This is an important step. Do you want to advertise? Are you ready for a mass influx of excited/passive/hyper/bored teenagers? Is word of mouth the best way? Can I deliver an exciting advertising campaign that will reflect the event? Don't have great publicity and a bad event! Don't have bad publicity that will put people off the event!
Remember that you can put on the best event in the world, but don't expect people will just turn up. You need to promote it, get alongside young people, other youth leaders, parents etc. Things rarely just happen. Give things time to build up and don't lose heart. If God authors something, he'll finish it. If God isn't behind it, quit before you start!!
Is the event aimed at local teenagers? Local church kids? Your church kids? Other churches? You'll have to make the publicity accordingly and give plenty of notice to other churches. Please don't send out flyers 2-3 weeks before an event. People have got other programs and it won't endear you to them! Obviously your design needs to be appropriate to your target audience!
We have sent flyers to churches, taken flyers into the local schools (with permission preferably - though I have been known to hand out flyers anyway in school!). What about advertising for free in your local paper or free paper? Is there a local events magazine?
We hope to reach non-Christians so we are increasingly going to where they are to be found. The first of these is in schools. For our Revelation outreach events we went into the local high school near to where the event was being presented. Some youth workers took RE lessons via a Christian teacher, I did music lessons around DJ-ing and rap. We then gave out flyers to the young people. A lunchtime event around DJ-ing and hip hop also went down well and was an opportunity to hand out more flyers!
We also went into Christian youth clubs to talk about the event. We spoke to local church leaders to keep them informed, as well as the church leaders in the city. Communication is a real key. Have a person who is on leadership teams across your area, who can help promote the event, or consider going to leadership meetings yourself and getting involved.
Another strategy was to link up with a local church who already do Friday night detached work, to support and get on board with them to hand out flyers, get to know young people and be a positive influence in an area that has had its share of difficulties.
Events outside your church
If you are doing an event for someone, who will handle publicity? Will you have a standardised publicity, so it looks the same as normal / has the same name etc? If a church is promoting an event that you are going to deliver, make sure you know the name of the event before hand. If you want a say in designing the publicity, make this clear to them up front.
What about other church magazines or Sunday bulletins?
Obviously get it on the web - on your church or youth website and on Facebook, Twitter etc. Advertise it in local Christian bookshops if you have any. How far do you want people to come from? Advertise it there. Any other Christian events it can be publicized at? Do a deal and publicize each other's events regularly. Be creative.. Remember, personal contact is the best.
Style and content
Are you going to make some posters or flyers? If you don't have a graphic designer within your ranks, here are some handy hints. Come to think of it, knowing lots of designers, here are the hints anyway!
1. Keep it simple - what info do you need to get across? (Any/all of the following): Date, start and end time, location, directions?, type of event, who the speaker is?, content, contact details before and on the night, who you are, a covering letter..?
2. Don't make it too 'busy' ie. don't have a postcard full of text that confuses people - you want to communicate the key information quickly and easily - people need to look at the flyer, recognise your 'brand' and the essential information.
3. Make it relevant to the event. If it's a guitar-band event, have a flyer that gets this across (a band / guitars etc). If it's dance music, copy flyers from the local vinyl store - make them look urban, have DJ decks on them etc.
4. Make it funky. No rainbow guitar straps or fluffy scenes for youth events. Think of what you're doing and trying to communicate. We've used cartoon characters, our own little characters, Kai Power Tools on Adobe Photoshop for backgrounds, a satellite dish photo, a millennium 'bug', pictures of planet earth and other funky graphics and photos. Take well known characters or themes and use them.
5. We now get flyers printed colour in a local school or via a professional printers. Get people who know what they're doing, you can't send a printer a flyer created in something like Microsoft Publisher as it's terrible and their software will be too advanced.
6. If you do create a flyer that you intend to photocopy, make sure the text is extra legible, make sure any images are kept to an absolute minimum. Make sure that the great flyer you've done will photocopy effectively. If it doesn't, it will no longer be a great flyer!
One of the things I have found is that advertising, however funky, is no substitute for personal contact of other youth leaders/young people. Get to know people and get them on side, support them and their events. It makes such a difference.
There's no substitute for word of mouth either. If your event is good and regular, people will come. If it's no good, no matter what they flyers look like or how good friendships are, you won't get people along, certainly not the young people you may want to reach. Get credibility by putting on something worthwhile, not something naff. God has called us to do our very best in all we do - Galatians 6.5-9. When young people have got options, they'll go for something that is cool or that makes them feel welcome, loved unconditionally or buzzes them up.