Lions and tigers and ligers, oh my!

By Julie Dennehy, Dennehy Public Relations

This fall, my professional career went backwards… in time, to the 16th century. I found myself in the position of royal publicist for King Richard’s Faire. Celebrating its 31st season in a magical “Carvershire” (Carver, Mass.), this eight-week Renaissance Festival has its two leather boot-clad feet firmly planted in both the past and the future, challenging me to use my “old school” publicity skills alongside newer strategies using social media and online promotions that move the event beyond the usual event publicity staples of ticket giveaways, event listings, and human interest stories.

In the spirit of collaboration and sharing, here are the top ten lessons I learned while handling public relations for a Renaissance Faire:

  • Thou shalt not be frightened of women in corsets, carrying a backpack, and constantly monitoring a walkie-talkie.
  • Thou will never be in need of photo opportunities. Entertainers are a most amusing bunch, and are experts at spreading the word – online, and offBoth cast and guests will mug for the camera shamelessly, have a quick wit, and have more puns and turns-of-phrases than anyone you know.
  • Visiting royalty (VIPs, politicians) love to meet and greet at these large public events, but their mere appearance does not constitute news.
  • Twitter (@KRFaire), Facebook, and Pinterest engagement doubles at the consistent and enthusiastic mention of one magic word: FREE. Free tickets given away consistently (weekly) on both channels have more than doubled our engagement analytics over last year. VIP experiences (meeting the King) work too.
  • Spinning funny phrases like “Find me on the Book of Faces” spreads virally, and helps increase word of mouth.
  • Visuals are key for events. I created a system of sharing by uploading weekly Flickr sets into one collection (tag thyself!), creating Pinterest artisan and fan boards to “pinspire” traffic and sales.
  • Facebook is thy friend: using the voice of “the King,” I had a lot of fun creating a community by tapping into internet meme generators, encouraging photo tagging, adding tabs for Constant Contact list building and Facebook check-ins, and micro-targeting low-budget ads… all doubling our engagement. Simple games on Facebook (“I need a caption for this photo”) is a great way to increase engagement on a beggar’s budget.
  • Visibility onsite is a good thing, but do not go into Faire grounds unescorted for a radio interview while the tiger trainer is walking a 900-lb liger around the woods. “Horse exercising off-hours: we call that Tiger Television.” Speaking of tigers, I learned a lot about animal rights activists and tiger protesters, but that’s a better topic for a separate post.
  • Consistency of the event’s “product” paired with clever entertainment add-ons targeting different types of people (bikers, families, cosplay/geek crowd, even a facial hair contest!) fueled publicity – at the end of the day in the Realm, creative content is king in our business.

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