Princess of America Senior Division Queens 2017. Photo: The Imagine Studios
One of the most important things that a director can do to make their pageant successful is to learn how to market their titleholders effectively. In fact, next to having a titleholder who only wanted to win a crown and did not have any interest in promoting a pageant, having a director who does not know how to market their queen is the worst thing that could happen to a pageant system. A titleholder is not just the pretty face that represents your pageant to the public; she is your most important public relations tool to attract potential candidates, interest powerful sponsors and intrigue future business partners. Marketing a titleholder successfully goes beyond just photo opportunities and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. If you know how to do it correctly, the return on your investment can positively affect your pageant for years, as well as pay off for your queen personally, with regard to her own goals and dreams.
There is so much to learn about being a successful pageant director, and it can be challenging trying to get the answers to all the questions that you may have. That’s why we have created this current course just for directors. If you are not yet a pageant director but longing to be one, you may be interested in checking out the article, How to Become a Pageant Director. But, if you already are a director and you really need some new ideas to help you market your titleholders, then you are in the right place. Hopefully, you will find something here that will give you just the inspiration you need to take your pageant to the next level!
American Pageants 2018 National Titleholders. Photo: American Pageants
Get to know your titleholder
The relationship between a pageant director and a titleholder is a very special partnership and ideally results in both parties meeting each others’ needs. Even though this alliance is formed artificially through a pageant win, the relationship is just like any other in that the success of your partnership depends on how well you get to know each other. And, even though it does take some time to do that, it’s a process that needs to begin right after the moment the crown gets put on her head. As the pageant’s director, it is your responsibility to set the tone for your new queen’s job responsibilities and to thoroughly communicate your expectations of her. It is also your responsibility to get to know why she wanted to become queen in the first place and to find out what motivates her. Additionally, you need to discover what she seeks to gain from this experience and what she wants to get out of life in general.
Once you have a better understanding of her temperament, her goals and what drives her, you can create a strategic plan of action and a context for her reign. You will be able to work with her to create projects and obtain appearance opportunities based on what she wants. She will do a much better job as a public relations person for the pageant if she knows that you care about her, not just what she can do for you. For her part, she needs to know what your ultimate goals are and what you want to accomplish in the year ahead. If this is her first title, she may have no real understanding that you actually have a business to run and that your pageant plan is not over just because pageant week is. This is why going over any contracts and agreements and any resulting expectations is so crucial.
MAR USA Royalty 2018. Photo: Bobby Dalto Photography
Teach your titleholder exemplary public relations skills
As mentioned earlier, your titleholder is your most important public relations tool to attract potential candidates, interest powerful sponsors and intrigue future business partners. You cannot afford to underestimate the impact that your queen can have on the success of your pageant, because she is a walking, talking advertisement for your brand. Everywhere she goes, she is the embodiment of what your pageant stands for and represents, and people pay attention. But, even the most socially adept titleholder can benefit from some coaching about how to promote the pageant in subtle ways.
One very powerful technique that every queen should master is called, “the elevator pitch.” It is simply a 15-second commercial, so to speak, about why girls should compete in your pageant. You never know when an opportunity might arise when either a potential contestant or parent of a potential contestant may meet your queen, and she can use that opportunity to promote your pageant in a positive way. You and your queen can develop this pitch together so that it comes from her heart and sounds natural and not like a robotic, rehearsed speech. As you get to know your titleholder, you will understand what drew her to the pageant system and what it was that made her want to be a part of this wonderful organization. Using her personal experience as a starting point, together you can create a very sincere and motivating invitation to any interested candidate. It should be inspiring and unique to her, and mention points that enable the interested party to connect with her on an authentic level. And, of course, you should supply your titleholder with autograph cards that include contact information. It’s best if she can get a phone number or email from anyone she speaks with so that she can follow up with them personally. That kind of attention to detail will be very impressive to other girls who are looking for a pageant to compete in and will set you and your system apart from others. Learning how to market your pageant will always be a foundational requirement of being a pageant director and if you need some help in that area, check out this article: How to Market Your Pageant.
Princess of America Junior Division Queens 2018. Photo: The Imagine Studios
Create incentive programs for your titleholder and contestants
Even though it is the responsibility of every titleholder to promote her pageant and try to attract potential contestants, the other current contestants in your system can also recruit for your pageant as well. Many directors fail to see their contestants as representatives of their system, but word-of-mouth is an extremely powerful promotion tool. If a contestant truly enjoys her pageant experience, and the people involved with the pageant, like the director and the pageant staff, she will naturally talk about it, regardless of whether she wins a crown or not. Pageant organizations that are managed well create a close-knit social circle for all the participants, and friendships are forged that often last a lifetime. The sisterhood of pageantry is a very real benefit to young ladies, and those ties last far beyond the competition stage. When someone is happy in her social circle, she wants to share that joy with others. As a director, you can come up with creative ways to get the word out about your pageant while at the same time rewarding those ladies that are helping to bring in new contestants.
There are many ways to do this, but Paige Jensen, the official Marketing Director for American Pageants, has some very unique ideas and solutions. She was once a titleholder herself (Miss Teen of America 2011) and is now in charge of recruiting and all of the social media and promotions that American Pageants does throughout the year. “We’ve created contests for girls to receive really cool American Pageants swag for referring five of their friends to fill out an application," Jensen said. "The application is free so it really doesn't cost them anything to do, and we receive at least five great leads from each girl that we can follow up on! We have also run contests for girls to win discounts on pageant related things. For instance, they could receive a discount or have their state registration paid in full for referring a certain number of contestants who end up entering the pageant.”
Paige Jensen, Marketing Director for American Pageants. Photo: American Pageants
How your titleholder adds value to other organizations
It goes without saying that every titleholder has the potential to benefit your pageant, but to get the most of your queen’s reign, you have to think in terms of how much your titleholder has the potential to benefit other organizations. When your titleholder was chosen, it was because the judges believed that she could add tremendous value to your pageant. So, if you expound on that idea, you will begin to see specifically how she can also help other businesses and organizations. By getting to know your titleholder well and discovering her talents and abilities, you can create mutually beneficial relationships that are fulfilling for your queen and that also help the community. Jensen agrees with this philosophy and utilizes it with the American Pageant royalty: “It's been great for us to partner with nonprofits like Special Olympics. It gives our girls an automatic go-to once they've been crowned and it provides appearances opportunities throughout the year. It helps the organization gain more exposure through our pageant system, provides them with automatic volunteers and they get to use our queens as advertisements or for their fundraisers. We benefit from the joint exposure of the nonprofit’s social audience as well!”
Also, if your queen has special talents like motivational speaking, singing, playing an instrument, dancing or even ventriloquism, and she wants to parlay that into a career after pageantry, then try to think of ways that a particular organization can benefit from that skill set. Just showing up for an appearance and taking photos with guests is great, but having a queen who can actually emcee an event, or even be a headlining act, is an incredible plus for a business that is trying to sell their services or raise funds for charity. You can sit down with your titleholder and brainstorm all kinds of creative ideas together if you think in terms of solving someone’s problem. Every business or organization has a problem that they are motivated to solve. They may need to raise funds, increase memberships, sell products or communicate a message. If you take an inventory of her interests, skills and abilities, and then use that list to come up with places that you want to partner with that would benefit your pageant, you will be unbelievably successful. For instance, don’t just seek out random volunteer opportunities. Instead, you want to strategically plan to partner with organizations that will benefit both you and your titleholder’s goals. When booking your titleholder for an appearance, always book that titleholder by saying specifically how your titleholder can help them have a more successful event. If you want to help someone with a fundraiser, for example, what kinds of things can your queen offer that would bring in donations? Maybe you could offer a prize like the winner would get to attend an event with her, or she could donate her time or talents in some way. Perhaps she could be a model at a car show, helping to sell more cars. Maybe she could get some speaking engagements at local schools, or do some mentoring at a girls organization where she can positively impact young girls and demonstrate how pageants empower females.
There are so many ways that your queen can be a solution to someone’s problem, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. All of these ideas meet a need, give your queen opportunities to do something that she loves, and they give your pageant exposure. It really is a win-win for everyone involved! Jennifer Huntley, the founder and Executive Director of Miss American Royalty USA (MAR USA) and Belle Elite, is teaching her titleholders to take their volunteering to the next level. They are actually learning how to leave a legacy of service, which is so vital for a pageant's positive influence and success. “Personally I like to work with my title holders on community service based volunteering," Huntley said. "My title holders must choose a platform from which they either start an organization, program or an event which they work on throughout the season. At the conclusion of their reign, they should have either completed a project such as holding an event to raise money, like for autism, or maybe helped their town start a club for kids. Some titleholders are actively involved in running the organization they founded and plan to continue such as Smiles for Miles, which collects stuff animals to be mailed out to children of service men and women. So, honestly, we do not market our titleholders, we teach them how to be the creator of change.” (Read: Queens Who Care Makes Community Service Pageant Priority)
Marusa Teen Miss Arkansas 2018, Matti Grace, 2018 MAR USA Teen Miss Central Arkansas, Serenity Sims and 2017 Miss Arkansas State Fair Junior Queen, Emily Mcguire. Photo: Matti Grace Facebook Page
Getting the most out of social media
Social media is one of the best free public relations tools to ever happen to pageantry, and using these avenues of communication can have a huge impact on a titleholder and the pageant that she represents. But, there are definite rules that you must follow as a director if you want to get the most out of social media. These guidelines also protect both your pageant and your titleholders.
The first thing that you should do is actually just a practicality but it will pay off for you in a big way. Invest in a nice camera so that your queen can take better quality photos during her appearances and events. Yes, all cell phones come equipped with decent cameras, but that’s not a good precedent to set and a good, inexpensive camera will take photos that will look so much more professional and will also make your titleholder appear that much more fashionable. Then, make sure that you and your titleholder have established an agreement about what and how often she will post on social media. This is a must! You really need to think this through and make sure that there is a social media clause in her contract that is very detailed. Again, this is for your protection and hers and it serves to document your expectations so that there are no misunderstandings. Put in your contract that your titleholder needs to post about your pageant once a week, or whatever you agree on, and add a disclaimer that the director needs to watch that she is not overly promoting on her personal social media, but rather on the pageant’s social media. Decide what social media that you want her to post on, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on, and what kinds of posts.
American Pageants has well-thought-out policies and procedures in place with regard to the part that social media plays in the pageant system. “It has been crucial to require our national queens to post a certain amount of times per month and this has been huge for us!" Jensen said. "We have found that it inspires them to get out into their communities more to show what they are involved in. Social media is a regular part of life for many titleholders now, so by requiring this, you are getting in front of their individual audiences and making it fun for the girls at the same time.” Jensen also requires her titleholders to maintain social media accounts that are separate from each girl’s personal account. This establishes a healthy boundary between a titleholder’s public pageant life and her private life, as well as protects her in many ways. It also allows the pageant to keep that account after each queen’s reign is over. “We also created separate national titleholder accounts that are passed down to each new titleholder every year," Jensen continued. "We require they use these almost exclusively because it is a part of their contract and their reign. We highly encourage our state and regional titleholders to also create social pages, especially Instagram, to be passed down through the years as well. This works great as many of the girls are already active on Instagram. It also provides endless content for pageant directors to use to promote what their titleholders are doing and highlight girls who are going above and beyond.” Here's a fun idea: “We have also done social media challenges for a few months leading up to nationals. Girls are assigned something to post about every day (sponsor shoutouts, throwback pictures, school pride posts, quotes, fun facts, extracurricular activities).
This gets them involved right away and tells their audiences (and American Pageants directors) a little bit more about the girls. It also helps the girls get to know each other before they even meet.” Marissa Foli, the National Delegate Coordinator for Princess of America, came up with a brilliant marketing idea for her pageant, which also has the added benefit of making her titleholders and their families very happy! “My favorite thing to do for my national queens is to make sure I always post video clips of their crowning moments on social media, such as our Facebook and Instagram pages," Foli said. "This has so many benefits. The queens love looking back on the moment they were crowned, and lots of girls tell me they still tear up just watching it. Plus, friends and family who were not at the pageant can see that special moment, and I think girls who are interested in being a part of Princess of America can get a better feel for the pageant through video rather than just photos alone.”
Little Miss of America 2018, Kailey Turner. Photo: American Pageants
How Pageant Planet can help directors
Pageant Planet offers so many resources that can help you promote your pageant, and if you have not yet added your pageant to our free Pageant Directory, you need to do that immediately! So many girls browse our directory trying to find a pageant that they feel is a good fit for them to compete in, and it is a great way to get your brand out there in front of thousands of contestants. Where else are you going to find free publicity like that? Another fantastic way to promote your pageant and your titleholder is to fill out your titleholder’s profile, also free of charge! And, if that is not enough, you can also submit your queen for our "Titleholder of the Day" feature. It’s such a great way to honor your hardworking royalty and give her a day all to herself to be in the spotlight.
Or, you can contact us for our Snapchat takeover that we do from time to time. In fact, Jensen says that these two features are huge for her system. “We use this (T.O.D.) in our prize package for girls to get excited about being featured on the largest pageant resource in the world!" Jensen said. "It has been great to utilize Snapchat takeover on Pageant Planet's Snapchat too! (this is definitely an opportunity for anyone in any system)” We strive to support all of our readers, not just the ones who are pageant contestants, but also those of you who are directors. We have lots of different articles geared towards directors, and in fact, we just created a course recently that you might be interested in. In fact, if you want to start your own pageant, we’ve got an article hot off the press that you need to read. You can find it here: How to Start Your Own Pageant.
We always try to stay one step ahead of our readers and attempt to anticipate what you might need help with. If you are a director and you have thought of some ways to market your titleholders that we did not include, we sure would love to hear your suggestions. We learn from you as much as you learn from us, so please leave us a comment so we can share your ideas with the world!
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