Your readers know to go to your website for the latest community news. But, is your website the first place they go to find things to do, meeting information, events and activities?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1. What special features does your calendar offer?
2. Do you offer sub calendars for school, sports, meetings and cultural events?
3. Are your calendar pages adding to your site revenue? High traffic spots for advertisers?
4. How do you promote your calendar?
The first step is keeping the calendar updated. An empty calendar has no value and you must promote to readers, organizations and businesses.
Next, help your readers develop new habits of coming to your site when looking for specific information about an event or meeting.
And finally enlist the community to add events to the calendar.
Create a plan of action. Promote the calendar features to three key groups detailing features and benefits.
1. Organizations, groups and those wanting to promote an event or activity
2. Your users, community members interested in what is going on in the area
3. Your advertisers
If you have enough events, it might make sense to have sub-calendars. Events can be categorized into these calendars that allow readers to browse schedules for sports events, churches, local entertainment, meetings, school happenings and more.
If you are using the BLOX Business Directory, events can be associated with a venue or business and displayed with a google map of the event location.
Local entertainment events can include performer bios and information, including sample music for local bands.
Readers are the key to a successful calendar. Engage them by having them submit their events. The listings will need approval by your staff before they can go live in the calendar.
Community members can pull up event listings by the information that is important to them. Events can be flagged by cost (including free events), age appropriate (kids, teens, over 18, seniors), date night, hot, featured and more.
"Did you go?" This feature provides readers the opportunity to share their videos, photos, comments and reviews of an event.
Ideas for promoting your calendar
1. Doing a story around an event? Provide links in the story to the calendar listing.
2. Make it a practice to do a followup article after major events. This can include comments and reviews posted by those that attended. Again, link to the "Did you go?" section for this event.
3. Consider having a column on your opinion page called "We went!" ... it includes reader submitted photos and comments surrounding meetings, cracker barrel sessions, and more.
4. Hold contests that include a monthly scavenger or treasure hunt. Put clues in event listings. Get creative and hold contests for different age groups with appropriate prizes (event tickets, t-shirts, water bottles, etc.)
5. Use your Facebook page to link to advertise your calendar and link to events.
6. Promote the calendar in the traditional manner ... run lots and lots of house ads.
Encourage community members to post their events
1. Develop a flyer that can be displayed throughout the community and distributed at events and meetings.
2. Write a letter to all government offices. Include an invitation to submit events and public meetings, include a link to the submission form, and a how-to tutorial on adding an event.
3. Attend Rotary, Lions Club, 4-H, VFW and other service organizations and personally inviting major players to announce events by submitting them to the calendar. Let them know it is a great way to reach prospective members and show they are active.
4. Meet with the local chamber of commerce and tourist organizations. I ask them to promote your calendar, and invite them to upload their events to the calendar. Consider giving them their own sub-calendar.
5. Ask clubs and non-profits that use the calendar to also promote the calendar. They can not only list their events, but also put in last minute cancellations or change of venue and add a link on their sites to your calendar.
6. Let everyone you talk to know that calendar listings provide your staff with valuable story leads and ideas that can help promote their organization.
7. A little fun competition between clubs and organizations can strengthen the ties between them. Hold contests or games for those that submit events. Prizes could include free or price-reduced ad spots for their events.
1. Upsell advertising around events.
2. Sell sponsorships on the calendar.
3. Sell sub-calendars. Let the hospital have its own sub-calendarthat they sponsor. Their events will not only display on their sub-calendar, but also on the main calendar.
4. Increased pageviews for the calendar translate into high-value advertising positions throughout the sub-calendars.
5. Enhanced power business listings upsets to tie event and business together.
Okay, you know you need a plan. Let's get started
Who are you going to talk to? Clubs, service organizations, schools, churches, non-profits, senior centers and government offices are a good start.
How will you spread the word? Personal appearances, letters of invitation, articles (pre/post event), cross-linking, and print ads are all a good way of advertising the calendar.
Don't forget about the advertising benefits and additional revenue. Include this discussion when putting your plan in place.
You've planted the seed
Your calendar can be a powerful tool. With a little planning and nurturing you can make it a vital link between you and your community.