What makes a film festival famous? How can a festival reach more people and gain credibility when there are thousands of other players in competition?
Below is a list of some of the things festivals can do to build reputation, influence and social reach to increase submissions and attendance:
1. Bring huge value
What is your festival doing to bring value to audiences and filmmakers who are submitting their films? Is there a prize? Do people gain industry recognition? Are there film distributors who are going to buy the rights of the best films? Do people get any freebies or benefits by going to see a screening? Whatever the incentive is, it needs to bring tremendous value to your audience so that they will be willing to invest their time, and money into your festival.
It goes without saying that a great ‘customer service experience’ will also help you generate additional word of mouth marketing as people talk about you.
2. Go one-on-one
Social media in 2015 is so saturated that going one-on-one can bring great results as opposed to mass marketing your festival with paid display ads.
We’re being bombarded every day by messages and attention spans are falling, however, if you are prepared to do the ground work, get engaged with people directly, and bring your value to them.
Get people inspired creatively and emotionally. Give them a place in your festival that has meaning to them beyond a simple submission. Help them create or guide them to submit a better film. Giving your audience knowledge and inspiring them to think out of the box will make your festival louder and much more personal.
4. Give something back
Film Festivals are a great awareness platform for social causes. Reach out to local charities, or non-profit groups and provide them with a place at one of your events. You can even fundraise for them or accept donations from audiences attending your screenings.
Doing this will give something back to the community and generate additional opportunities for your festival to get promoted in the press and thru other partners who are benefitting from your campaigning efforts.
5. Create partnerships
Partnerships with institutions, brands, your local tourist board and more can bring additional value to your festival through in-kind donations and exposure. Getting businesses and influencers to back your festival where there’s a mutual exchange will build the momentum and your reputation. Use this social currency to expand your reach.
6. Give people a voice
People want a voice. Give them a place at your festival to speak their mind. Let audiences and filmmakers share a forum where their opinions can reach the wider world. Film festivals should have the ‘town hall’ component as it will empower those that attend and give them incentive to speak about your festival long after it’s finished.
7. Go beyond social
Having a great Facebook page isn’t enough to generate the revenue or the coverage you need to get your festival heard. The same goes for Twitter or Pinterest. There are many more ways in which you can reach your audience outside the web.
Offline marketing has become a forgotten art, but going out to events, meeting people, getting your festival mentioned in local newspapers, or even at a football game can bring a much bigger audience to your events. These channels have to be tested depending on what your niche is, but don’t rule out the time investment in these areas because reaching people more personally can be very effective in building your festival brand. You might even want to network at other larger festivals like Toronto or Cannes to give people a heads up on your festival.
8. Make it easy for filmmakers to submit
Create an easy-to-submit experience for your filmmakers and allow them to pay you automatically without adding barriers to entry. A great website to do this with is FilmFreeway where you can accept entries without incurring setup costs. This platform also helps you promote your festival with a public access listing.
You can alternatively create a submission form with SSL on your own site but you still need to process video uploads seamlessly so that filmmakers can do everything in one place. On social media you can also accept payments natively but again, the video submission process needs to be included within to give filmmakers a great experience.
9. Develop blogger outreach
Getting bloggers engaged with your festival will bring more exposure to you so this should form part of your marketing strategy from day 1. Mainstream media is unlikely to listen to you unless you are well known, but niche bloggers could be the right channel to help you generate additional hype. Create value for them as well, from free ticket entries to paid expenses or a fee to compensate their time when promoting you.
10. Write better press releases
Submitting press releases is not hard but writing them properly to convert your audiences into paying ‘customers’ is. How do you define what you’re about? Check out our guide on press releases for a more in-depth study but the bottom line is, if you’re selling too hard, your release is going to come across as an advertisement.
People need to be drawn into your festival rather than pushed in. Forget the fancy over-the-top language that is fake and bring your truth. This is a careful balancing act of language and value proposition. You need to ‘be real’ with your marketing, because people are savvy and they can see past a false incentive. Get that value across as transparently and as effectively as possible.