“One of the most important aspects ofis to know your audiences well and to always evaluate the quality of the current program. We survey attendees, asking for ideas on future topics and suggestions, and then we try hard to put those suggestions into action.
“Our department plans about 30 meetings a year. The sizes of the meetings vary from 30 participants to 2,500 and more. For our larger gatherings, we use a promotional video that is based on clips from the previous year's event, and we send registration information packets directly to past participants and to all the parishes in the archdiocese. For our smaller meetings, we use direct mail and also targeted e-mail as a reminder. We also offer early bird discounts to encourage attendees to register well in advance of the event.
“We will soon offer online registration through our Web site, which will enable us to get event information in front of people who aren't on our mailing list.”
“We have to caution against creating a look that is too slick. In the corporate world, the slicker the presentation, the better, but in the religious market, if something we send out looks as if it costs too much money, it's not good. We have to balance the function of the brochure, who our market is, and the cost.
“We are fortunate to have a good database. We have to make sure our information goes to the right person. Our biggest challenge is to keep the database is updated, which we do through contacts and some telemarketing.
“We don't have that many new meetings, but when we do have a new meeting, that's different, and the promotional pieces have to be slicker. For our new multicultural music festival, for example, we created a nice promotional piece, but it's not on shiny paper.”
“We send out a meeting packet with a cover letter that explains what the meeting is about and provides information about the city and what things attendees can do there, the phone number for the hotel, some general information, and transportation information.
“We started to use our Web site last year. I think people either love it or don't care for it. For people really into new things, they love being able to access it. We have also started to send response forms through e-mail. If people are traveling, they aren't going to bring their mail, but they'll bring their laptop and be able to respond.”
“We use full-color postcards. It's an economical way to get the word out. We do a color brochure for registration kits and send follow-up postcards as reminders. We do some calling. And our Web site promotes the meetings.
“We did something different last year that worked: We put all our meetings in one publication. We send that out to 8,500 Christian, public, and private schools nationwide. We also target, with a postcard, different regions of the country where the meetings are being held. We also send reminders by e-mail. We don't trust everything to one method.”
“The year before our National Youth Gathering, which is a tri-annual event with an attendance of 35,000, we have two other meetings that are held in the city where the Gathering will take place. The meeting location is our best marketing point. Our program is our drawing card. Because of budget cuts, we don't have the funds to mail elaborate, four-color brochures to our 6,300 congregations. Instead, we design less-expensive pieces and rely more heavily on our Web site. We've had to be creative.”