Most event planners have woken up in a cold sweat more than once, having dreamed vividly that an upcoming event bombed, with nary an attendee in sight. Without publicity, this nightmare can quickly become a reality. After all, who (other than your mom) is going to show up if the public doesn't know when, where and why the event is happening? Smaller events can get by with posters strategically placed in business windows and on telephone poles (get permission first). Larger events require more effort to get the word out. First and foremost, consult with the charity, which may have public relations professionals on staff to assist with this venture. Often, they have existing contacts with television, radio and print media, which can facilitate media coverage of the event.
Simple calendar announcements can also be placed free of charge in magazines and newspapers serving the event's target audience. Be sure to plan well in advance, however, because most magazines work a couple of months ahead of publication. In a similar vein, submit announcements to be read at meetings of local civic and business organizations with members who would be interested in attending. When possible, attend these meetings and tell members face-to-face why they should consider supporting the charity.
For attendance and media coverage purposes, celebrities often draw a large crowd and offer the media a desirable angle for the story. A-list celebrities aren't required to generate buzz. Local persons of note, such as the mayor or even a college football star, can set tongues wagging and draw crowds and dollars. Of course, if a community celebrity is a desired addition to your event, be sure to get on his or her calendar as early in the planning process as possible.