I just finished reading a press release for a non-profit organization’s conference that went something like:

We’re Holding an Event!

We’re a great group of people trying to do good in the world.  Our event will be next month, at this location, and it will focus on talking about these topics.  A lot of interesting people will be there.  Here are the dates, times, and location.

As announcements go, it wasn’t bad. The basic 4 W’s of journalism were covered: who, what, where, and when were handled.

But, there’s another W:  Why.

Why are you telling me about this event? Why should I care?

Many of the articles that are sent in to me as the volunteer editor of my church’s newsletter, The Flame, leave out the critical why.  The writers send in the announcements because they want people to show up and join in.  But, their write-ups don’t say that.  They read like a For Sale ad posted on the bulletin board of a community laundromat.

For Sale.  27-in flat-screen TV 2 years old. 555-1212

Reading the 3×5 card ad at the laundromat, you know that you’re supposed to call the owner if you want to buy the TV.  But, with event announcements it’s not so obvious what you’re supposed to do.   Make a reservation?  Buy a ticket? Are there membership or other prerequisites?  Are you talking to me?

Woman inviting people to her eventInvite Your Audience

As the harried organizer of a non-profit group you know you are eager for people to join to come to your event.  That’s why you sent out the announcement, for Pete’s sake!

But, the reader of the announcement may not understand that this message includes people who are not already involved with the activity. Or, they may not understand the logistics of how to become involved, even if all they have to do is show up to be welcomed.

The solution is to avoid announcing your activity.  Invite people to it instead.

Put an explicit invitation to join in, participate, or “come on down” in your headline and lead paragraph.

Tell Them HOW to Join the Fun

Along with who, what, where, when, and why, stories about future activities should include an H word:  HOW.

Tell your target audience in plain words what they have to do to be included:  do they need to call ahead, come to the first meeting, or pay at the door? Especially in these times, cost is an important factor, and you should mention the price of admission for everything, even when it’s $0. You and everyone in your group may know that you’re informal folks and people can casually drop into your free activity. But, the people you’re trying to draw into your circle may not know the details. Make it easy for them by laying it all out in the invitation.

Give your readers a clear road path to becoming involved, and ask them to take that first step.

Include a Compelling Call to Action

In the business world, marketing mavins are told to include a call to action in their sales materials.

Call now!
Register today!

Go ahead. Get down and dirty with all the sales tricks when you’re trying to fill up your event. Make your pitch invitation include a sense of immediacy.  Have them sign up right now!

Why not?  Why not ask them to commit while they are reading your message.  If you give a reader until next month to register, they’ll put off signing up until next month. And, then they’ll forget.  If not right now, certainly they should register at coffee hour this Sunday or email you by Friday.

There is a reason that so many commercials have a breathless sense of urgency.  It works!

 Give it a Whirl

If you want more people to show up at your next event, volunteer to do the “announcements”.  Then write a captivating invitation:

  • Use an action verb to ask people to join in the action
  • Tell folks exactly how they can feel included and part of your merry band
  • Create a way for your invitees to commit to attending now, before their attention wanders

Let me know how inviting folks filled your activity with energetic new folks!