We distributed this small flyer at coffee shops and businesses

Getting Started

Before you dive into advertising, you want to make sure your festival has a logo. You’ll also want to find a designer to provide professional looking posters, flyers, and print ads. The vegan community is full of smart, creative people so it’s likely you can find a great designer to do these designs pro bono.

Another important step is to research local media outlets, their advertising rates, press release contacts, and community calendar contacts. It will take a lot of research to gather all of this information, but this data will be essential for buying ads, sending out press releases and submitting your event to community calendars.

Put all this data in an easily accessible document, like a Google Docs spreadsheet.

Where to Advertise

From our survey results, the most commonly cited place where people heard about the event was from Facebook (34%), friends (32%) and posters or flyers (18%). We experimented a bit with paid advertising and promoted posts on Facebook, but so far we have relied on word of mouth for social media.

We’ve also experimented with print advertising, with fairly poor results. For our 2013 event, we paid for a print ad in the Minnesota Daily, the University of Minnesota student newspaper. Only 2% of survey respondents cited this as one of the ways they heard about the festival! Other experiments with print advertising in 2012 had similarly poor results.

We now spend most of our budget and volunteer resources on online advertising (e.g. on Facebook) and printing flyers and posters for local distribution.

Paid online ads

On Facebook, you can run general ads, ads promoting a specific post, or ads promoting a specific event. We don’t have a lot of expertise in online advertising, but we do have a few pieces of advice to share. Cute pictures of animals are a winner. If you’re looking to boost the likes (and therefore views) on a particular page post, use a cute animal picture. You can target ads based on all sorts of criteria. At the very least, you should target people based on geography, and probably also based on age. Finally, if you have an existing email list, you can use that list to target those people for ads if they’re signed up to Facebook. This can be a good way to boost likes of your page and/or event responses.

Google AdWords is another option to consider. Nonprofits can sign up for free AdWords as part of the Google Grants program. However, this has some limitations on keyword bids and where your ads can link to that may make the program non-viable for your festival. Paying for ads may end up providing you with better results.

Finally, there are many other online advertising possibilities, including advertising on specific sites like local magazines and newspaper sites. This may be a better way to do local advertising than by running print ads, especially if you’re targeting younger people.

Ads for sponsorship

Advertising can be expensive, and that’s why you should look into forming a partnership with a local media outlet by allowing them to sponsor your festival. For our very first Veg Fest, we had our most well known free community paper, City Pages, on board as our official media sponsor. They received benefits from us as a sponsor by having their logo on most of our advertising materials and event program. In return, they gave us free advertising.

One of the biggest benefits of having a well known media outlet sponsor your festival is lending legitimacy to your brand new event. We have also accepted sponsorships from radio stations and websites such as Yelp to get the word out about our Veg Fest.

When negotiating for a sponsorship from a media outlet, be sure to get specifics about the type and amount of advertising they will provide. We highly recommend a contract. You will need to keep in touch with them to make sure they follow through on their promises.

Local community calendars

Many local papers, websites and other media outlets have community calendar listings and are seeking event listings for them. Some may have an online form that you can fill out to submit a listing. Others have an email address you can send your press release to. You should submit your listing to community calendars at least three weeks before your event.

Relevant bloggers

You probably have blogs in your area that not only have a large following of individuals, but also may influence the larger media. Focus on local food blogs, whether they are vegan or not. The message you want to send them is that there will be delicious food at your event. You may want to craft a press release specifically for bloggers, or you can use your general press release (see Press Releases below).

Distributing fliers & posters

So, your posters and fliers have been designed and printed, now how do you get them out to the coffeeshops, restaurants, clubs and other gathering places to be seen by people? It’s easy, you have a “postering party” and invite your dedicated volunteers, friends and family members! Make sure they know you will be providing delicious food and social time. Before or after food and social time, send your volunteers out in pairs to put up posters and distribute fliers. Assign teams to specific areas and have them record where they put the posters and flyers. You can utilize Google Maps and create a custom map to track which places have been postered and which places still need to be covered.

You should send each pair out with the following supplies:

  • Posters and flyers
  • Tape
  • Staple gun (with plenty of staples)
  • Clipboard, paper, and pen to record where they leave posters

Press releases

Date, location and time is very important, but it’s equally important to ask yourself: Why would someone want to come to the festival? Why would your local media outlet want to run a story about your festival? Your press releases need a “hook.” The hook should be one sentence at the beginning of your press release such as:

  • According to Google Trends, public interest in a vegan diet is higher than ever before.
  • News about “ag gag” legislation in several states has led to more Americans questioning where our food comes from, and how to make more compassionate choices.
  • Bill Gates says the future of meat is vegan.

When describing the event, be sure to focus on “fun”, “free” and “food”. Although raising awareness about animal suffering is a big part of your event, that’s not the message that will appeal to the editors of your targeted media outlets.

Press releases should be sent to media outlets at least three weeks before your event. It doesn’t hurt to send the releases more than once. You might also send out different releases. For example, you might write one general release and one that is food-focused. You can send them to different outlets, and in some cases you might want to send both.