If you are reading this, you probably know the arguments for Humanism and can defend your lifestance using the philosopher’s arsenal of reason and evidence. Humanists tend to be very good at that. Unfortunately, Humanists are often far less comfortable with the tools of marketing. We can talk “logic” all day, but shy away from thinking about “sales”, “market penetration” or “brand loyalty.”
Yet often the problem for Humanists is not that our arguments aren’t valid but that nobody is listening to them. Or that the only people listening are already members of our group; we are, as they say, “preaching to the choir”.
We can’t convince people of the value of Humanism, if they are not even aware of its existence. In fact, given that there are thousands of ethical secular people for every single paid-up member of a Humanist group, getting the word out about our existence, and simply giving people a chance to take part in our activities, may be more important than converting people to our cause.
With that in mind, a well-planned publicity event can have great results for a Humanist group. But never forget that there are two steps involved in successfully marketing an event: first, develop an attractive event with content that motivates participants; then, publicize it.
When you plan the format and content of a promotional event, keep the following points in mind.
• Find out what people want; then give it to them. A lot of people think “marketing” is just about publicizing what you are already doing. But true marketing means more than just disseminating information. It means articulating your message, identifying your audiences, and developing the strategies that will reach and engage them. The process involves learning the perspectives and needs of your target audience. As a result, it may mean changing what you do and how you offer it to people. You need to know your market: know what has been most successful in attracting your current members, and learn what has worked for other groups that are more successful than you.
• Make your event an interactive one. If your goal is to attract new people and get them involved, you need an event that draws them in, giving them opportunities both to learn about your group and to tell you what they are looking for. Think about Tupperware for a minute – what is it that made this brand such a success? It’s not as if these were the only food storage containers around; it’s the “Tupperware party” that made the brand a household name. Interactive, social events which allow people to connect on a personal level are more effective at getting people to buy in and stay loyal.
Once you’ve planned the event itself, move on to the second step: publicity. Here are three tips to promote your meeting:
1) Use event calendars to increase awareness. Many newspapers, tv stations, websites and e-zines have free listings of upcoming events. Your event will be listed if you follow their rules, so make sure you find out when they want your information and in what format.
2) Publicize early and often. You can generate pre-event publicity in several ways, ranging from sending out a press release, including it in a community calendar, publicizing it on your website, or posting an announcement on social media sites. Even for a short meeting for a local audience you should start publicizing it at least two months in advance. Many media calendars require four to eight weeks notice. But you should then send at least two more press releases out, including one just a day or two before the event to try to get reporters to come and cover it.
3) Take advantage of post-event publicity. After every event, send out a press release or report to your local area media. Even if your “Humanist event” was giving a talk about Humanism to another group, you can still control the post-event publicity by submitting your own report. Be sure to include a photograph and contact information.
To learn more about using the media to publicize your Humanist group, check out the recording of Matt and Shannon Cherry’s free webinar for Humanist leaders on how the media works and how to work the media. This 80 minute training session is available on the IHEU web site as a streamed Internet recording, including both the visual materials and the interactive soundtrack, at https://humanists.international/media-zero-media-hero-iheu-free-webinar-now-available-online-demand
Matt Cherry has been a humanist leader for almost 20 years. He is currently an International Representative for IHEU.