-town Iowa girl, local efforts and local people are the best foundation for any event to take off.
Follow Rachel on Twitter at @Rachel_Hewitt