I recently led a successful public relations campaign for my home club, Club Awesome in Coral Springs, Florida, that included website, email, social media, and traditional media components revolving around a special event meant to bring in new members.
I’m sharing the details below and am also available to answer questions.
My strategy leaned heavily on features built into the Toastmost club website hosting service based on WordPress. Technically, Club Awesome runs a separate instance of the same software — my RSVPMaker events and email marketing WordPress plugin, in combination with the Toastmasters extensions originally created for use at Club Awesome.
I can imagine running the same campaign using a some combination of Meetup, Mailchimp, social media, and a standard Free Toast Host club website, but it would have been a lot more work — and I believe it would have been less effective.
Toastmost features that made a difference:
- Blogging software, which allowed us to create a promotional article about the event, something that would be difficult to do on Free Toast Host. Our social media and email campaigns then focused on driving traffic to that blog post.
- Search and social media optimization tools, particularly for optimizing the appearance of shares of the blog post on LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Email marketing software, built into the website and specifically designed for promotions built around events and blog content.
- Guest registration, built into the website. Attendees were asked to fill out a short web form expressing interest and giving us the ability to follow up with them. Visitors to the club’s home page also saw an RSVP button asking them to register.
- After the event, we published another blog post including the video recording, plus the speaker’s slides and handouts (WordPress makes it very easy to embed video and PDFs). We promoted that via email and social media, getting another increment of value out of the event.
- In the coming weeks, we’ll start the process again with promotions for an August 25 workshop with the Geeks on Tour, husband and wife business owners who created a business out of teaching technology for travelers with an emphasis on smartphone photography.
The workshop at the heart of the campaign
Our July featured workshop speaker, Marilyn Brown was a past president of Club Awesome who used skills honed through Toastmasters to establish herself as an executive leadership coach and consultant. We asked her to speak about “The Essential Professional Value of Public Speaking,” using examples from her consulting work helping leaders improve their executive presence.
Club Awesome meets on Friday mornings, 7 am to 8:30 EDT, so getting guests who don’t consider themselves “morning people” to attend can be challenging. For that matter, since adopting a hybrid format, we’ve sometimes struggled to get members to attend in person rather than sleeping in a little later and tuning in by Zoom. The workshop was held in combination with our monthly breakfast meeting as a double-incentive to come in person.
We got about 45 guest registrations. Although not all of those people actually showed up, they were all people we could market the replay to after the event.
By rough count, we got 15 attendees in the room and another 35 online. Many of those attendees were already active Toastmasters, not all of them local, including some who specifically wanted to hear from our featured speaker or wanted to check out how we manage hybrid meetings.
I particularly wanted to attract people from our local community who would attend in person, and we did get two of those, plus at least another two new-to-Toastmasters guests who attended on Zoom. We think we will get at least two new members to join specifically because of the event and the surrounding promotional activity.
Beyond that, in my experience whenever we can create this kind of “buzz” about the club, we will get elevated attendance for weeks afterward, including more potential members. People who registered but didn’t make it for whatever reason often wind up trickling into our meetings later, while others will hear about the event after it’s past and see the fact that we regularly put on special programming as a reason to visit.
Social media promotions
Probably the most successful part of our PR campaign was using posts to Facebook and LinkedIn to drive traffic to our website, where visitors were invited to register as guests for the upcoming events. Most of these events drove traffic to a blog post that shared details about our guest speaker and featured an embedded RSVP Now! button.
We actually encouraged officers (and, really, all members) to like and share those posts, or create their own social posts about the event. I’m sharing examples from my own personal accounts, but we did also post some from the club’s Facebook page. I thought the personal ones were more likely to reach people not already in Toastmasters.
Several of the social posts were built around a video interview I conducted with our featured speaker, dramatizing the value of what she would be presenting.
Because we particularly wanted to attract local folks who could attend in person, I didn’t put as much emphasis into posting to insider Toastmasters groups on Facebook as I have when, for example, promoting events at Online Presenters Toastmasters. As an advanced club, Online Presenters has more interest in attracting experienced Toastmasters and burnishing its reputation as the place to learn about online presentation excellence.
Website: traffic and registrations spiked
We could see the effect of our efforts using the Jetpack plugin’s site statistics module. On the peak traffic day, right after the promo video social posts were published, we got more than 200 page views from 125 visits. Those are not huge numbers by commercial standards, but compared with the dozen or so visits we get on a typical day, they’re terrific.
More importantly, club officers saw a steady stream of “RSVP YES” email notifications as people signed up for the event.
Blog post promo
A blog post about our guest speaker featured as what marketers call the “landing page” for the campaign, the place visitors got more information that would convince them to take action by registering as a guest.
The event itself was published as an RSVPMaker event post, and we used the RSVPMaker Embed Event content block to embed a summary version — headline, date, time, and RSVP Now! button.
We also took advantage of search and social media optimization techniques, particularly to make sure an appropriate preview image would be displayed when the blog post was shared on social media.
Here is the editor block used to embed the event headline, date, and RSVP button.
Home page promo
The workshop was also promoted on the home page of the website, along with other upcoming events.
Using the same mailing list software available to any club that uses the Toastmost service, we sent out a series of email messages to members and people who had signed up for our email list, followed by reminders to registered attendees, and finally a message promoting the replay of the event.
One of the advantages of using mailing list software that is built into WordPress is that you can use a blog post as the basis for your email message, which is hat we did here.
Learn the Essential Professional Value of Public Speaking with Marilyn Brown on July 28 7 opens, 11 clicks
Breakfast Workshop: The Professional Value of Public Speaking with Marilyn Brown Fri, 28 Jul 2023 144 opens, 30 clicks
Friday: Breakfast Workshop on the Professional Value of Public Speaking with Marilyn Brown 36 opens, 6 clicks
Starting soon: Zoom link and in-person directions for Friday’s public speaking workshop 56 opens, 40 clicks
Replay: The Essential Professional Value of Public Speaking with Marilyn Brown 41 opens, 15 clicks
Media outreach and event listing
We also sent out a press release version of the email to local media, with slightly different formatting and press contact info at the end. This wasn’t as successful as I would have hoped, but next time I plan to send the message out earlier.
The major local newspaper allows community organizations to submit event listings, and we did get a notice out there that may have brought in an additional attendee or two. This ran in the online edition but was submitted too late for the print edition.
After the event
After the event, the blog post containing the video replay became one of several featured on the club’s home page inviting visitors to learn the lessons of special events hosted by our club. The goal is to convince visitors to the website that this is an outstanding club they might like to become a part of.
The replay was also featured in an email sent out to registered attendees (including those who did not actually attend) and an excerpt from it became part of a post-event social post trying to drive traffic to the blog post. In addition to the video, the blog post include our featured speaker’s slides and a handout from her consulting work.