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Making Movie Nights Work: Part Two -- Promotion

by Marc T. Newman, Ph.D.

Once you have committed to teaching one or more Movie Bible studies, it is important to get the word out to your target audience. Everybody talks about “promotion,” but we want to discuss seven key elements that will help you to get your intended audience to the event: prayer, coordinating your promotional team, observing promotional limitations, web landing pages, tickets, leveraging social media, personal invitations, and “save the date” cards. Not every group will need to or want to engage all of these strategies. Just target the ones you think would work best for your group.

1. Pray.  Every stage of creating an event should begin with prayer. Pray for creation and display of the promotional materials, and that the target audience will see the promotion. Pray for the people who see the promotion pieces, that they will be motivated to attend. Pray for the success of your social media campaign, and pray for the team coordinating promotion.

2. Coordinate your promotional team. If your group is very small, it is possible that the entire promotional “team” is just you. But if you have a larger group, it would be best if a small team is in place to coordinate promotion. When members of a group share the responsibility for putting an event together, they will be more committed and they will feel a sense of accomplishment when the event is complete.

While texting and email can keep team members in contact, it is helpful to have a centralized place where tasks can be managed effectively. While there are many applications that can help you set action items for your team, allow them to interact, and track completions of tasks, I think that is one of the best. They have a 60-day free trial, and if you have other events that require coordination, currently allows you to manage up to ten separate projects for as little as $20 a month.

3. Church Warning: Observe promotional limitations. How you structure your movie night determines the legal limitations on promotion. If you are going to a movie at a theater as a group, then the media have already done the promotion work for you. You can just invite the people in your group the way anybody would invite people to join them at the movies. The same applies to a small group or Bible study that meets in a home – you don’t need a license to show the film and you can issue invitations. You should not, however, use copyrighted images, such as a film’s movie poster, even for an in-home meeting, as these images are protected by copyright.

But when you are showing a film on church property through DVD or streaming, licensing and other restrictions apply, and both the legal showing and promotion of these kinds of events get complicated in terms of what you can and cannot do. Explaining the scenarios is more than we can handle in a blog post. If you want to show movies on a  church campus, contact us via our “Questions” tab on the left side of this page and we will steer you in the right direction.

4. Create a Movie Night landing page for your small group or Bible study on the Church’s website. Whether movie nights are used as a summer feature program to keep your small group connected, or a quarterly or monthly event, you can use a landing page on your church website for promotion. Just develop a page, create a calendar, make sure you have directions to the home at which you will all meet, along with contact numbers, and then use that site URL in your social media and email campaigns. Again, avoid the use of copyrighted images.

4. Use tickets – just don’t sell them. You cannot sell tickets – not even as a fundraiser – if you are watching a DVD or using a streaming service. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t hand out free tickets to your students that they can use to invite friends to the movie Bible study.  Make it clear to your group that there is limited space available at the house to seat people comfortably. Ask them to invite people using a two-part ticket. On the half they keep they will get the name of the event, location, date, time – and a link to your landing page if you have one. On the other half, they give their name, email address and/or phone. Have someone contact the students a few days before the event to confirm their participation. This method insures you not only get a head count and make sure you have plenty of seating, but you also can collect contact information for future outreach.

5. Leverage social media. An alternative to paper tickets (or in addition) is to use Facebook’s event feature. Create an event (if you don’t know how, ask a student to manage it), invite your own students and then have them invite their friends to join. Once people confirm, they show up on the page, and that can encourage those who know them to confirm as well. On the event page you can also upload photos of past events to build excitement.

Twitter can also be useful to get the word out – just make sure that the only people getting tweets from you are those in your group. You should set up a specific Twitter account for such projects. Some people are concerned about the 140-character limit. But Twitter automatically shortens your URLs, so if you created a tweet such as: Join us Thursday night for Grace Church’s fall kickoff Movie Night! More info: and then follow with your URL, and you will find you have plenty of space.

6. Personal invitations. Challenge each person in your group to come up with a list of two or three people they know that they could invite to the Movie Night. Set firm deadlines for the calls to be made. Many people do not check social media, or email, with regularity, so a good old-fashioned phone call with a text follow-up can help a lot.

7. “Save the Date” cards. These cards are effective for weddings, baby showers, and parties – why not for your movie night? You can create a generic Movie Night card with your entire season’s calendar and line-up and encourage people to “Save the Date” – to mark their calendars now, because these are events they won’t want to miss and they are a great opportunity to invite friends. Sending these cards requires that you have addresses for the people in your group. Start building that database now. If you insert the card in a hand-addressed envelope, they are more likely to be seen (everyone likes to get mail), and less likely to be thrown out with other, similar-looking, promotional pieces.

Chances are great that you cannot use all of the means outlined here to promote your Movie Night, but if you use even a few of these tips, your attendance is likely to increase. If you know the kind of communication strategies to which people in your group are most likely to respond, use those consistently. The larger your study group, the more varied your promotional approach will need to be to achieve the desired result. With a little trial and error, you will figure it out.

What other promotional tips have you have found useful?

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