Promoting Your Organization's Activities
Table of Contents
Well-planned and well-executed publicity does more than help ensure attendance at meetings. It also enhances your organization's sense of purpose, builds pride, and creates community awareness. Good promotion of your organization's activities can be one of its best assets.
Whether it is carried out by one public relations officer or a promotion committee, the job is twofold:
As a member, you are familiar with your group's membership, objectives and accomplishments. Your objective as promotion chair is to know what's happening at all times. Arrange to receive copies of the secretary's minutes and important committee reports. Consult with former promotion chairs. They can give you ideas about working with local media, keeping on top of events and choosing the appropriate publicity techniques. A good way to start your job is to assemble a notebook with the information you gather.
There are lots of different tools you can use to inform the community or promote activities. It takes research and some careful evaluation of the results to select the right tool for each method.
The first step is to determine what type of promotion is required for your activity. Ongoing events such as upcoming meetings can usually be publicized by an announcement. Special events such as fund-raising, membership drives, and community activities require a broader range of publicity and demand more intensive treatment.
Both types require research. A small group with few financial resources should never feel compelled to orchestrate an expensive, high-gloss campaign, nor should an organization ever send out material which looks as if it had been thrown together at the last minute.
Four factors should be considered in a promotion plan:
Decide what can be done: work out a promotion schedule, discuss it with the executive, finalize the plan and give copies to the executive. Remember that the plan is a guide, so you can change it as necessary. It provides a checklist to assure that all jobs get done. All duties and tasks should be listed in chronological order, for example:
Gather information at your meetings. Select information carefully by asking what will be of greatest interest to your audience. Answer the 5 Ws - Who? What? Where? When? Why?-and How? Look for human interest facts that will give your story an unusual angle. Make it stand out from the rest.
In most situations, you will want to spend your time focusing on media. Begin by identifying all the local newspapers, magazines, radio and T.V. stations in your area.
Call or visit each media office. Make an appointment with the person who will be handling the news from your organization. Learn the following:
When speaking with each media contact person, give your name, address, telephone number, the name of your organization and a brief outline of its objectives.
Ongoing activities are most often promoted by the use of announcements. These are usually publicized without charge in the coming events section in newspapers, or as a public service announcement for radio and television. The announcements should be kept short (40-50 words), be typewritten and double spaced. The contact person's name and telephone number should be located in the top left-hand corner. All material should be dated and sent in before the media deadline.
If you have determined that your event is newsworthy enough to merit more extensive coverage (i.e., it involves a large number of the community and has a lot of community interest), then you require a press release.
In preparing a release, you should ask yourself the following question: What would the public want or need to know about your activity?
The content of the release should then answer the 5 Ws. All these answers are vital to the editor in deciding on whether or how to cover a story.
All releases should be brief with the 5 Ws at the beginning of the release. The least important information should be at the end. The contact name and telephone number should be placed the same as an announcement. The release should be kept to one page of double-spaced typing with short sentences. Avoid adjectives. Double-check your releases for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and accuracy. End your release with "END" or "-30-".
Releases should be sent two weeks before the deadline date. A follow-up phone call can be made to the editor to further discuss coverage of the event or any questions. When material you provide is not published or broadcasted, politely find out why. This will help eliminate problems in the future.
Few organizations operate with a large advertising budget. A well-designed media campaign begins with consulting media outlets for advice on costs and content. If you plan to purchase advertisement space or air time, allocate your money fairly among the media. For example, it is not fair to place newspaper ads, but expect the radio station to provide free air time.
The alternative is "free" advertising via local businesses, store-fronts and other avenues. Free advertising has its limitations including size, location, and audience reached. Weigh alternatives carefully. The success of your group's event may depend on it.
Full-scale publicity doesn't have to stop at the press release. Posters, flyers and brochures can be produced at low cost and distributed through local businesses, direct mail, libraries, etc. Other ideas could include displays at shopping centres, schools, community events, slide presentations, a speakers' bureau, ads on restaurant placemats, other organizations' newsletters, banners, and much more. Know what your message is and who the intended audience is. Then decide which technique or combination of techniques is best.
One of the strongest promotional tools is word-of-mouth. Everyone involved in your organization is a potential salesperson. The promotion committee should ensure that everyone is well versed in all the activities in order to be an effective promoter.
Predicting the money involved in a publicity campaign is not an easy task. With your promotion plan in hand, you can determine what the fixed costs will be for the year, e.g. printing, postage, and supplies. Investigate the costs for additional promotion such as advertising, brochure design, and special event costs. Take your time, shop around and use whatever resources are at hand that make the best (most efficient/effective) use of your promotion budget.
What do you do the day of the event? All arrangements should be checked and any last minute details performed. Make sure you and your committee are available to answer any questions from the general public and the media. Be prepared to run errands or find necessary information for media inquiries.
Now comes the time to evaluate the event. This needs to be done both from within the group and from outside the organization.
Within the group
This is the gut reaction of your group on completion of the event. You want to get the impressions of the group while they are clear in their minds. Each person should be asked for his or her reaction and the answers should be quizzed thoroughly. Review your promotion efforts and their success. Look at how you spent money, on what, for what and the return received. It is important to analyze what worked and what didn't work and make recommendations for the next time.
Outside the organization
Participant evaluations and questionnaires consist of a series of questions about the program and provide immediate feedback. Some questions should deal with how a participant heard about the program.
Another method to evaluate the event is by simply talking with the participants during the activity. For this to be most effective, the promotion committee should spread out and make sure they learn the reactions of a good cross-section of the participants.
Remember to keep a file on anything associated with the event. You probably won't do exactly the same thing again but the materials, format, strategies and contacts are valuable resources. Things to include in your file are: mailing lists, media contacts, newspaper clippings, photographs, posters, brochures, budgets, bills, receipts, information packets, advertisements, memos and notes, copies of all agendas and minutes, press releases and background material on sponsors, and correspondence.
Lastly, remember to thank all the people who helped you on your promotion campaign. Although you probably thanked them on the day of the activity, it is time to say thank you again. Write notes, send a little token that says something about your organization, or take the group to lunch. It is important to recognize the efforts of all.
Publicity Factsheet #1. Pennsylvania State University, College of Agriculture, Co-operative Extension Service.
Publicizing and Promoting Programs. Farlow, Helen. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1979.
This publicity checklist is to be used as a working tool for your promotion committee.
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