Publicity and Promotion Basics

© 2001 Designs for Development/Rick Miller


Today's college students are good at spotting hype. If it's not real, relevant, true, raw, focused on "the now" with an edge toward the extreme - you just might not get your message across. Overwhelmed by decades of copy machine output, students are blind to the same old posters and flyers that hang for weeks, each extolling the virtues of the "latest" party, program or speaker. They've become blinded by old info, left to hang until covered by yet another layer of paper that seeks to entice.

If we are to impact our campuses with our programs, we must first understand several basic rules and principles about advertising and publicizing on campus.

Rule #1: "Ain't nobody comin', if they don't know about it" - basically means: If they don't know, they won't show.

Rule #2: "If you don't tell 'em, who will?" - don't expect someone else to care more, or promote harder than YOU - the sponsor, creator and producer of the event.

Rule #3: There are three things that you must have in order to have a successful publicity and promotion campaign: "Enthusiasm, Enthusiasm, and a little bit more Enthusiasm".

To make these three rules work, a basic formula for event planning and publicity development is helpful. That formula is W5HM.

Who What Why Where When How Much/How Many

W5HM is used in each step of the promotion/publicity.

First of all, these are the key questions that your audience will be asking, and therefore your information should deliver.

Secondly, W5HM can be used to help you determine target audience, what media might be most effective, where to place your promo/publicity, when you need to start and refresh your information, how much publicity you need in order to answer the big question "WHY should I participate?"

After you have developed some ideas and know what it is and how you are going to reach your audience, insure your efforts by understanding a basic sequence represented by the letters: AIDCA.

People make their decisions in many ways. To cut through the complex patterns of human behavior, utilize this simple method:

Attract their ATTENTION. Use size, shape, style, color or motion

Create INTEREST. Use a question, graphic, word that hooks them

Create a DESIRE. Answer the WHY question, answer the "What's in it for me?" question

CONVINCE them by offering an opportunity, option, advantage or benefit

Move them to ACTION by involving them: "Call Today!", "Act Now!", "Buy your ticket Today"


Now that you have these basics, here are some general terms, ideas, and practices that will help you be successful in your quest to create more effective publicity and promotion.


Word of Mouth advertising is probably the oldest form of advertising. Even though it can be one of the most effective ways of getting word out, you should know this: Word of Mouth advertising is HARD TO CONTROL. You should design its use carefully to be a key part of your campaign.

Off the Wall publicity is typified by those off beat and unique publicity devices that help you think about placement and getting your publicity seen.

Specialty Advertising (gadgets/ gizmos/ give-always) have been around forever. They are a key way to get and keep your name out there for an extended period off time, and a creative way to tie in a physical item to a message product or service.

A Timeline can help you actually achieve better results so your ideas will have time to happen. Timelines help you avoid those last minute crisis all niters. This is a key part of your program plan.

Interactive publicity is really effective. Anytime you can get someone to ACT . Whether it is with your WWW Website (a great way to share detailed information) or posters and flyers that make people stop and act , interactives get people to talk, spread the enthusiasm and create interest.

Look around you and see what the stores and businesses where you shop are using to catch your attention. Billboards, mobiles, direct mail are expensive but when it comes to results - look at them as an investment.

A good rule of thumb on how much to spend on publicity and promotion (unless otherwise stipulated by an artist's contract) is 10% of the VALUE of the program.

Always get your Public Service Announcements out well in advance and follow up with a phone call. These are free, but can be very effective if handled correctly.

Now a last word about those posters and flyers again!

Never, ever, never... use a marker pen to create a poster without a brain or idea attached to it. THINK before you print the first word. Understand that image is everything! How you look on paper might be the only impression someone has about your organization.

Some folks think that you have to spend a lot of money to have an effective campaign. Promotion isn't about money it's about creativity and the message. You can create a great promotion for peanuts, you can use a 3¢ colored label dot to create spot color on a black and white flyer to draw attention to a word or image. You can use free e-mail (Don't SPAM) to let a targeted group know about your event. The key thing is to do every thing on purpose for a purpose...even putting up those posters and flyers in a strategic place! Go let 'em know!