It's important to become familiar with every aspect of your community's project before you begin recruiting members of your public relations team. Use this section to build a foundation of knowledge, and record important information for later reference. Consider walking through our online Road Map so you can visualize the steps the whole planning committee will be taking along the way, and how public relations fits into that picture.
Researching the planning process
First, write down the basic information about your playspace.
Play Equipment Company:
Design Day Date:
Site Preparation Date(s):
Date(s) of the Playspace Build:
Date(s) of the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony:
Date of Planning Meetings:
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Getting people on board with your story
You want to arouse your community's curiosity, pique their interest and get them on their feet. This is not an easy job, but it's also not as hard as you may think. People want to be inspired, and they want to believe in the power of ordinary citizens to enact change. All you need to do is convey a clear vision of a better community - and lay out the steps you're going to take to get there.
Remember that you will often be the public face of your committee, and it's your job to know more about the playspace project than anyone else in town. Once you have the facts, you'll be ready for anything and you'll be able to shape the project's image to your liking. So imagine that you're the news reporter, and use these questions to get the facts:
- Who started this project and why?
- What is that person's background?
- How did the project begin? What was the first step or first major milestone?
- Who is funding it?
- What groups, organizations or businesses are involved?
- What do the members of the planning committee have in common? What attracted them to this project?
- How did the founders decide on a community-build model, and why?
- How did they choose the site and type of equipment?
- How many children will be served by the new playspace?
- How much is the project going to cost?
- Will the playspace be open to the public?
- What are the safety/accessibility features of the new equipment?
- What makes this project different from other development or public-works projects?
- How can people get involved?
Your project identity
Try to create an identity or brand for your project. The idea is simple - think about some of the products that you see advertised on TV. Can you picture their logos, such as the swoosh or the golden arches? Can you sing their catchy jingles, or recite famous taglines? Companies work hard to create a memorable look and feel for the product that they're selling, and you can use those same techniques to "sell" your playspace vision to the community. A successful brand is simple, direct and attention-grabbing. This might include a unique name for your committee, a motto, possibly even a graphic logo and theme song. Consistency is the key! Use brand items on everything your project puts out, from committee letterhead, flyers and radio announcements to t-shirts and buttons.
To make sure that your identity accurately reflects your project goals, write a vision statement and pick out key words. Commonly used themes include fun, safety, fitness, cooperation, healing, family, positive attitudes, equality, children's development, and so on. What's most important to your project?
- Committee Name:
- Logo (designed by):
- Theme Song:
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Researching the planning process
The playspace committee
Over the next several months, you will be in constant contact with your co-chair(s) and fellow team captains. If you don't already know them, introduce yourself now! Ask your co-chair(s) for a complete listing of everyone's names and contact information, including the best time to call.
Team roles and responsibilities
As you probably already know, each member of the central planning committee (including you!) will head up his or her own team of volunteers. Each of the team's tasks is as follows:
Children's (or youth) activities team
This team is responsible for getting children and youth involved in every aspect of the project. This includes planning Design Day and Build Day activities for young people, as well as child-friendly fundraisers and promotional events. This team will also arrange childcare during planning meetings and fundraisers.
This team will manage site preparation and the installation of the playspace. They will also be responsible for soliciting in-kind donations of tools and materials.
This team is responsible for feeding volunteers during planning meetings, Design Day and the playspace build.
This team will raise all of the cash needed for the project. They have a huge job! Because both of your teams will be working to raise visibility and enthusiasm in the community, it's important to coordinate your activities. Also, remember that your team will be responsible for publicly recognizing any of their major donors - on banners, in the media, in the build program, and so on.
This team will work behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly - they arrange for meeting spaces, parking, restroom facilities, electricity/water hook-up, tents, tables and chairs. They'll also set up any sound equipment for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, one of your team's main events.
This team has two main responsibilities: making sure that the playspace build is safe for everyone involved, and educating local children about playspace safety. You'll help them spread the word!
Volunteer recruitment team:
Every playspace needs people to build it! If your community is using volunteer labor to install the playspace, this team will be responsible for recruiting those hard-working people. Your teams' responsibilities are really two sides of the same coin: Good public relations will result in more volunteers, and active volunteers spread the good word.
Researching your community assets
This is the final piece of your project research, and it's one of the most important! Every community has within it the resources, the skills and the energy to create positive change. As a project organizer, it's your job to pull together those individual resources and unleash that community power.
One way to start is by "mapping" your community's assets. What does your community have that might be useful to your team? Write down everything you can think of - every person, organization and media outlet. Remember that personal connections between friends, family, schoolmates, co-workers and neighbors are your key to the city!
Individual skills for your team
This is just a small sampling!
- Public speaking
- Organizing/Event planning
- Letter writing
- Art/Graphic design
- Computer skills
- Media experience
Organizations that have agreed to collaborate on the playspace project may have extensive experience with public relations, and their staffs may be able to assist you. You can also ask them about posting announcements in their newsletters or offices.
- Service organizations
- Business associations
- Fraternal organizations
- Local non-profits
- Women's groups
- Youth organizations
- Athletic organizations
- Cultural organizations
- Neighborhood organizations
- Military bases/U. S. National Guard Universities/Community colleges
- Parks departments
- Social service agencies
- Fire/Police departments
As you investigate local media sources, you may be surprised to notice how many publications are floating around for different audiences. Check your local market, shops and circulation boxes for free papers, and browse newsstands for unfamiliar titles.
- Local newspapers
- Regional newspapers (weekly/monthly)
- Alternative "city" papers
- Neighborhood newsletters
- Local-interest magazines
- Foreign-language newspapers
- TV network affiliates (ABC, CBS, NBC)
- Radio stations
- Local cable companies
- Public-access television
Read a detailed guide on identifying community resources in the Community Involvement section of the Toolkit.
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