PR: Build Day and Beyond
The big day is here! This is the result of a lot of planning and dedication, so be sure to enjoy yourself while you’re coordinating press and publicity.
As preparations for the build intensify, your fellow team captains may be requesting extra assistance with advertising or donor recognition. Make sure that every team captain is providing a list of his or her donors and VIPs.
In addition, here are a few opportunities for teamwork:
- Discuss sharing responsibilities during the build – speaking to reporters, giving media tours of the site, leading the ribbon-cutting ceremony, etc.
- Set up a media check-in table, which serves two purposes: It allows you to greet each arriving media crew with press kits, a site orientation and a big smile; and it allows you to gather information about the reporters who show up. Take their names and the names of their organizations so that you can follow up later.
Children's activities team
- Familiarize yourself with the schedule of children's activities for Build Day(s); if possible, media visits should be arranged when children are active and engaged.
- Coordinate children's involvement in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and post-build thank you's.
- Make sure you understand the basic build schedule and layout. You'll need this information when addressing reporters.
- Notify this team if you'd like tables and chairs for media check-in.
- Coordinate sound equipment for the build and ribbon-cutting ceremony (microphone, speakers, music, etc.).
- May need your help in creating Build Day safety handouts.
Volunteer recruitment team
- Should provide a list of participating organizations, businesses and individuals: this information will be helpful for media interviews.
Creating a site layout and build timetable
Your co-chair(s) will need your help in creating a detailed site layout that shows the location of all the teams' activities. To do your part, sketch the location and orientation of media check-in (if applicable). If you have a choice of where to set up, pick a spot that is easily accessible for large vans; you'll want arriving media to be directed right to your table. Remember that reporters are extremely busy, so it's important to have someone on hand to greet them and give tours of the site.
An official playground build timetable is another way for co-chair(s) to ensure that everyone is on the same page...literally! It's essentially a script for site prep and build days, a single document that pulls together all the teams' activities and lists them in order. Your co-chair(s) will need from you a detailed PR team schedule including your team's arrival times, arrival of major media (if you know in advance), and a detailed program for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. You're almost there!
A build for all seasons
Every team needs to have a back-up plan in case of rain or other extreme weather. If Mother Nature throws a curveball, your first task is to stay positive! Your spirit and energy will reflect well on the entire project. Discuss with your team how you'll keep press kits, programs and reporters dry. Warn media in advance that this is a "rain or shine" event...in some ways, building in the rain makes for a better story! Think of rainy-day talking points, and emphasize the strength of the volunteers' commitment to play.
Sprinting to the finish line
As you approach the build, it's your job to remind EVERYONE in town of this momentous occasion. They should be absolutely sick of hearing about it by the time it happens! Command every resource at your disposal to turn people out, even if it's only for a few minutes. Here's a quick list of to-do's:
- Two weeks to go:
- Post Build Day/ribbon-cutting flyers and posters.
- Contact participating organizations and businesses to see if they have special media requests, or if they need any information.
- Confirm ribbon-cutting guests and/or performers.
- Make sure that necessary supplies for the ribbon-cutting are in hand, including oversized scissors.
- Assign responsibility for documenting the build: taking photos, writing notes, getting quotes from volunteers, etc.
- Send a press release to all media contacts.
- Submit public service announcement to local radio stations.
- Submit calendar listings to appropriate publications.
- Assign follow-up calls to the media (to be completed one to two days before the build).
- One week to go:
- Assemble a press kit with previous playspace articles, fact sheets, background information, and the most recent press release. Include contact information for yourself and your co-chair(s), both leading up to and during the build.
- Check ribbon-cutting programs for accuracy.
- Clarify each of your team member's responsibilities during the build.
- Review sponsorship banners for the build site.
- Practice your speech (if applicable) and your interviewing skills.
- Set up a communication system. You should have a way to contact reporters from the build site. Discuss this with your co-chair(s); they may have a cellular phone available for your use. If so, make sure that your contacts have the number.
- One to two days to go:
- Re-confirm ribbon-cutting guests.
- Have your team conduct media follow-up calls. “Hi! This is Sally Slide from the community-build playground project. Do you have a second to talk? Great! Did you receive the advisory for our build tomorrow? Well, I'm just calling to see if you have any questions about the day's events. No? Do you plan on joining us then? Great! Of course we encourage you to come out for the whole day – there will be lots of great activities and people to interview. It will be remarkable to see the whole site completely transformed in a matter of hours. But if you're pressed for time, I'd recommend coming around 3:30 in the afternoon. The children will be finishing the world map mural around then, major work on the playspace will be completed, and we'll be kicking off the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:00. When you arrive at the site, you'll see a media check-in table, and all the project organizers will be wearing bright blue shirts. Thank you so much, and we look forward to seeing you. It's going to be a great day!"
- Discuss sample Build Day talking points for talking to the press:
- "This community could have just hired a contractor to build this playspace, but we decided to work together toward this incredible accomplishment. If we can do this today, imagine what we can do tomorrow!"
- "Today we saw the awesome power of ## volunteers from [XYZ Sponsors] and [Community Name] working together to create a society that cares for children.”
- "Today, we're not just building a playspace - we're working with great partners like [Community Organization] and [XYZ Sponsors] to plant the seeds for ongoing positive change.”
- "This playspace was designed by the playspace experts – kids – and built by [Community Name] in gracious partnership with [XYZ Sponsors]."
- Completing a walkthrough:
Your co-chair(s) have probably scheduled a walk through, or "dress rehearsal," a day or two before the build. This is your chance to bring all the project leaders up to speed and help them prepare for media presence. Be sure to review the following information:
- What kinds of media coverage are you expecting?
- What time will reporters/camera crews be arriving?
- If they are late or have special needs, will the start of the build be delayed?
- Will you be giving media tours of the site? What can team captains do to help?
- Will reporters participate in any of the build activities?
- How will donors be recognized throughout the day?
- What are the talking points for the build? (Briefly discuss interviewing tips.)
- What is the schedule of activities for the ribbon-cutting ceremony?
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On Build Day
Meeting the press
- Arrive on site first thing in the morning to set up the media check-in table and confirm that all press kits, programs and ribbon-cutting supplies are on hand. Remember that reporters like a well-organized, efficient event.
- Greet arriving reporters/film crews and ask them to sign in with their name and the name of their organization. This will help you follow up with them after the build.
- Always treat members of the press like important guests; a warm feeling and positive first impression will influence how they portray the event to their audience. Introduce reporters to important figures (co-chairs, team captains, ribbon-cutting guests, sponsors, etc.) by name and offer pertinent information about how they became involved in the project.
- If individual reporters are going to be on site throughout the day, show them the location of drinking water, first aid and restrooms. Encourage them to get in there and help build the playspace or plant a tree! And be sure to offer food and drinks to all media visitors, no matter how long they stay. You're the host!
- Everything you say may appear in print! Therefore, remember to stay positive no matter what happens. Stay away from criticisms of any individual, organization, business or institution. Tell funny stories, paint a vision of a better community, and focus on kids, kids, kids!
Managing the ribbon-cutting ceremony
- Stay on top of the day's events. Is the construction team on schedule? Are the food and children's activities teams experiencing any delays or problems? Does the logistics captain have all the necessary sound equipment set up?
- Try to start the ribbon-cutting ceremony on time, unless television crews need a few minutes to set up. If important guests are delayed, enlist your co-chair(s) and fellow team captains to lead cheers and games to pass the time. Keep the energy level up.
- It's time to start, everyone is here...but the playspace isn't finished! This is quite common, and we recommend going ahead with the ribbon-cutting ceremony as scheduled. Any remaining build tasks can be completed later, and you don't want to miss the opportunity to gather everyone (including media) for an inspiring ceremony.
- If you will be addressing the crowd, be sure to focus on the sponsors whose generous donations turned the dream of a community-built playspace into a reality. Repeat their names and/or the names of their organizations as often as possible.
- Be sure to announce any upcoming events such as an official "kids' orientation" to the playspace, a second ribbon-cutting, a neighborhood clean-up, or further side projects. Interest in the playspace will be at its peak immediately following the build.
- Keep it light-hearted – after all, this is about play! Encourage everyone to take more time out of their busy schedules to come to the playspace, relax, exercise, and breathe the fresh air. This is not an end, it's a beginning!
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Thanks to your efforts, your community has a raised awareness about the importance of play and of civic activism. Great work! You've shown people what can happen when ordinary citizens are committed to changing their environment, and you've created a working model for future projects. To make sure that these seeds of change grow and blossom in the years ahead, we suggest taking a few simple steps toward maintaining your playspace's network of supporters:
- Follow up with the media.
After the build, update your final press release to include fresh quotes and important happenings from the day itself, and send it to all your media contacts. You can also contact reporters who attended the build to ask them when their stories will be appearing, and to request a copy. Be sure to send news clippings to major sponsors and supporters.
- Send thank-you letters.
Can you think of people who deserve a special thank you for their hard work and support (e.g. your team members)? Let them know! By taking the time to recognize them and make them feel appreciated, you ensure that they'll stay involved in future community projects. For many people, the thrill of participating in a playspace build is the start of a lifelong commitment to service.
- Evaluate your planning process.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? What worked, and what flopped? Your experience will prove invaluable to community organizers down the road, so take the time to record your team's thoughts. (You'll find an evaluation form below.)
- Contribute to a "friends of the playspace" group.
Your co-chair(s) or fellow team captains may be interested in forming an ongoing group to support the maintenance and programming of your new playspace. Here are just some of the ways you and your team members might contribute:
- Maintain relationships with reporters and editors: Keep them posted on new developments and feature story opportunities.
- Write an op-ed piece about the potential for recreational programming, and the community impact of the playspace build.
- Help to advertise future playspace events.
- Create a newsletter featuring articles about new programming activities, playspace safety and maintenance, the role of play in learning and early-child development, and family exercises for health.
- Start an archive of media materials related to your playspace that can be used for fundraising drives or for advertising future events.
PR team evaluation form
Name of Team Captain:
- List the three most important objectives of your team.
- Did your team achieve its planned goals and objectives? If not, why?
- What were your most profitable fundraisers? What were your most popular fundraisers?
- In what circumstances was your team especially effective?
- In what circumstances was your team not so effective?
- How much time would you guess an average team member spent on playspace planning per week?
- Regarding your team, what would you do differently next time, and why?
- What would you do exactly the same?
- Additional comments.
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