Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Making The Timekeeper's Return: Marketing and Coverage

After the relevant changes had been made after testing, and the final QR code texts were ready to upload to the Cathedral Quarter website, the only thing left to do before the event was to continue promoting The Timekeeper's Return as far and wide as possible, with the limited time and budget we had.

Towards this end, I was fortunate to be able to get some invaluable advice from one of my former colleagues at Canterbury Connected Business Improvement District (Canterbury BID), who has worked very successfully in marketing for a number of years. She gave us very helpful tips on writing a press release, which I'd never done before, and how to approach media outlets with the story we wanted them to share.

Once we'd finalised what we wanted to say in our press release for The Timekeeper's Return, we sent it out to all the local news and events outlets we could think of.

As the big day drew closer, we managed to get the event featured in the Kentish Gazette newspaper, Muddy Stilettos (an online guide for local events and activities), the Visit Canterbury website, KentOnline’s What’s On page, promotional material for the Canterbury Festival, and communications to businesses and the public by Canterbury BID.

On social media, we reached out to local organisations and companies whose audiences we'd identified as overlapping with ours, including escape rooms, games societies, local history groups and family-oriented pages, some of whom agreed to share details of the event on their pages. This undoubtedly helped to snowball our engagement with our own target audiences.

Alongside local outlets, we used some of my academic connections to get the message out to people who I thought might find the event interesting conceptually, or who do research on this kind of media. This included promotion via the Royal Holloway social media pages for Geography and Media Arts, communications from research groups I’m involved in, and the Walking Artists Network email list.
You can see some of these features below:

Feature in the Kentish Gazette

KentOnline feature

Visit Canterbury feature

Muddy Stilettos feature

Social media was central to our strategy for reaching people who might want to participate. One of the advantages of using these platforms for promotional purposes is that you have the opportunity to tell stories that people interact can with, in a way that typical public notices don’t lend themselves to. 

In the process of doing research for the game, I came across so many small pieces of history about locations in the Cathedral Quarter that it would have been impossible to fit them all in. Furthermore, many of the locations or details themselves didn’t really fit into the larger story I wanted to tell, or I knew wouldn’t work well as points of interest in a treasure hunt.

So instead, after discussion with the Cathedral Quarter team, we decided to share these extra micro-histories in the week leading up to October 20th by creating a short ‘Cathedral Quarter Secret Facts’ series on the Facebook event page and the Cathedral Quarter’s social media pages.

Not only did this make people aware of the kinds of interesting facts they could discover by taking part in the event, but the content was thematically appropriate and primed those that saw the posts for the activity they would potentially be participating in – noticing details in their surroundings that might not be immediately obvious, and engaging with Canterbury’s historic past. 
Cathedral Quarter Secret Facts #1 on Facebook

Cathedral Quarter Secret Facts #2 on Facebook

Cathedral Quarter Secret Facts #3 on Twitter

Alongside the coverage in print and on social media, we produced hundreds of flyers and posters featuring my brother Sam’s superb graphic design for the project, which were displayed in local businesses, public amenities, and handed out at local schools. My sister Wendy was very adept at thinking of places that might accept them, and within a few days of the event there was barely a noticeboard or leaflet display in Canterbury that didn’t have our promotional materials for The Timekeeper’s Return.

A poster for The Timekeeper's Return on a Canterbury Festival bollard

The flyer reached noticeboards and leaflet displays all over Canterbury and beyond

This was further demonstrated when talking to members of the public on the day itself, who said that they’d seen the astrolabe iconography everywhere and had wondered what it was all about.

Thankfully, as one of the images above shows, we managed to find space on all of the Canterbury Festival bollards too. These are the four-sided stands plastered with event posters that appear in Canterbury’s busiest areas around the time of the festival, and are the one of the main ways that visitors to the city find out about what's going on.

Our hard work in marketing The Timekeeper’s Return certainly helped me feel hopeful in the days leading up to the event, but I couldn’t have predicted the turnout and reaction that we received on the day itself.

The next post in the Making the Timekeeper’s Return series recounts what happened on the day of the event.

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