5 Steps to Festival Marketing Success

When you are planning a large local event, it’s easy to get caught up in reactionary marketing tactics and a “we’ve always done it this way” mentality.

Sure, you’ve got your tried and true press releases and a few scattered Facebook posts, but the time has come to refocus your energies on the strategies and tactics that will help you achieve real engagement and success. Content marketing is here to stay, and local organizations should be taking advantage of its unique power to reach, engage and motivate.

Before a content marketing strategy can be put into place, you need to know who you are trying to reach, how you are creating a unique connection with your audience, and how the “world-view” of your organization and event aligns with that of your local community.

As a partner of Laurel Main Street, my small town’s growing downtown association, I’ve had the opportunity to fine-tune and test my 5 step content marketing formula. As with anything I do, the strategy I’ve outlined below is based on my own 15 years of experience, constant testing and data analysis and the principles of persuasive copywriting and motivation. I’ve included links to each post for last year’s “Loblolly Festival” – the largest event put on by LMS each year. We continue to use the formula to promote their seasonal events and have seen great results.

By joining a conversation, providing unique insight and an understanding of the deeper connections that exist between the group, all while focusing on opportunities to be helpful – your organization can create a content strategy that brings together a tribe of people in your community who see your event as an important part of their own story.

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Follow these 5 steps to create content that accomplishes these goals:

Step 1: Build your Foundation – The Event Page

By creating an “evergreen” home for your event on the web you not only provide valuable information to those seeking it before, during and after your event, you provide a home base for all other content created in the future.

The event page should remain much the same from year to year and should provide general information and a big picture perspective.

This page should be housed within your organization’s website, not as a separate website, to enhance your overall brand, for ease of use and search engine optimization. Also, work with your web designer to push festival blog posts to this page automatically or link to them one by one as they are created each year.

View: The Loblolly event page.

Step 2: A Call to Arms – The Sponsor & Vendor Post

Your first post should be published when vendor and sponsor registration opens – usually several months out.

This post should highlight the past successes of your event and provide all of the information necessary for potential sponsors and vendors to immediately complete the registration process.

Focus on strong calls to action and find ways to simplify and streamline the registration process to optimize conversions.

Read:The crowds are coming: will you be there to welcome them?

Step 3: Spark the Conversation – The “Story” Post

This post is vital to the success of your strategy and should be published about 1 month prior to the event.

First, carefully research and craft the story of your festival’s message and meaning to your local community. Give them a story to tell themselves and those around them.

Secondly, help readers imagine themselves at your event. The time for vendor details and schedules comes later; for now, guide them through the feelings and senses and experiences they might encounter as they attend your festival in the near future.

Read:What is a Loblolly? The power of a historical name and the celebration to come.

Step 4: Be the Resource – The New Press Release

The final pre-event post should serve to both inspire your audience as well as to provide all of the information necessary to both attend and promote the event. Publish this post 1 week out from the event and promote it heavily.

Begin again with a summary of the experience of attending the festival. Next, provide every detail as a walk-through guide to the vendors, sponsors, activities and special events they can expect at this year’s event.

This serves as both a guide to your attendees as well as a fantastic resource for those in the media seeking to promote your event. By providing all of the information yourself, you are likely to inspire new perspectives and insights to be revealed as the media seeks new angles and unique stories for their readers.

Read:It’s time for the 2014 Loblolly Festival.

Step 5: Highlight Your Successes – The Recap

Immediately after your event, when the funnel cake grease is still hot and the vendors are packing up their wares, you have one story left to tell. The first business day after your event, your final post should be published describing the success of the event in detail.

By mentioning and thanking all of those who promoted and contributed to the event, you both express your gratitude and capture a strong element of “social proof” as prospect partners, members and economic developers see the support your organization garners.

Use this post to provide visual proof of your success through professional photos taken at your event, as well as to capture the unique essence of your story through the shared experiences of your community.

Read:The 2014 Loblolly Festival: The best one yet!

What about Social Media?

Content is the book, social media is the book club. [ Tweet This ]

Each of these posts brings with it an opportunity to start or join conversations that your people actually want to have.

By planning how you will reveal your story, you’re given the opportunity to plan the conversations as well. However, social media isn’t just about the conversations you think should happen. Listen to your people. Watch for opportunities to join in.

Tips to help you on your way to a meaningful conversation:

  • Your sponsors are important, but posting their logo 15 times on Facebook isn’t helpful to either of you if it drives down engagement or drives away followers. Find ways to incorporate their story into yours or bring them along for the ride as you post fun facts or trivia about your event.
  • Find the “sound bites” in your story. Offer them up to your people and invite them to react. For instance, what do they think of the origin of your name?
  • Be consistent. Decide on a branding scheme for the event and stick to it. Be sure your social media manager has all of the working graphic files they need to provide appropriate images for each platform. Consider your promotional committee as well. Create a simple document stating what fonts are to be used, colors (provide HEX and Pantone colors), images, etc.
  • Plan your schedule months in advance. Sometimes, you’ll need to quickly create a post in order to join a conversation or because of new developments, but the majority of your social media posts should be planned out along with your content strategy. As promotion for one post ends, the next should be on its way.
  • Don’t repeat, repeat, repeat yourself. Each post can be promoted using different parts of the information and story it contains. Don’t post the same thing more than once and use your previous engagement data to help you determine when the best posting times and frequency are for your unique audience.

The results

Through the use of this strategy we saw increased traffic before, during and after the event, vastly improved engagement on social media and developed a deeper connection with our audience that has lasted well beyond the event itself.

We are continuing to use this strategy to promote other LMS events and expect great results from these as well.

Remember, focus on the story your audience will tell themselves, help them to imagine themselves as a part of the event and be a resource for those looking to assist you along the way.

If you would like help telling your organization or business’ story, or in implementing this specific formula, reach out to me through my website or by emailing me directly at bethany@ownyourhill.com/ownyourhill.


I presented this formula during the 2015 Back Stage Pass event hosted by Mississippi Main Street, Visit Mississippi and the Mississippi Arts Commission as part of a presentation entitled “Building & Promoting an Annual Event: The Loblolly Festival” with Laurel Main Street Executive Director, Judi Holifield.

My company partners with LMS to work towards the revitalization and preservation of Downtown Laurel. Click here to read about the event, our presentation and the results of this content strategy.





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