By David Seidman
It’s con season in the comics world, which means that someone has to attract people to attend panels, signings, parties, and other events. I’ve done it, and it’s not easy.
But you can do it. Here’s how.
1. Create an online home for the event.
It can be a new website, a new page on an existing website, a Facebook event page, or all three. All publicity for the event should direct people to this home, and all news about the event should appear there. It should also include your contact information for the press and other curious souls.
Make the online home mobile-friendly. People at a con are more likely to use their phones than their laptop computers. So:
Choose a responsive design.
Simplify images and minimize text to make your pages load quickly.
Use big text and big buttons on screen for easy visibility and interaction.
Test and re-test your site before and during the con to ensure that it contains everything you want and is easily readable on a phone.
2. Announce early.
Tell the world about your event as soon as you know that you’re going to do it.
If you can announce the time, date, venue, guest speakers, giveaways, or any other attraction, do it. But even if you can’t, get the news out anyway. Start soaking your event into the brains of journalists and con-goers.
Include your contact information and the URL of the event’s online home.
3. Get to the point.
Begin announcements with your latest and biggest news — say, the addition of a new speaker to a comic-con panel discussion. Follow up with context: information about the speaker, the panel, the convention, and so on. Add any other news that you may have. Finish with your contact information and the event’s URL.
But whatever you write, keep it short. Readers turn away if you use an ocean of words to present a puddle of news. Some methods for keeping it short:
Avoid hype like “Company X is proud to announce the biggest news in comics since the invention of the word balloon!!!” Only Stan Lee can get away with that stuff.
Cut needless words. You can use substitutions that I’ve listed here and here.
Change passive voice to active.
Delete adjectives and adverbs.
4. Use visuals.
Blocks of type are dull. Avoid them.
Include a photo whenever you announce anything — say, a speaker on a convention panel discussion. If you can’t get a photo, use other art, like a drawing of a character associated with the speaker.
Use lots of white space. A cluttered page, online or on paper, pushes eyes away.
Use an easily readable typeface against a contrasting color.
5. Announce every change or addition to your event.
If you add a speaker to a panel discussion, an extra half-hour to a signing schedule, or a door prize to a party, put out an announcement. Each addition may build excitement and anticipation.
Once the con begins, remind your contacts and social media once a day that the event is getting closer.
6. Spread the news widely.
In addition to your event’s online home, put your announcements into every venue you can. For instance:
Social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus, you know the sites.
Comics news media. The Beat, CBR, Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, ComicBook.com, Comics Continuum, The Comics Journal, Comics Bulletin, Fanboy Planet — you can find these and other comics news sites on Google and Alexa. Each site has contact information.
Don’t forget podcasts such as Comic Book Club, The Comic Book Podcast, iFanboy’s podcasts, and Comic Geek Speak, or video channels including Variant Comics, NerdSync, WatchMojo, and Comic Drake.
Comics forums, discussion boards, and groups. Plenty of sites have forums. Some sites, like The Comic Book Forum, are nothing but forums. Even some sites that don’t specialize in comics have comics forums, like Reddit’s Print Comics and Webcomics subreddit.
Beware, though: forum members shun flacks who contribute nothing but publicity blasts. Join in conversations and become a part of the community long before you announce your event so that when you talk about it, people will listen.
Local news media. Your event’s at a con, and the con’s in a community. Contact the nearest and biggest newspapers, TV news shows, radio news producers, online news sites, and other media.
Include college and university news organizations. Students can account for a huge slice of con attendees.
Ditto for servicepeople if the con is near a military base. Every base offers news for people in uniform and their families.
Comics retailers. Local retailers and their customers may want to join your event. Use the Comic Shop Locator Service to find the shops. Contact the Comics Professional Retail Organization and Comic Book Industry Alliance, too.
People participating in the event. Are you running a panel? Ask the speakers to send your announcements to their contacts, colleagues, and friends, and to post the news on their websites, social media pages, and elsewhere. The same goes for anyone involved in any other event that you’re running.
If you hear of people who plan to go to your event, ask them to post the news as well, and to invite friends.
Everyone you know. Announce your event to everyone who could possibly show up.
Put a link to your event’s online home in the signature of your email, even when your email isn’t about the event or the recipient can’t go to the event. Your event may be in New York and your invalid mom may be in L.A., but Mom may know people in New York who’d want to see what you’re doing.
7. Make friends with the con’s staff.
If you ignore them and treat them rudely, the people who make the con go can do the same to you. But show them friendliness and respect, and they may want to do their jobs especially well. For instance:
The press relations officer can help you reach journalists.
The program book’s editor can ensure that your listing appears in full and on the right page.
The security chief can keep your attendees and any passers-by from making trouble.
The venue manager — whether he’s the boss of the convention center or the con’s manager of a specific area (e.g., the exhibit hall can offer resources) — can offer various resources.
The programming officer can ensure that a panel discussion has enough chairs for the speakers and that their microphones work.
Be nice to the lower-level staff, too.
8. Print flyers for distribution during the con.
Flyers should display the event’s key information: when it begins, where it takes place (with a map, if necessary), who’s involved (with photos), and what the attendees can expect to happen.
If the con permits, put flyers in the registration area (particularly press registration), the press room, the exterior of the event venue, and the freebie table. Visit the table from time to time to ensure that other giveaways haven’t buried your flyers.
9. Roam the convention center, especially the exhibit hall, and offer flyers to people who might be interested in your event. For instance:
Journalists. You can detect them by their press badges or professional camera equipment.
People lining up for events like yours.
People in T-shirts or costumes featuring characters or text related to something in your event.
People in fan clubs related to something in your event. Some cons give fans exhibit-hall tables.
Whenever you talk with people about your event, ask if you can put them on the event’s contact list.
10. Keep publicizing even after the event begins.
When your event begins, write a note about it and shoot a photo or a video. Do it again if someone at your event says or does anything interesting. Post these items on social media and remind people that the excitement is going on right now. Include the event’s location and the time when the event ends.
David Seidman has worked in comics for Disney NBM, Papercutz, Marvel, and other companies. You can read more from him at his website.