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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Focusing the Media...

Focusing the Media Spotlight on Your Event
By Cydney Neil


One of the first October seasonal haunted houses in the nation started in Salt Lake City, Utah some twenty-four years ago. My two shows, the Rocky Point Haunted Houses, have been operating in Utah since 1979. Halloween has long been one of Utah's favorite holidays with over 12 major haunted houses just in the Salt Lake City area alone. With this large number of well-established Halloween events, it has become a challenge to get the news media to pay much attention anymore. This year, however, we not only managed to get their attention, we almost had more coverage than we could handle. It was amazing!

Keeping in mind that each show, and each market, is unique, there are several basic strategies that will help you maximize the media coverage for your event.

First, you must have a great product to sell. Make sure you take the time to plan and create the best show possible.

Second, decide on a theme for your event. This theme needs to be something catchy and fun. Once you have identified your theme, carry it through all your promotions and incorporate it into the design of your show. For example, our theme for 1997 was "We've Gone Batty". Everything from our artwork, to our press releases, to our choice of celebrities, tied in with this theme. Every room of our haunted house either incorporated bats or tied in with one of the five "Batman" movies. Because we had only acquired limited rights to use the "Batman" name, our movie tie-ins required some careful planning. However, the Bat theme proved to be extremely valuable in terms of gaining the attention and interest of the local media.

Third, if your budget allows, hire an experienced person to handle publicity. A public relations specialist, if they have the right skills and contacts, will most certainly earn his or her salary with increased ticket sales. For the best results, this person should be someone who is familiar with your local market, rather than an outside consultant, and should be employed directly by you on a full time basis. Having a full time staff member means that this person cannot only handle media relations, but all of your sponsorships, as well as all other advertising and promotional work on a day to day basis.

Fourth, develop creative press packets to carry out your theme and follow them up with regular press releases. Do some research to be certain you are sending these packets and releases to a person who can actually write a story or assign one. We sent beautiful packets out which included a "Batman" collectors comic book and followed up each week with our "Batty Bits" newsletter.

Fifth, develop a plan and schedule, of exciting or interesting items to include in your weekly newsletter or press release. Make it something different each week. We built a huge "Gotham" set and brought in an artist from Disney to help design and paint it. One weekend, we brought in a make-up artist who had worked on all four "Batman" films to instruct and demonstrate make-up applications. Another weekend, we invited all our sponsors for a special VIP evening at the haunted house, complete with a bat themed party and a personally guided tour through the haunted house.

With our publicity plan in place, we had news coverage starting in August and it seemed like it didn't stop until the day we closed in November! Our reel of news clips just from this season is an hour and a half long! We got front-page coverage in one newspaper, and extensive coverage in several others. I am certain that this news coverage increased attendance as much or more than our own television and radio commercials.

Do not forget to follow up with thank you notes to those people who wrote stories about your event, and follow up with all your media contacts by sending them a note at the end of the season and perhaps a holiday card at the end of the year. Thank you notes are always noticed and appreciated, and even if they didn't cover your event that year, they may pay special attention to you the following year.

Even if you have an incredible product, media attention does not just come to you, you have to work for it. The more creative and professional you can be in your approach, the better the response will be.

Cydney Neil is the owner/operator of the Rocky Point Haunted Houses in Salt Lake City, Utah and is a consultant in the haunted house industry. Please forward comments or questions to cydneyneil@aol.com.

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