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Marketing a festival is an intensive activity requiring specialized skills. A knowledge of the field or cultural interest group for which the festival is planned is a prerequisite, along with a knowledge of logistics, public relations and customer service principles, in addition to general marketing knowledge.
Planning and Coordination
Although a festival is usually a once-a-year event — or once every other year — it must be carefully planned throughout the year to make it work. Large numbers of organizations and businesses come together for a festival. In addition to the organizers themselves, marketing needs to coordinate with all of these businesses, from exhibiting artists and performers to vendors, sponsors and local officials in the hosting city or staff at host venues. Marketers working together with all of these groups isn't only essential from a logistical standpoint but also can greatly increase visibility and attendance, as resources are shared among all stakeholders. Any marketing plan needs to take into account each participant's needs and resources to be comprehensive.
Branding and Advertising
Developing promotional materials and creating advertising can be the function of different people at a festival; other parties, such as exhibitors, may also incorporate festival materials into their marketing collateral. As a result, establishing branding for the festival early can help get the ball moving. A logo, colors and slogan need to be developed soon — ideally, the branding for the next festival should already be well-established while the current one is going on so that next year's event can be marketed. Advertising the festival early also depends on having branding in place.
Email and PR
Public relations efforts for the festival have to start months before the event — again, it's ideal to start publicizing the next festival during the current one. At the very least, press should be invited to the current event. Ample photos should be taken of the venue, artwork, performances and crowd for use in future publicity; proper permission should be obtained for all photos. Attendees should have the option to sign up for email alerts of future events, and email marketing throughout the year should highlight related events, artists and performances to keep attendees interested in coming back.
Increasingly, social media channels are keeping festivals at the forefront of attendees' minds. Social media updates from key staffers and artists during the festival create personal connections and can be a valuable source of not only publicity but also logistical coordination and news. Keeping in touch with attendees and exhibitors through social media is now also considered essential for a professionally run conference.
Christina Inge is a freelance writer, marketer and designer with more than 12 years experience in the consumer and business-to-business fields. She has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in adult education and instructional technology. Her interests include technology, marketing, textiles and health.