Create a promotions calendar.
The first step to making any promotions program successful is to put a team together, plan ahead, and set goals. This is especially important for publications without a daily product, since planning at least 3 months in advance will allow you to more effectively use your print product when it makes sense. A great place to start planning is with this Promotions Calendar & Month-by-Month Planning Template. As you are brainstorming, adjust for your frequency of publication, and try to line your promotions calendar up with your editorial calendar whenever possible. (Are you publishing a Healthy Living edition in January? Add a sweepstakes to win a gym membership for a year.)
Use sweepstakes to grow your email list.
Sweepstakes are the perfect promotions to start with, since they are easy to execute and will help you quickly build up a robust email database that will help you make your bigger promotions more successful later. To maximize your database growth, include a pre-checked email opt-in on every entry form, and feature the sweepstakes in any newsletters you already have to ensure it reaches the largest possible audience. Remember that the quality of your prize directly impacts your ability to capture emails. The higher the value, the bigger potential audience who will want to enter.
Schedule 4-6 major promotions throughout the year.
While sweepstakes are quick-and-easy promotions that you can be running all the time, it’s a good idea to add depth to your calendar with several larger promotional initiatives, like ballot, brackets, or photo and video submission contests. These promotions can be especially valuable if you align them with your editorial calendar. Are you featuring a craft beer initiative in May? Complement it with a beer bracket promotion. Running a Pets edition in the Fall? Add a Cutest Pets contest. Promote the contest in one print issue, and then highlight in the winners in the next. Not only does publishing the winning photos generate excitement in your audience, but it also gives you a chance to feature your sponsor again, and provide them with more print promotion.
Look for reverse publishing opportunities.
While these larger promotions have a higher barrier to entry, they also generate more engagement and provide potential reverse publishing opportunities. You could publish content from a photo contest in your core product, or even create an entire special publication insert around the content and sell advertising into it.
Engage your audience with quizzes.
Between issues, you can keep your audience engaged and interacting with your content with quizzes. Personality and trivia quizzes are fun promotions that are wildly sharable and easy for your editorial or sales department to put together.