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Marketing Your Program

Marketing is an essential component to a successful program. Strong marketing can increase attendance at a program as well as increase awareness about the topic and your peer education group. Both results will be beneficial to your group but you must take the active role of generating this awareness.

If you have ever worked hard to plan an energetic, educational, and top-notch program for your campus and had only a handful of people attend, instead of the 100+ you were expecting, you know how crucial marketing can be!

Often, poorly attend programs occur due to a lack of targeted and effective marketing. People will not attend a program if (1) they do not know about the program and if (2) they do not know why they should attend.

There are different types of marketing and they are listed and defined below. However, before you start to market your program, remember these principles:

  • People need to know about your program. It is a fairly simple concept but it is the one most overlooked. Most peer education groups are talented and skilled in brainstorming new and creative programs, researching the topic of the program, and designing and implementing the program in an engaging format…only to have very few people attend! Lack of marketing is the top reason for poorly attended programs. Often groups invest their time into the program design and forget to let people know about it. Your best resource? Your group! Delegate a subcommittee in your group to be in charge of promoting and marketing your program and be sure to check in with this subcommittee regularly to check on progress and what they need from other members.

  • People need a reason to attend. Everyone is busy and trying to fit one more thing on a “to do” list is a struggle. Most likely, your peer education group chose the program topic and designed the program to address a need on your campus. However, your campus may need a reminder about why the topic is important and why they should attend the program. This is called targeted marketing. Companies selling products and services use this type of marketing in order to attract the customers they want and need to stay in business. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you plan your marketing strategy:

    o Who is the audience of your program?
    o Why is this topic important to your audience? Does your audience know it is important?
    o What will the audience gain by attending your program?
    o Does your audience know what they will gain by attending your program?
    o Where does your audience get its information?

Ways to Market Your Program
The components of media advocacy are key tools for helping a peer education group better market its programs. Below are a few ways to market your program and increase attendance.

  • Word of Mouth: Friends and friends of friends can be a source for attendees at your program. Students as well as staff and faculty will have a stronger buy-in to your program if they know someone who is sponsoring it or presenting at it. Remember to let your friends, supervisors, and professors know about what you are doing and invite them to attend.

  • Flyers: Posting flyers is one of the most common ways to advertise a program on campus. This means that campuses can suffer from “poster blindness” where flyers start to blend together and people do not notice them anymore. However, they can be effective. Consider using different colors and shapes for your flyers when you post them in the regular locations. Look into posting your flyers in different locations such as at campus and campus-area bus stops or on walls where students are waiting in line at the bookstore, Registrar’s office, or financial aid office.

  • Press Release: A press release is a short article or story that you write about your program and submit to a newspaper for release or printing. The newspaper may decide to run what you submit or may contact you or attend the program to learn more. A successful press release will include the following elements:

    o Print your press release on your group’s or department’s letterhead.

    o Your release date should be the date you want the story to run.
    o Include the essentials: who, what, when, and why in the first one to two paragraphs.
    o Include a quote or two. You can quote a member of your group to explain the purpose of your event.
    o Be sure you include the name, title, and phone number of who the press can contact for more information.
    o If you have a photo opportunity occurring at the event, you may want to mention it in your release as well.
    o To download a sample press release, click here.

  • Media Alert: A media alert includes only the basics of the event: who, what, when, where, and why. It is also printed on your group’s or department’s letterhead and will include a contact name and information for who the press can contact for more information. It can be written in a bulleted format.
  • Public Service Announcement: Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are a brief written announcements that can be read over the air, often on radio, in one minute or less blurbs. PSAs differ from traditional radio advertisements because they are read for free. A sample PSA can be downloaded by clicking here.

    Each of the sample marketing pieces that can be downloaded is provided as a basic example and you are encouraged to adapt them to fit your program. It can be very beneficial to work with your campus’ journalism or marketing department to help your group learn more about these marketing techniques as well. You may also want to work with your campus’ student organizations office to include marketing as a workshop open to all student groups. Local media (including newspaper, television, and radio) may be willing to do a brief, one-hour training on what they look for in a press release, media alert, and public service announcement and how to build an effective relationship with the press.
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