Generate Buzz without Spending a Buck Free Publicity Can Help Attract New Members When the Woodbury Lions’ annual car show is coming up, it’s hard to find anyone in the vicinity who isn’t aware of it. For weeks prior to the event, area residents watch ads on television, see posters in store windows, read articles in the newspaper and notice yard signs along the town’s busiest street. This may sound like a lot of work—and maybe more importantly, a lot of money—but these Connecticut Lions receive great exposure with a next-to-nothing advertising budget. Instead, they take advantage of many free publicity options available. “A lot of people don’t understand the difference between advertising and publicity. The main difference is publicity doesn’t cost you anything. As publicity chair I try to find ways that I can get information out about the club and generate buzz for our events out without having to pay for it,” says Woodbury Lion Frank Longo. The Woodbury Lions are doing more than generating buzz—they’re also making the job of finding new members a lot easier. Channels of Communication Prior to each event, the Woodbury Lions produce promotional radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs) with some complimentary help from friends with expertise (but Longo points out that it’s fairly easy to create video and audio segments on just about any home computer). A few weeks before an event, Longo sends 15-, 30- and 60-second PSAs on CDs to radio and TV stations in the area. “Smaller stations and college stations are most likely to run them. The local public access channel runs everything we send,” Longo says. RSVP, Please Chartered in 2009, the Lawton Patriots Lions in Oklahoma were in need of media coverage to help spread the word about their young club. John Williams used Facebook to invite a TV reporter to do a story on an upcoming 5K run. This simple invitation resulted in a great story and has led to coverage for more events. “I found out that the media is always looking for good stories and that if you can get reporters to participate in events, the better the story,” Williams points out. Cast a Wider Net Ultimately, it’s all about making connections. “By networking with other organizations and including each other in your events, you can help each other advertise at no cost,” explains Joanne Dye of the Selkirk Lions in Ontario, Canada. For each of their events, the Woodbury Lions do tie-ins with business sponsors, such as a car dealership for the car show, resulting in cross promotion that benefits all. Increase Online Savvy The usual suspects for online promotion are obvious (club website, Facebook, Twitter) but there’s more than meets the eye. Consider community calendars, special interest forums or local news websites such as Patch.com. By hunting down the right sources, the payoff in exposure could be priceless. Plus, Longo says, “Our ad budget is decreasing each year as we become more media aware.” Brainstorm some new ideas for free publicity that might work well for your club. Those potential new members out there will know the Lions a whole lot better. Williams says, “We’re sparking the interest of people to wonder what Lions do and who they are.” –Jennifer Gilbert Gebhardt Find samples of the Woodbury Lions’ TV and radio PSAs in the digital LION at www.lionmagazine.org. Find great tips for placing PSAs and download LCI PSAs at www.lionsclubs.org (search for “PSA”).
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