It’s been a busy time at Quidditch Canada, as we’re in the home stretch for not one but TWO regional championships, both landmark events. Western Regionals (February 1st in Moose Jaw, SK) will be the first time we’ve ever hosted an event west of Ontario, and Eastern Regionals (February 7th-8th in Kingston, ON) is set to be the largest ever quidditch tournament in Canada.
There’s a LOT of preparation that goes into these kind of events – all five of our directors have been working on them for months. Our Membership Director Jill has been hard at work helping players and teams register and prepare to come, and our Gameplay Director Chris & the rest of the gameplay staff have been coming up with ranking algorithms, training referees, and deciding on tournament formats. Our Director Tegan has been steering the planning and finances, and our Events Director Megan has been putting together the whole opera – venues, schedules, volunteers, social events, and everything under the sun. We’ve all been orchestrating rules for new teams to allow everyone who wants to attend to make it. And our staff, from assistant tournament directors to refs to graphic designers, have been putting in long hours.
As Comms Director I have to be up-to-date on what everyone else is doing, and I also have my own specific set of tasks. Our first priority is hosting safe, high-quality sporting events that encourages fair and competitive play, but I also have to think of ways we can grow the sport. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Butts in seats. We want spectators to come to these events. Hosting a well-run event is great, but this isn’t Field of Dreams; we have to do more than build it if we want them to come. I want spectators at these events for a lot of reasons that boil down to one: potential. Every single new person who hears about quidditch or sees quidditch is a potential player, a potential supporter, a potential new part of our network. Quidditch can’t sustain itself on a support network entirely comprised of people who currently play quidditch. There’s a whole country of people out there who aren’t playing our game yet, and step 1 is bringing them to an event and introducing them to quidditch.
- Mic check, one two. If we want spectators to come, local publicity has to happen. I’ve been all over the radio and local newspapers in Moose Jaw and Regina this past week doing publicity for Western Regionals, and I’m about to start a whole new round for Eastern. This is where you have to consider your audience and what’s going to have the highest impact. We want children and families to attend the event, so morning radio shows (wherein we mention that the event has free admission and is a good weekend activity) are a good way to go.
- Please sir, may I have some more? Publicity is great, but you’re never going to get everyone in one fell swoop. Having informative landing spots for people to go to to find more information is a must. They have to be easy to find (that’s why we used simple and intuitive URLs for each regional’s landing page), quick to read (visuals that emphasize the most important details are important), and contain a variety of ways for people to get involved (invite people to attend on facebook). People also have to know these pages exist – after every interview or radio spot, I follow up with my contact to link them to the event page and inquire about the possibility of putting up information on their own website or social media. Offering pictures and a link to a rules refresher are some of my best practices.
- Attract, engage and retain. Getting spectators to the event is only the first step. Once they’re there, we have to make sure the event is entertaining and that there are opportunities for engagement. Having volunteers on hand to explain the sport (the rules can be a bit overwhelming) helps, as does having snacks and merchandise to augment the athletics. I’m really excited to have a wide variety of merchandise (including trading cards!) available at both regional championships; as I said, spectators are valuable for their potential, which includes their potential support.
- Chatter. Social media is always a big part of my communications strategy. Social media coverage helps to build a body of moments and memories for participants to engage with and treasure afterwards. It also helps to share information with people who can’t be physically present; our social media coverage of the 2014 Global Games in Burnaby helped draw a lot of engagement from across the country and across the Pond. It helped people who couldn’t make the trek follow the action and get invested in the tournament. Social media can also bring publicity in ways it’s hard to plan for; you can lay groundwork for who you want to bring into the conversation, but you never know who else might stumble on the event as it’s happening.
- Elbow polish. In this as in all things, it’s the small extra steps you take that make all the difference. Positive experiences and positive engagements – no matter how small – help build a body of reputation and lay the groundwork for future support. As President and Comms Director for uOttawa Quidditch, I sent a lot of tiny emails over the years that paid off when we needed them to. Sending the President of the university updates on our travels and tournament successes solidified our reputation to him as a global ambassador of uOttawa. In 2012, this paid off when he matched our online fundraising efforts to send us to the Quidditch World Cup. We took steps to make our reputation a good one on campus, both as a club and as individuals representing our team. Cleaning up the main lawn where we practiced, co-hosting events with other student groups, and inviting the Pride Centre to practice with us were all simple things we could do that paid off when it came time for the campus to support us. This applies to event promotion and publicity in many ways: if public perception of your organization or event is already positive, support and publicity is (magically!) easier to come by. If your radio spots are enthusiastic and portray the sport in a positive light, your event is more appealing. Building goodwill in the smallest of ways is never going to hurt you.