How to Plan a Massive, Community-Wide Christmas Event

How to Plan a Massive, Community-Wide Christmas Event

December 12, 2016 by

Way back in February 2016, I was asked to help out with a Christmas program that one of my clients put on every year, One Voice. It’s a two-night Christmas concert outreach to the Quad Cities community, though this year’s fourth iteration would be even bigger: 5,000 people each night, over 250 volunteers, and 60 different churches and para-church ministries involved.

Did you catch that? My Christmas planning began back in February. Imagine listening to Christmas music for almost an entire year. Joy!

Realistically we didn’t start the serious planning until April, but still. An event this large needed a lot of planning.

Planning all internal and external marketing and communication fell to me. We had to keep all the internal audiences on the same page—30 different churches and 30 different ministries, all with leaders, team members, volunteers, etc. We essentially had to work from scratch—there were no existing communication channels or assets to speak of. Not only did we have to start from scratch, but we had minimal resources because an expanded budget wasn’t available until closer to Christmas.

Needless to say, I’ve had a few late nights in the past 10 months.

Communication Needs

I’m sure I may be forgetting a thing or two here, but the communications and marketing for this event was robust. Here’s what we needed:

  • Create a website, our hub of information and use it to push all content to our social media channels (onevoiceqc.com).
  • Develop a unique hashtag for our event (#onevoiceqc).
  • Create and promote facebook.com/onevoiceqc.
  • Create and promote instragram.com/onevoiceqc.
  • Create and promote twitter.com/onevoiceqc.
  • Create pinterest.com/onevoiceqc.
  • Create youtube.com as our content delivery network.
  • Create onevoiceqc.com mobile app (Android & iOS).
  • Develop live streaming of the event.
  • Develop post-event, on-demand video capability.
  • Develop and create a communications plan for marketing/promotion.
  • Develop and implement an internal communications process for staff/volunteers.
  • Additional TV media sponsorships.
  • Additional radio media sponsorships.
  • Mid-year review (analytics to gauge change in marketing/targeting).
  • Weekly review after that point.

Along with all the above, we needed to create weekly (at times, daily) content to distribute online and for the partners’ weekly services

Our target audience was our local community (about 400,000 residents). We researched what our average attender looked like and targeted them on our social media channels. With the help of our partners and supporters, we were able to canvas our whole community with the One Voice message.  We nearly saturated our community.

Here’s How We Did It

With the help of our contributing partners and supporters, we built a volunteer base—a team of about 260 members. Team leaders (i.e., band, tech, choir, etc.) needed to communicate with their teams. Administrators needed to communicate with everyone. Rehearsals, meetings, and trainings all needed to be scheduled and announced. It was a large undertaking, but a simple solution. How many of us serve in ministries where we enlist the support of hundreds of volunteers every week? Our solution was simple: Planning Center. Once Planning Center was set up, this part was the easiest.

Communicating with our partners, team leaders, and admins was bit more intricate. Getting our content to our partners on a weekly basis to help promote the event was vital. How could we do this? I decided to use our communications hub, our website. Everything started with our website design: Clean, easy to load, optimized, and easy to get to.

Here’s a 10,000-foot view of how we pulled it all together.

Content:

  • About 120 video segments from 31 different partners.
  • Partner video stories about One Voice captured from over 30 different ministries optimized for social media (i.e., length and content).
  • YouTube was used to distribute our content to our website (embeds) and from there to Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Google Drive was utilized to distribute partner in-house promotional videos to each individual ministry.
  • About 80 different still images (quotes/graphics) from 31 different partners—screenshots or photographs of partners with a quote or just our One Voice graphic for sharing on social media.

WordPress Site:

  • Heavy use of the blog feature, but we used it more so as a news section.
  • Used categories to separate posts, i.e., partners, news, promo, newsletter.
  • Everything published on our website was pushed in some shape or form to the spokes of our communications channels (social media) linking everything back to our website, with more information.
  • CoSchedule.com – This WordPress plugin helped us immensely in organizing our news posts and scheduling our social media posts. In essence, it was our editorial and social media calendar/publisher—we couldn’t have done it without this simple plugin and service.

MailChimp:

  • A central part of our information distribution was email newsletter subscriptions to team leaders, partners, volunteers, and more.
  • From WordPress we created category-specific RSS feeds that would be forwarded as RSS newsletters to our partners, team leads, and subscribers.
  • All posts were tagged with categories as described below:
    • Partners
    • Newsletter subscribers
    • Volunteers
    • Team leaders
    • Facebook posts
    • Twitter tweets
    • Pinterest pins

Latest:

  • As of this week, we are streaming this event live.
  • We also created an iOS and Android mobile app to be used during our event and to contact attendees after event.

Planning Wins

I tried to be as brief as possible in giving this overview, but as you can see, it was a beast.

However, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t planned for. We expected a ton of communications, marketing, promotions, and content creation. Proper planning and preparing meant we were ready.

As of right now, it’s been a very successful and creative communications project launch. We’re hoping to develop a more detailed case study so anyone could take individual parts of this project and implement in your own events.

If you have questions, ask away in the comments below.

God Rest Ye Stressed Communicators: Planning Christmas for Your ChurchMore:

Whether you’re planning a massive, community-wide Christmas event for thousands of people or just your small congregation, we’ve got plenty of resources to help:

Post By:

Adrian Campos


Adrian is the communications director for Church Online Solutions, a boutique integration and online presence developer for houses of worship and nonprofit ministries.
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