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Photo by Ben White, ChristianPics.co

Make holiday church event promotion merry — even at the last minute

 

By Laura Buchanan*

December has arrived, but it’s not too late to promote your Christmas event! Your church can offer the community a chance to step away from the hustle and bustle and into a place of peace, joy and hope.

Gather a small group of people who are engaged in the community and enlist their help in coming up with ideas to get the word out about your event. When you are short on time but have an important message to share, a team of dedicated individuals will make the process fun and successful.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Get social

Social media is a quick and easy tool that can help you reach a diverse audience. Keep in mind that all posts should contain eye-catching images that tell a story about your event. Featuring a photo from your congregation or a past event is always best, but be sure you have permission from everyone in the photo to use his or her image online.

If you don’t have any great photos on hand, search Pixabay, Unsplash or CreationSwap to see if they have an image that would fit. If you need support with creating graphics, set up a free Canva account to edit images, add text and make them pop!

A video promoting your event can generate excitement, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as shooting video on your phone and using basic video editing software to create the final cut.

Keep the video short and lighthearted. For example, interview a volunteer or pastor about the event and why your church is hosting it, or show a “behind the scenes” view of the event so that people know what to expect.

Once you have an idea of what you will post, identify a few individuals in the congregation who are social media-savvy and ask them to be part of a virtual “street team.” Ask them to take the lead in sharing your event posts on a variety of social media channels. Choose people who have established social media profiles and have access to different online groups, such as HOA, community and parenting groups, professional organizations and clubs.

Facebook specifically offers several tools and strategies for event promotion:

  • Set a small budget and pay to boost posts in a specific geographic area; even $5 can extend the reach of your post.
  • Create an event page that your virtual street team can share. This page is the perfect place to house more frequent, detailed updates about your event. Individuals can indicate their interest in attending; their response generates event reminders and it shares the event page among their network of friends.
  • Cross promote your event with community partners to increase your audience.
  • Post about your event on your church’s Facebook profile several times, featuring a different aspect of the event in each post.
  • Go live just as your event begins to show people what is going on and why they should attend.

Learn how to implement all of these strategies in a free Facebook webinar available on-demand.

Get online

Using the web to promote your event isn’t just about social media. Feature the event prominently on your church’s website and/or blog. When considering a headline, think of keywords that people will be searching when they are seeking information about local holiday festivities. Use words like “Christmas,” “family,” “kids’ activities,” or “free.” If your event includes carols, candlelight or other specific aspects, mention those in the title as well.

More ideas!

These ideas were shared via the United Methodist Communications Facebook page:

“We have attached small notes to candy canes inviting folks to our Christmas Eve services. Folks take a handful to pass out to others throughout their week. … We also collect Christmas cards and then handwrite the greetings on the inside. These go to members in our community inviting them to join us for Christmas Eve services. We use names we gather throughout the year, those who haven’t been in a while, and any names people bring.” — Jessica Breckenridge Cobb, Fremont UMC in Fremont, Michigan

“We had a float in the community’s Christmas parade and had banners on the float regarding Christmas Eve service times, and passed out candy and flyers to all.” — Amy Ochoa, Ridgecrest UMC in Ridgecrest, California

“We put a Christmas card with Christmas Eve service times in the food buckets distributed to families in the community.” — Colleen Shaneybrook, Piney Grove UMC in Middle River, MD

“We sent out a postcard invitation to every household. When I thanked someone for coming, she said, ‘Well, you invited us.’” — Pat Johnson, former pastor at Hotchkiss and Crawford United Methodist churches in Colorado

Write one website or blog post that includes a summary of all of your church’s holiday happenings, then post separately about each individual event so that people will have more than one chance to learn about what is going on. If you have some funds to support your online reach, consider utilizing Google AdWords.

Research popular community websites and ask the editors if they would assist in getting the word out about your event. Are there community calendars on which you could list your event? Is there a blogger in your congregation who would invite their readers to attend?

Look to your own database for help, as well. Email continues to be a key way to reach your audience. Include event details in every email you send in the days and weeks leading up to the event and ask your readers to extend an invitation to others in the community.

Get in the news

Media coverage of your event will greatly boost community awareness. Begin this process by making a list of key media contacts in your area. Note all of the local television channels and newspapers, including both the general news tip email addresses and the email addresses of reporters who usually cover stories about the community, religion, holiday festivities or positive news.

About one week prior to your event, write a concise email with event details and send it to each person on your list. The email should include a catchy subject line, the “who, what, when, where and why” of your event, appropriate website links and a call to action.

Here’s an example:
Subject line: Visit Bethlehem right here in Smithville!
[Reporter’s first name],
The Smithville community will have a chance to remember the real reason for the holiday season at Smithville United Methodist Church (located at 234 Jones St.) on Dec. 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. More than 50 volunteers will come together to create “Walk Through Bethlehem,” a living nativity complete with animals.

Church leaders will be available for interviews before and during the event. Please contact me for further details at [email address] or [cell phone number].

During your event, keep an eye out for reporters. If a reporter attends, introduce yourself and connect them with your senior pastor or another individual who is prepared to speak to the media.

Get in the community

Consider printing invitation cards, door hangers or flyers that your congregation can distribute to neighbors and friends. If you can’t print these yourself, local printers can usually fulfill an order in a hurry if necessary, or you can order denominational Advent resources.

When exploring options for distributing your invitations, look for places where people in your community already gather. Are there businesses that would allow you to post a flyer? Could you leave a stack of invitation cards on the counters of stores? Could you host a hot cocoa fellowship along the Christmas parade route?

With the busyness of the holiday season, many people are looking for events that will help them connect with the true meaning of Christmas. A last-minute invitation is still much better than no invitation at all!

*Laura Buchanan is a PR Specialist at United Methodist Communications