Festival's media outreach efforts draw sell-out crowd

The nonprofit National Black Arts Festival celebrates the contributions of people of African descent and their impact on world cultures.

The nonprofit National Black Arts Festival celebrates the contributions of people of African descent and their impact on world cultures.

When it launched its media campaign for this year's annual festival, a major obstacle emerged. Less than a week before the 10-day event, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), a key target of media outreach, underwent a reorganization.

Strategy

The festival, in its 19th year, wanted to turn its publicity efforts up a notch and get more people to the event. "The ultimate goal is to generate awareness and get people there," says Hank Ernest, PR director for Images USA, which worked with the festival on the effort. But with the AJC in flux, "pitching long-lead stories to the paper was difficult because editors and reporters did not know if or where they would be working the next week," he notes.

Tactics

"Our tact was primarily local media," Ernest says. Even with the AJC's reorganization, the festival's PR team met with the paper's editorial team. Other targeted media included general-market and African-American television and radio and magazines, including arts and entertainment critics, children and family reporters, and travel editors.

Results

"We got an amazing amount of press - both in terms of long-lead and day-by-day press," says Eric Thomas, director of marketing for the festival. The event was featured on the front page of the AJC five times. Media impressions hit more than 260 million, compared with 49 million in 2006. "The media was coming in so good that [Thomas] turned to me and said, 'Hank, we're sold out,'" Ernest says, which was unprecedented in the festival's history.

Future

For the festival's 20th anniversary next year, Ernest says, publicity will have a stronger national outreach.

PR team: National Black Arts Festival (Atlanta) and Images USA (Atlanta)

Campaign: Generate awareness for the 2007 National Black Arts Festival

Duration: Late May to July 2007

Budget: Less than $50,000

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