10 Tips for Creating Promotional Materials for Your Screening
Using multiple ways to promote your screening is a good idea because this will help to create awareness and the desire to attend, as individuals see your screening announced in different places, so they feel it is more important to attend. Then, too, you can learn which approach or approaches work best, so you do more of that type of promotion.
Following is a detailed discussion about how you can use each approach.
1) Promotional flyers are a good way to promote your screening by distributing them at networking and referral group meetings. You can hand them out personally as you talk to different people or put them on a display table. You can also put flyers in retail stores, at your local chamber of commerce, or send them as attachments to email contacts.
At some meetings you may be able to announce your event. In making the announcement, you can hold up a copy of the flyer and invite anyone interested to take a flyer to learn more, or pass them around so anyone interested can take a flyer.
In writing your copy for the flyer, keep it short and use catchy copy to have more impact. Briefly describe what the film is about and include the date, time, and location of the screening. If you have arranged for sign-ups through Eventbrite or other event sign-up service, include the link to your event, so people can sign up there. Include a poster of the film and use large type on the top third or half of the flyer. Then, in about 75 to 100 words, describe the film and indicate if there will be any refreshments or Q&A. You can use a text box to highlight some special feature, and as relevant, include a short bio about yourself or your company. If you have already written up an description of your screening for a platform like Eventbrite or Meetup, you can draw on that for your flyer, though you may need to shorten the longer description.
It’s best to start small in producing your flyers for your first screenings. You can easily create a basic flyer in Word and print it on colored paper so it will stand out. Choose a color that reflects your message. Another advantage of creating your own flyer in Word or other easy-to-use platform, such as Photoshop or Canva, is you can print a small number to start. Say print 20 to 50 flyers at first, rather than a much longer run for a flyer created by a professional.
For a professional look, you can hire a copywriter or marketing company to create your flyer with full-color photos or graphics. The cost can range from $50 to $500, depending on the experience of the individual or company you hire. If this is one of your first screenings, keep costs your low and use this to help get future screenings.
Stay flexible when you create these flyers or have them created for you, so you can test out the response after a short run. Then, you can make any edits or change the photo or graphics to create a revised copy. If you make any revisions, do another test and compare the results with different versions to see what approach results in the most attendees at your screenings. You might additionally get feedback from friends and associates.
2) If you are a member of a networking, referral, or interest group, sometimes, especially if you are new to the group, you may have a chance to announce your screening, along with other information about what you do to the group. When you make such an announcement, ideally have your flyer to hand out to those who are interested. You might have sign-up forms to give out for individuals to take with them, too. Ask whoever is in charge of the meeting, if you can make this announcement, and if you are new, the host of the meeting may automatically call on you to introduce yourself and talk about what you are doing.
In making your announcement, you typically have about 15–30 seconds, though as much as 1 minute in some groups, usually if there is a smaller turn-out. To prepare to make this announcement, practice what is often called an “elevator speech.” There are even workshops and seminars on creating a good elevator speech.
The main points to highlight when you introduce yourself are these:
- Your name
- Your company name
- What your film is about and why group members will like it
- The title of your film
- The date, time, and location
- Where people can get more information
If you have a website or landing page for your film, mention this. Ideally, have a flyer with this information to hand out to those interested or have the flyers available on a display table. If you have more than 30 seconds, you can describe your film in more detail or share an interesting story about making it.
Work out different versions of your announcement based on the time you have. The key is to keep your announcements short and to the point.
Another approach is getting announcements in the publications of groups where you are a member. Many of these groups have a monthly newsletter, commonly in both a print and online edition. Contact the editorial staff member handling the calendar or member news to get a posting. Some publications may even offer to feature you in a short article. If you place a small ad, often you will get a member discount.
Typically, these announcements will feature the link to sign up for your screening, as well as contact information to connect with you directly. When you speak to the editor or newsletter coordinator, get the details for getting an announcement. In particular, find out the deadline to get in the next publication and the number of words or characters allowed to describe your event. Sometimes these are quite short — only 100–150 words. Some publications will additionally invite you to send in a picture to include in the posting.
3) If you already have a social media account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you can post your screening there, too. Besides a regular post, you can boost your post with an ad budget of $5 to $10 for a few days to see what kind of response you get. If people sign up for your event, not just like your post, you can increase your budget.
A good time to start your social media posts is about two weeks before the screening. Then, write another post about your upcoming screening every two or three days. This repetition will help your current followers or those who become followers due to your ads remember your film, since a one-time post can easily get lost in the mass of social media messages each day. Researchers have estimated that the average person sees 500 to 1000 posts zip by each day.
With any social media post, keep it short — even shorter than your copy on a flyer or event description. Include a photo, animated gif, or short video with your copy to attract attention. You want to quickly convey your message and include a link where those who are interested can learn more, such as by going to your Eventbrite link.
The key elements to include in your social media post are the title of your film and a few compelling bullet points to show the value from attending. Also, include the date, time, location, and the link to click. In some cases, if you set up a screening as an event on a platform like Eventbrite, the service will automatically post your screening on selected social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. But don’t rely on that single posting for results. Instead, create your own social media campaign with multiple posts, where you can repeat the same copy or vary it slightly, such with a different logline for the film.
4) If you have a website or landing page for your film, this is another place to post an announcement of your screening. Once they click for more information, you can include a more detailed description along with a link to register on your site using PayPal or a credit card, or send them to the event site to register, such as Eventbrite. Or if people can pay at the door, let them know, though perhaps charge a little more for those who pay at the screening, to encourage them to RSVP and pay in advance.
Generally, people will not search for your film by name like they search for certain types of products or services, since they won’t know its name. Thus, use other methods to get people to visit your website, such as Facebook or Google ads, where you provide an incentive for people to go to your site or landing page with information about your film.
5) You might also get publicity for your screening if your venue has a newsletter or regular mailing to their members. If so, ask about getting a listing in that. Sometimes these listings will be free or you can place an ad, following the venue’s guidelines. Generally, it’s best to place these listings or ads one or two weeks before your screening, and possibly in both weeks. Follow the venue’s guidelines for how to create the ad. Typically, they will include a description of 100–150 words with the basic screening information, plus sometimes a photo of a certain size.
6) Still another way to promote your screening is through a table or booth at a local trade fair. It’s probably not worth the cost to participate if you are only promoting a single screening. But if you plan to be at the fair to promote your products or services, you could use the fair to attract attendees to your event.
The cost of participating in these fairs typically ranges from $100 to $300, and a little less with an early bird discount. For a simple set-up, plan on having one or two large signs of about 18” x 44” on an easel. Design them with a few lines of copy to promote your film, and perhaps include a photo of the poster for the film.
Usually, you will get a 3 foot wide and 6 foot long table and sometimes a plain white covering. You will also get guidelines with details on how to set up, when to arrive, where to park, what to do if you need electricity or wi-fi access, and what to bring. You may also get suggestions on how to get more people to come to the fair.
Ideally, bring a dark colored covering, such as in black, dark blue, or brown, so your display better stands out. You can use table easels to feature flyers about film, along with any other products and services. Bring a bowl to collect business cards. Many exhibitors also bring a bowl of candy, cookies, or snacks to attract attendees. Some offer a drawing for a prize, which could be a guest pass for your screening.
Other items to include in your display are:
- A poster of your film on a table easel or on a large stand-up easel
- Brochures about your film
- Business cards
- Index cards and a pen for attendees who don’t have business cards
Additionally, bring flyers about your screening. Generally, you only need 20 to 25 copies of your flyers and other handouts, since only a small percentage of the attendees will take flyers, since they aren’t interested or don’t want to carry the material around with them.
Preferably stand at your table or get up from your chair when people come by, so you appear friendly and enthusiastic. As people glance your way, greet them with a smile and “Hello.” Invite people to look at your display and take flyers. As appropriate, mention that you are having a screening of your film and hand them a flyer.
Ideally, arrive at the beginning of the set-up time to set up your table or booth, since it will usually be easier to find parking to unload your equipment. Coming early will also give you time to visit the other exhibitors after you set up your booth before the fair starts. After you introduce yourself, you may find that some exhibitors are interested in what you are doing. Some may visit you at your booth later.
Then, it’s show time for the fair, which usually lasts for two or three hours.
7) You can promote your event through the local media. To do so, create a list of the print and online publications in your area which include announcements about local events and articles about local residents and activities. For each publication, list the publisher, managing or executive editor, and the editor of the section where you want to pitch your listing or article. If you aren’t sure which editor to target, when several editors handle features, news stories, and events, you can call the office to ask which editor to contact. Alternatively, send your article or press release to all of the contacts and later indicate you weren’t sure who to contact. An editor can advise you who to contact in the future.
Prepare two types of announcements:
- a listing and short description of your screening for the publication’s calendar or events section; provide a JPEG of a photo or your logo if these listings include this.
- a longer article of 300 to 500 words, written like a press release, if the publication features such articles.
You can additionally include a short cover letter to indicate what you are sending.
In general, it is best to send information to the media in writing rather than calling before you send it to let the editor know what you are sending. You can call a day or two later to find out if the editor got it. Often editors are quite busy and, with some exceptions, they prefer to get information about events and local news in writing rather than have phone calls. Many don’t answer their phones or return messages left on voice mail. An exception might be if you meet an editor at a business networking event or trade fair.
When you write, the usual practice is to include information in the body of the email, rather than sending an attachment, since editors are generally reluctant to open emails with attachments they aren’t expecting from someone they don’t know, due to fears about viruses and other malware. But if you write first and the editor asks you to send more information or a photo, you can include an attachment.
Check on the deadlines for when to send your information. Usually, a week or two in advance is fine for newspapers or newsletters. For monthly magazines, check when the deadline is for the following month, and submit your announcement, article, or press release before that.
When you send in any publicity materials, there are no guarantees, unlike ads where you pay in advance and schedule a placement for a certain time. Whether your publicity materials get printed depend on the editor’s interest and available spacing. So send it off and hope for the best. As for advertising, it generally is too expensive to advertise a film screening in local publications, aside from placing an ad in the newsletter of the venue hosting your film.
8) When contacting the local media, you can write two types of press releases. Then, hope the editors or reporters will find this information appealing enough to include this information or contact you to write a story about what you are doing.
Start your release with “For Immediate Release” unless you are sending it to a particular editor. The two types of releases to send are these:
- a release about your film screening; additionally, create a short announcement to include in a calendar or newsletter mention of upcoming events.
Initially, focus your pitch on your local area, since you are more likely to get your releases and announcements published. You will also be more likely to interest editors, reporters, and radio hosts who would like to interview you. Later, if you plan other screenings in different areas and build up attendance at your events, you can seek to get more widespread national attention. Building up your number of followers on the major social media platforms — at least 10,000 or more on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn — will help you attract interest, too.
You can target local contacts if you sign-up for one of the major media contact services, such as Cision or Meltwater, though these are fairly expensive for a yearly subscription — about $3000 to $5000 a year. Thus, you need to be able to do multiple emails for it to make sense to get an individual membership, or perhaps find a partner to sign up with you. For the time being, forget about the pay-by-the-mailing press services like PR Wire, which charges $299 to send out a basic release, $199 if you get one of their 33% off promotions.
Another way to get local contacts is to gather copies of local newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. Some of these may be freebies that appear in your mailbox, or buy a copy on a local newsstand, such as in your supermarket. In each copy, look for the masthead which lists the names of the editors and reporters, and select the contacts to pitch — generally the publisher, managing editor, senior editor, or features reporter. The titles vary, and if you aren’t sure, call to determine who to pitch, or send an email with a letter or press release to likely contacts. If you email multiple contacts, later you can explain you weren’t sure who to send your letter or release to, so you can better target subsequent mailings.
Still another way to find local publications is by doing an online search. To do so, put in the name of your county or city along with the word “publications,” “magazines,” or “newspapers” to get a list of publications in your area. Besides your city, put in the name of adjacent cities. If you are near a major metropolitan area, put in that city, too. Include your state name with the city, unless you are targeting a major metropolis, since there could be cities with the same name in more than one state.
Some of these publications may be members of the chamber of commerce in the cities in your area, so check with these chambers for local publications. Most chambers now post their membership lists with contact information on their websites.
If you want to do radio interviews, do a search for radio stations in your area. If you want to be a guest on podcasts, search for that.
9) Generally, people in the media prefer to receive emails with letters or press releases. Sometimes, though, it’s fine to call, if you only have a small number of press contacts or if you have met someone in the media who asks you to call.
If you call anyone in the media, keep it brief, since most of your message will be in your letter or release. Just give a brief overview in a sentence or two, highlighting why someone in the media should find your information of interest. Always plan to provide the details in writing. The main reasons to call before or after you send your information are the following:
The main reason to call before you send an introductory letter or release is to let the media person know you have some information they may find of interest on a certain topic. You can include the subject line you are using to pitch them. If they are interested in getting more information, let them know you will send a release or letter by email attachment or in the body of the email if requested. Then, send this information in the next few minutes, while your conversation is still fresh on their minds.
The main reason to call after you send your letter or release is to check that the media person has received it. You can recap what you sent by reading or summarizing the subject line. If they have gotten your email, fine. Tell them “great” and hang up. If they haven’t received it, let them know when you sent it (sometimes the contact will check their email at this point and find it, sometimes in their spam folder). If they still haven’t gotten it, tell them you will send it again, and do so in the next few minutes.
If you don’t get through right away, you can leave a message and hope they get it. If you don’t hear anything, follow up a day or two later. You can also follow up a few hours or a day later after sending an email to see if they received it. If they say “yes,” great, and follow their lead if they want you to say more. If no, try again maybe one more time. Don’t keep persisting with calls or emails, since you don’t want to come across as a pest.
You can do individual mailings and phone calls when you have a small number of contacts — say less than 25. As your list of local contacts grows, put them in a database to use in doing bulk and personalized mailings. I use Access or an Excel sheet for this purpose, but you can use other database programs. In creating this database, set up a series of columns: Number, Publication, Type of Publication, Contact, Title, City, Email, Website, and Comment, which can include the date of your data entry or update). Create another record for each contact in the database.
As your database grows, there are a number of bulk mailing services you can use. Some examples are GetResponse, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and GroupMail. These services can send out what look like personalized emails for letters or releases from whatever email you specify. You enter the name of your contact and email into their software, along with your message, which can include photos or illustrations.
10) A final consideration is whether to do all of this yourself. While you may be good at putting on your program and developing your materials, you may not have the same expertise for doing other tasks. Moreover, you might still need help in creating your materials, such as by working with a ghostwriter or communications strategist.
When it comes to marketing and promotion, there are many detailed tasks involved in developing your marketing and promotional materials and implementing a campaign. Accordingly, think about creating a team to help with marketing and promotion. While a marketing or promotion consultant can help create a plan for what you might do, you need someone to do the day-to-day implementation. That way you can focus on what you really want to do and are good at.
Sometimes you may be able to find someone who can both help you develop your materials, and has a team to do marketing and promotion. If not, the key people to hire include the following:
- a website designer to create your website ($70 to $125 an hour).
- a social media provider and virtual assistant to set up your social media campaign and send out your social media posts ($25 to $40 an hour).
- a publicist to contact the print, broadcast, and Internet media for you, and possibly set up your speaking engagements ($1500 to $3000 for a monthly retainer).
- a database assistant to look for contact information online and enter it into a database, such as one listing contacts for the local media, organizations or companies ($8–15 an hour).
- a marketing assistant to contact local associations, organizations, and corporations to set up screenings for you ($15 to $35 an hour, depending upon experience).
- a graphic designer to create your brochures, flyers, book covers, and other materials ($25 to $125 an hour).
Ideally, don’t hire anyone as an employee. Rather, hire anyone as an independent contractor. You can usually do so when you have someone work for you for only a few hours a week and they can choose their own hours. Then, too, most of the people you hire will have their own businesses or work for a small business, so they will be independent contractors, not employees, for you. Hiring only independent contractors is an advantage when you are starting out, because you don’t have to set up reporting systems and paperwork which is required by different levels of government when you have an employee.
Where do you find the help you need? A good starting point is the people you already know, including family, friends, and local business groups.
Other possibilities include:
- Put a notice on your local Next Door neighborhood forum.
- Do a search on Google for the position you are looking for and add “near me” or your city or county.
- Make an announcement at any interest groups you belong to.
If you are hiring someone who is doing creative work, such as a web designer, social media provider, or graphic designer, ask to see examples of their work, which will usually be on their website. If you are hiring a publicist or marketing assistant, ask about other clients they have worked for, and if possible, see some examples of what they have done for their clients.
GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, specializing in business and work relationships, professional and personal development, social trends, and popular culture. She has published 50 books with major publishers. She has worked with dozens of clients on memoirs, self-help, popular business books, and film scripts. Writing samples are at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.
She is the founder of Changemakers Publishing, featuring books on work, business, psychology, social trends, and self-help. The company has published over 150 print, e-books, and audiobooks. She has licensed several dozen books for foreign sales, including the UK, Russia, Korea, Spain, and Japan.
She has received national media exposure for her books, including appearances on Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN. She has been the producer and host of a talk show series, Changemakers, featuring interviews on social trends.
Scott is active in a number of community and business groups, including the Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek Chambers of Commerce. She is a graduate of the prestigious Leadership Contra Costa program. She does workshops and seminars on the topics of her books.
She is also the writer and executive producer of 10 films in distribution, release, or production. Her most recent films that have been released include Driver, The New Age of Aging, and Infidelity.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her J.D. from the University of San Francisco Law School. She has received five MAs at Cal State University, East Bay, most recently in Communication.