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Festival or Event Planning Guide

How to Organize a Birding or Nature Festival

Nancy S. Millar   See more about Nancy Millar

The Importance of the Media

Communication with your Media

Perception is reality. If the local media reports that the festival is a good idea, and that it is a success, then that is what the public, sponsors and potential sponsors will believe.

  • It is vital to establish an early and strong relationship with the local newspaper. Invite the editor out to lunch and explain the potential economic ramifications of the festival.
  • Give him or her an overview of what you will be doing. Take along story ideas- the more unique the better- and requested dates for coverage.
  • The ideal situation would be to get the editor or other well placed employee to volunteer as a worker.

The importance of a good working relationship with the local media cannot be over emphasized. If the newspaper, radio and television give attention to your event, it will not only receive invaluable exposure to potential attendees, but will also add to the credibility of the festival for potential sponsors and other potential partners. The local media can literally make or break you, so make believers of the editor, the reporters, the photographer, the various section editors, the program directors, on-air jocks, everyone you can. Newspapers like to have their stories picked up by other papers, so help them come up with “hooks,” or angles, which give the story a unique perspective and are therefore more likely to be circulated to other markets.

Media Conferences

A media conference can be a good way to announce the event to the public- but only if it is well organized. Here are some pointers:

  • Be sure to have it well scripted, with preferably, more than one person speaking.
  • If you have any speakers lined up or important attendees registered, all the better. Release their names.
  • Have “ringers” in the audience to ask the questions you want to address: sponsors already signed on, anticipated economic impact, “more info” contacts, etc.
  • Have media kits put together to hand out with the schedule of events and other pertinent information. Always include economic impact information and a contact and telephone number for more information.
  • Have a media release printed up complete with quotes included in the packet.
  • Be aware when talking to the media that “sound bites,” or short, catchy phrases are much more likely to be quoted than long, involved sentences.
  • Deliver the packets to any invited media that did not show.
  • Plan the timing of the event carefully. Check with your marketing expert who will undoubtedly have day and time recommendations.
Publicity

There are plenty of free ways to spread the word about your festival. With a little effort, you can uncover many opportunities in your community to tell people not only about the event, but why your organization is doing it in the first place.

  • Offer yourself as speaker on TV and radio talk shows or newsbits. Have planned major points, including the potential economic impact. Ask for free space/time in exchange for sponsorships.
  • Attracting a famous “name” to your festival, whether as a speaker or as an attendee, will give you wonderful publicity opportunities. It has the added advantage of contributing instant credibility to the event.
  • Speak at civic organizations such as Rotary or Kiwanis. Those groups are often anxious for speakers.
  • Consider contacting libraries, schools and other places with display space. They may be happy to give you an area to use for the month or two before the festival.
  • If you have a museum, contact the director well in advance about hosting an exhibit related to nature during your festival. Your organizations can then support each others’ efforts through cross-promotion.
  • Don’t forget environmental organizations in town. Ask them to mention it in newsletters or other communications with members.
  • If you have a bank as a sponsor, see if the bank will enclose a flier you produce in with its statements the month before the festival.
  • One year our newspaper produced tray liners for us that the local Burger King chain used in eight area restaurants the two weeks prior to the festival.
  • There are dozens of free ideas. Remember- it never hurts to ask!

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