dirty tricks undermine second village event promotion
We started the association’s second year under as much pressure as we finished the first. We had double duty, to promote and preparea full set of three adult evening classes and our second major “manifestation” (village event).
All this hard work falls on us, so the extra weight of any setback hits us immediately and it’s very personal.
We created the association to contribute to our new local community, so the obvious target for the classes and the “vide grenier” (car boot sale) were the people in the village. We made a door to door leaflet drop to attract their attention. Aware that everyone receives a mountain of highly ignorable“pub” (junk mail) we used coloured paper and tried to deliver on a day when our flyers were the only junk in the mail box.
With the benefit of hindsight, this wasn’t a good use of time. Or coloured paper.
Our stand at the second village club membership fair had been very slow, and the follow up about both classes and vide grenier from the flyers was just as low.
We were disappointed, and the poor local turnout for lessons put more pressure on us for the car boot sale.
We have a strong sense of obligation to the people who participate in our events. Alex and Paula bring their mobile“Mister Fish and Chips” shop to the village because they trust us to deliver a hungry mob to eat-in or take-away. If we don’t then they’ve sacrificed a Sunday for nothing. In the same way, when someone pays us for a pitch to try and sell their old books and baby clothes, they’re trusting us to provide potential customers.
To try and gain maximum benefit from the time and energy invested in our publicity material we made an effort to get all of it out in the world as widely and as early as possible. We hand delivered flyers around the village at the start of September, and the first weekend of the month we made our first fly-poster foray around the local area.
Other associations in other villages obviously benefit from bigger budgets and “street teams”. They travel the wider local area strapping fluorescent paper fly-posters to trees, road-signs and lamp-posts at roundabouts, crossroads, and any other place where traffic seems likely to slow down long enough to read them.
We did what we could with limited funds and two pairs of hands. We spent long September days driving over 100km around our nearest seaside towns and neighbouring villages, and tried to think of it as a day out.
We probably travelled further, but left fewer signs. There are two good reasons for this.
Our budget didn’t run to the use of Copy Shop. Our posters were printed on our old inkjet, carefully assembled from two sheets of A4 and weather-proofed in a laminating machine. We had fewer, and had to make them count.
There was also always a nagging doubt about the whole process. Fly posters are often an eyesore, and people rarely make as much effort to take them down as they did putting them up. Some villages have banned them outright. We try to take more care where we put them, remember to take them down, and hope it leads to less trouble.
We also tried to stick to the principle of “do as you would be done by”. Putting up posters is hard work and it soaks up time like a sponge. There are obvious sweet-spots for posters, and we tried hard to respect other people’s efforts if we weren’t the first people there. If anything was obviously still “live” we always looked for a way to work around it. We didn’t pull posters down or put ours over other people’s.
We were thrilled to take enquiries from these other villages and know that when the posters were in place, they were effective.
This turned to ashes within a week when I cycled through a neighbouring village and discovered posters were being pulled down. I pushed on to discover that almost every poster along one main road had been removed and replaced. When we drove out towards the coast a week later, we discovered more of the same.
Since our first car boot things seemed to have become more cut throat.
We’d already discovered “la rentrée”, the period when summer fades into autumn, is the prime period for associations to run fund raising vide greniers.
This year we’d started to use web sites set up to promote local events, to track dates of other nearby car boot sales and promote our own. It became obvious the market was saturated. Every weekend you were never more than 5 kilometres from a chance to rent a patch of dusty car park or sports field and try to turn junk into cash. The nearest big city, Beziers, and at least three of our neighbouring villages had a regular, commercially motivated vide grenier every week.
We invested yet more time in more posters, replacing some and finding new locations for others.
Was it more depressing when it was clear this was because of someone in the commercial sector, or when it was plainly the work of another village association?
Sadly, neither. The most depressing moments were when we discovered that posters we put up in Bassan were being pulled down within days, and sometimes hours.