Event thunder

buffalo_billboardA number of years ago, there was a multi-staged downtown event showcasing a number of pop, rock and roots music acts. The organizers had high hopes but the turnout was disappointing. The conclusion was that the day had too many conflicting events already scheduled and better calendar planning should have been considered.

“Too much going on” seemed to be kind of a good problem to have for a city wanting to make a successful go of revitalization. But if it was just a coin toss to see which event came out ahead, that really was not going to revitalize. Event promotion tended to just be an afterthought to organizing it. Promotion amounted to running an ad or posting it the local media’s calendar of events. And you were done.

Now ideally, you want a scenario where the events can stand on their own and have a good turnout regardless of whether they are happening on the same day. And I think we’re getting it these days. A few weeks ago the new downtown Coffee Park at the Rhodes Center for the Arts wanted try having live music on Saturday nights. They tested it by having Southern singer/songwriter Beth McKee. But this just happened to be the same Saturday that the Triad Music Festival was taking place with a big show at SECCA.

The SECCA show had a great turnout and I fretted it must have been an event train wreck for the Coffee Park. However stopping by there a couple of days later, I was told their show attracted a full house! So what is different now? Well, unlike in the past, both of these events had been busy from the beginning in getting the word out. And unlike years ago, they are enormously aided with the presence of social media. The event organizers can now be in greater command of promoting events and not be solely at the mercy of the traditional media.

A couple of nights ago, I attended the members’ opening of the new exhibit at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, George Catlin’s American Buffalo. Catlin was a European artist who toured the American West in 1832 and captured the American Native tribes in over 500 paintings. In doing so, he also captured the importance of the buffalo in the Indian cultures.

Fascinating, but I wondered if, on a sub-freezing February evening, a simple buffalo_runnoticed in the newspaper calendar of events would have pulled me away that night to check it out. However by that time, the buzz that the Reynolda House had generated on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, special promotions, billboards and podcasts was as thunderous as the buffaloes themselves. I told an acquaintance there that they had gotten me so psyched to show up that night, it felt like I had tickets to a Paul McCartney concert.

The Reynolda House is not alone among Winston Salem venues that have learned the importance of marketing their events from the start. And what a difference it has made. The buffaloes made a good point: it’s hard to ignore a thundering herd. A city with so much to do has now put “creating the buzz” at the top of the to-do list when it generates its events.