Good publicity is an important part of any VBS planning. It is a shame to put a lot of effort into planning a good VBS and then not have anyone come. If you expect children to attend, you must let them know what's going on.
Plan your publicity strategy early. Write it down and work the plan. Make sure you include a variety of methods. You can't tell someone too many times. And, do it with FLAIR!
Find your audience
Before you begin any type of publicity, you must first find or know your audience. Ask yourself the question, "Who am I trying to reach?" The simple answer is children. However, this is not specific enough.
Who have you designed your VBS for? Is it planned primarily for your own church children? Or, do you want to reach children in the community around your church? Perhaps, you're hoping to reach out in a new neighborhood. Whatever the case, start by understanding who you want to invite. This will help you focus your resources as you publicize.
Let them know
Publicity is, basically, letting people know something. In this case, you want to let your audience know about your upcoming VBS. Get a group of creative people together and brainstorm ideas for letting your audience know. Determine how you will promote the VBS within your own church. Then, decide how best to publicize in the community. Look at your resources, such as a message sign, banner, television, newspaper, or radio. Try some of the following ideas:
• Present short drama sketches in worship services or adult classes
• Send each child in your church at least one piece of mail about your VBS
• Provide lawn signs for church members to place in the front yards advertising your VBS
• Provide cards for church members to hand out to those they invite
• Place information about your upcoming VBS on your church website
• Send email reminders to church members
• Place information in your church bulletin (and newsletter) at least four weeks prior to VBS
• Place posters in prominent places in your church (including the adult department)
• Set up a pre-registration area in the church foyer
• Have your children's staff wear buttons advertising VBS
Usually, when we think of advertising, we think of paid spots on television or radio or ad space in the local newspaper. Although these are valid options, there are also many free ways to advertise your VBS. Many television or cable stations have a "community corner" where they publicize events in the community. Sometimes these run during the morning or noon news shows. On other channels, they run at other times. Check with your local television, cable, or radio station about free advertising.
Most newspapers also provide space for community announcements. Some large daily papers actually provide several places (neighborhood sections, arts section, religion section, etc.) for these types of announcements. In some small communities, you can actually get an article published. Be sure to make the article interesting and provide a photograph if possible.
Although many forms of publicity are inexpensive or free, you may want to consider some that cost. Look at all of your options and determine the best one. This will be the option that gets the most for your money. These options include: a banner in front of your church, a billboard on a major highway, paid advertising on television or radio, advertising space in your local newspaper, or direct mail advertising to all the homes in your neighborhood (or the target neighborhood).
Record the results
The best way to evaluate the effectiveness of your publicity strategy is to know the effectiveness of each method. Include space on your registration form where you ask those who attend to indicate how they heard about the VBS. Provide a checklist of all methods used (including an invitation from a friend) and ask them to check all that apply. This will help you know which methods were most effective and which methods don't really help.