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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Event Publicity in 5 Steps

Special Event Publicity in Five Steps
By Michael Cruz, Member

Publicity program in five steps

Step 1. Determine what is newsworthy
Step 2. Write effective media releases
Step 3. Develop a media kit
Step 4. Utilize additional publicity tools/resources
Step 5. Track your efforts

The most effective means for setting up a publicity campaign is through the Five-Step program. Let's take a closer look at each one individually.

Step 1. Determine what is newsworthy
Living in the information age, it often appears everyone is vying for media attention. Major metropolitan newspapers typically receive over 15,000 news releases and announcements every week! Obviously, that's a tremendous amount of mail, and your materials will need to get their attention and make an instant impression.

You may ask, "how do I stand out in the crowd?" The best strategy is to carefully review all of the items regarding your event which the media may find interesting:

• Is this a first year (inaugural) event?
• Have you signed an agreement with a well-known celebrity?
• Are you using any unique special effects or new technology?
• Are you tying your event with any charitable organizations?
• Are there new or special attractions to experience?
• What makes your event different from the competition?

Since your news releases will need to reach different media outlets, you should establish a story which will be of interest or value to their specific audience. Determine what is newsworthy about your event, driving home each and every one of these points when speaking to editors and reporters. You not only have to do your own job, you have to help them with theirs as well. But in the end, you will be helping your haunt!

You must learn to think like an editor, sorting which stories will be used. Assignment editors (both print and electronic), must see the potential news value in virtually everything which comes to their attention. Think of all the reasons why your event is unusual, fun, thought-provoking, exciting, etc. Then go to the media and explain why your story deserves coverage.

Step 2. Write effective media releases
One of the most important tools for communicating with your audience is the media release. This area needs to be handled with extreme caution because hastily written, or a sloppy media release can be detrimental to the positive image you want to project. You can avoid this common mistake by learning the basics.

There are industry standards for crafting media statements. Editors are inundated with dozens of such releases every day, your chances of receiving coverage rest heavily on first impressions. This is why you must present yourself as a professional, especially if it is your first-time.

Here are some simple hints to look like a pro: Provide the essential who, what, when, where, why and how in the first two paragraphs. Also list a contact name and phone number in case additional information is needed.

• Keep your release brief, concise, and to the point.
• Have a reliable person proofread your release.
• Send a "thank you" letter or card to those editors who agree to give you coverage.

Do not under any circumstances:

• Ask editors for copies of the article.
• Hand write your release (one of the sure signs of an amateur).
• Promise to advertise if the editor gives you coverage.

Step 3. Develop a media kit
Once you have an understanding of the basic media release, the next step is to develop your media kit. Simply put, a media kit is a compilation of all the newsworthy information distributed to the press. Include all pertinent information regarding your event, include photos and details regarding potential interviews.

The kit should start with the basics and expand as necessary. Add any worthwhile information or material which may assist your media relations. Don't hesitate to customize your kit to suit your own needs; every Halloween event is unique and so is every event marketer. However, there are a few necessities which are indispensable to any well-stocked media kit:

Order of Activities.
Compile a comprehensive schedule of all activities associated with your event. If any last minute changes occur, remember to alert the media. Making them wait around for a certain activity (or missing it entirely) is a sure way to lose friends and make enemies, so be conscientious.

Event Staff.
Highlighting your key staff is another excellent way to encourage media interest. Staff members may provide interviews discussing the unique jobs they perform, the "human interest" angle for which reporters and editors are always seeking.

Story Suggestions.
As stated earlier, sometimes you have to help the media perform its own job. Don't worry, editors won't be offended if you courteously (and briefly) "suggest" some story ideas. Provide any information which might be of potential interest to readers. Offering an "exclusive" story, or celebrity interview to certain media outlets which you consider particularly important.

Event Biography.
The media is always interested in the origins and evolution of events. For example, if you're a charitable organization, point out the agency or organization who will be benefiting from your event. Charities always garner the attention of journalists&emdash;after all, they want positive publicity, and reporting about "good works" is one of their favorite methods.

Step 4. Exploit other publicity tool
To amplify the impact of your media kit, you need to become thoroughly familiar with a variety of other publicity tools. There are many strategies which help get the entire region (or even the whole nation) buzzing about your event. By themselves, none of these additional items are strong enough to complete the job, however, taken together they will give your publicity a punch that every Halloween event needs.

Use of photography
Photography is a key element in all publicity campaigns. The space it consumes in newspapers is obviously to your advantage, and we all know the old adage about a picture being "worth a thousand words." However, before you grab your handy little 35 mm camera and start taking snapshots, plan out the best ways to utilize this important publicity asset.

Review your daily and community newspapers. Carefully examine the types of photographs captioned.&emdash;this will help you determine which type of photographs you need to shoot, based on both your own needs and the publications' preferences...

Photography Considerations

• Will readers identify with the photo?
• Do you want customers to look scared in your photograph?
• Do you want a sponsor's banner in the background?
• How should the picture be set up?
• What type of facial expressions should be captured?
• Do you have signed photo releases?
• What should the people in the picture be doing?

Most newspapers accept black and white photographs, 8 x 10 glossies but never submit less than 5 x 7 photos. Generally, horizontal shots are best, however, carefully scan the newspapers with whom you will be working to be sure. A few newspapers, mostly the major metropolitan dailies, might be interested in having a color photograph of your event. Typically, they tend to want color slides since the reproduction quality is higher.

A person who will attract media attention like a magnet, which is precisely your goal. Reporters want to interview them and photographers are more than eager to rush in with their cameras clicking. Make all of these people readily available to the press. Some journalists might initially show up just to rub elbows (if the celebrities are famous enough), but they will inevitably end up writing a story about their encounter.

Since October is when celebrities are most in demand, you will want to secure their appearance early in the year. There are a couple of things to consider if you are going to use a celebrity spokesperson:

• Make sure your spokesperson is compatible with your event. He or she should have a special appeal to the demographic group you hope to attract.
• Select an individual with a lifestyle/image which will prove suitable for your needs.

Celebrities seen at Spookyworld in '95
John Astin from TV's Addams Family; Doug "Pinhead" Bradley from the Hellraisers movies; Kane Hosser, the original "Jason" of Friday the 13th; David Naughton from American Werewolf in London; George Wilbur, "Michael Myers" of Halloween VI; Tiny Tim and others.

Community Calendars
Virtually every newspaper provides a listing or calendar of upcoming events/activities as a service for their readers. This presents you an opportunity to be listed at no cost. In fact, in some markets such as Dallas, where there is a tremendous amount of competition, if you're not listed, it may have a financially negative impact on your event. Because there are a variety of publications that offer community calendars, inquire with each separate media about their specific policies and deadlines for submission.

It seems everybody is looking for their 15 minutes of fame today. For event marketers this isn't just a silly little game or pure ego, it can be a matter of life or death. You should be bold and straightforward in your efforts to gain interviews with both the print and electronic media. In one stroke, these interviews will get your message out and provide yet another notch of credibility for your Halloween event.

Media Reviews
Invite media representatives to opening night, or a special area (i.e. hospitality suite). Have everything set up in order to make a positive first impression. Below are some helpful tips.

• Create an atmosphere that is consistent with your event theme.
• Provide promotional items for the media.
• Have performers and key event representatives present so they may be
interviewed and/or photographed.
• Have an abundant supply of media kits readily available.
• "Alert" your staff or performers the media will be in attendance.

Public service announcements
If you are a nonprofit agency, attempt to obtain public service announcements (PSA). These are messages (10, 20, 30, or 60 seconds) which are transmitted through the electronic media for free. We use the word "attempt" because the demand for PSA time is very high, especially in metropolitan areas. Although the media is required by the FCC to dedicate a certain amount of time for PSAs, this does not guarantee you coverage. To increase your chances of obtaining PSA coverage, below are some helpful tips.

1. Inquire with the community/public affairs department at each station to determine the requirements for submitting a PSA.

2. Submit only one PSA per page to the station's public affairs director at least a month in advance.

3. The length of the PSA (i.e. 30 seconds) and dates of the announcement should be made at the top of the document.

4. Always provide a cover letter describing the purpose of your submission. Listeners or viewers are not usually prepared to write down information about your event, so many may call the station to obtain additional information. Enclosing a copy of your Fact Sheet for their reference would be helpful.

Publicity Stunts
Unfortunately the term "publicity stunt" has achieved a bad reputation. In the 30s and 40s many Hollywood studio publicists would set up stunts to exploit a film star or to announce a new picture. It became so obvious that they were trying to exploit the media (not that anything has changed). Today, they are described as a "special event." However, for the sake of sanity, I'll refer to them as "stunts."

Creating a publicity stunt can be one of the most powerful weapons in the event marketer's arsenal. Your choices for staging a stunt are only limited to your imagination. The type of event you choose should be expected to accomplish the following:

1. Tell a publicity story
2. Influence public opinion
3. Show a strong community tie-in and service
4. Meet or exceed you goals and objectives

Tips for developing publicity stunts

• Thoroughly plan every detail, including the development of a contingency plan. Have fun, but don't do anything that may be dangerous or illegal (carefully check on this, you might be surprised at how many things are against the law).

• Be sure to give plenty of advance notice regarding the stunt. Never underestimate the power of "word of mouth."

• As with everything in marketing, be sure your stunt is suited to the event. It should not only grab peoples' attention, it should make them anxious to attend your event.

STEP 5. Track your publicity
After developing a publicity program, it is a great feeling to see the fruits of your labor. The media is not normally in the habit of calling and letting you know in which issue you'll get coverage. Below are two strategies you can implement to track your publicity efforts.

• Volunteers monitor media coverage. Assign a few people to monitor the various media outlets. Each one assigned to a different media before and during the event's engagement.

Use Google News Service. With selected keywords, you can ask Google to locate stories about your haunt. It's 100% free and a worthy service. For more additional information, visit: http://www.google.com/alerts?hl=en.

• Retain a clipping service bureau. While this service provides is beneficial to their clients, they can be cost-prohibitive for most event marketers, particularly first-time events. These are companies who search through thousands of daily and weekly newspapers and other periodicals, such as consumer or trade magazines and clip items for their clients. Bureaus may also obtain video "clips" of network news or talk shows. Some bureaus will even conduct advertising or subject searches. It is important to specify exactly what you want clipped to avoid being flooded with clippings on information you may not want, not to mention the expense.

Costs for this service are usually based on a monthly retainer fee (approximately $50-$200 a month, three month minimum plus an additional fee for each clip ($1&emdash;$2 per clip). The lower fee usually applies if you have the bureau clip from a limited area.


Allen's Press Clipping Bureau

215 West Sixth Street

Los Angeles, California

(213) 628-4214


Bacon's Clipping Service

332 South Michigan Avenue

Chicago, IL 60604

(312) 922-2400


Burrelle's Press Clipping Service

6430 West Sunset Boulevard

Los Angeles , CA 90028

(213) 993-0110


Luce Press Clippings, Inc.

420 Lexington Avenue

New York, New York 10170

(212) 889-6711

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