HomeNews & EventsNEA Big Read Survival Guide: Marketing & Promotion (Part III)

NEA Big Read Survival Guide: Marketing & Promotion (Part III)

Planning a community-wide arts engagement program can be challenging. To help ease the struggle, we’ve put together a series of posts which we lovingly dub The NEA Big Read Survival Guide. Each post contains some of the best tips and tricks that NEA Big Read grantees have learned over their years. We kicked off the series with a week on Partnerships — the relationships and community connections that are the foundation of every successful NEA Big Read. In this week’s section, we’ll be tackling Marketing & Promotion. How do you define your audience? How do you build key messaging about your program? How can you leverage your partnerships to help you share that message?

Planning your community outreach

Throughout the years of NEA Big Reads, organizations have spread the word about their programs through a number of different ways: radio features, mayoral proclamations, news stories, handouts, and more. After you’ve determined the audiences that you want to reach, brainstorm the best ways to reach out to them! Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What television and radio stations does your community follow?
  • What local publications, media outlets, or websites do they read?
  • Where might they usually get information about local events or happenings (e.g. a newsletter, a bulletin, etc.)?
  • Where might you find your audience? Think about any gathering points unique to your community: public transportation, parks, grocery stores, movie theaters, hospitals, bus stops. How can you meet your audience where they are?

“During our NEA Big Read, we also interact with our community in non-traditional locations: having booths at the local Farmer’s Market and Friday Night Live, storytimes in city parks, participating in activities at schools and universities, providing outreach to local assisted living facilities and partnering with other City departments to reach residents who may not be traditional Library users.”
Waukesha Public Library

  • What are some unique ways to reach your community?
    • Examples from past grantees include collaborating with power companies to include program brochures with power bills; promoting their program on buses or billboards; creating participatory sidewalk art; distributing event schedules and postcards at local farmers’ markets.
  • Now think about those places, publications, or gathering points. Which partners can help you convey your message there? How might you leverage your partnerships and personnel to reach those audiences?
    • For example, in Juneau, AK, the Juneau Public Library, was able to reach a broader audience during their NEA Big Read for Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven by publishing event listings and updates in their regional hospital’s quarterly magazine, “House Calls.”

Other posts in this series

Explore the full Survival Guide

Next in the Survival Guide series: Events!


A family joining the Kenosha Running Company at Petrifying Springs Park to orienteer through a course cultivated on the UW-Parkside campus. Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Library.