When creating a planning strategy, the goal is to maximize your resources – whether you're dealing with limited time, money, manpower, or all three! Think big picture. How can you get the most PR bang for your buck? How will you publicize specific events such as Design Day, the recruitment effort and fundraisers?
Planning your strategy
The ribbon-cutting ceremony
Planning your strategy
Depending on your PR budget and volunteer numbers (which you'll determine in the Team Management section), you may need to prioritize events and balance immediate needs against long-term strategies. This chart will help you lay out a general plan of attack; make copies and you can use it later on to assign team members to specific tasks; record dates, locations, and audiences; or track team spending.
Your fellow team captains are going to be working hard to solicit money, food, building materials, children's crafts, safety supplies and so much more. Once these donations start rolling in, it's going to be your job to make sure that major donors are publicly recognized for their generosity. Remember that having a meaningful, positive experience will encourage donors to stay involved in the playspace's future, including active programming and maintenance. Here are a few things that your team can do to ensure healthy donor relationships:
- Keep a current list of all project donors, including what they gave and their contact information.
- Discuss what type of recognition each donor wants – some may have their own PR team to manage the event, while others may wish to remain anonymous!
- If major sponsors do want recognition, be sure to mention them whenever you give media interviews, write letters to the editor, send press releases, etc. Good publicity for the project should always mean good publicity for sponsoring companies or organizations. In fact, team captains may be promising a certain amount of publicity — on banners, in the media, in the build program — in return for project donations. Be sure that you're clear on expectations before you send anything to print.
- Brainstorm ways to recognize and involve donors during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
- Brainstorm creative ways to say "thank you" at the end of the project.
Tip: Whenever your sponsors' names appear in newspapers, on radio programs or on television, be sure to notify them and send clippings. They'll want to see results!
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Design Day, when children who will use the playspace come to draw their dream playgrounds, is a signature community-build event, and it's bound to be one of your favorite aspects of the project. Imagine children drawing their perfect playground with bright colors and elements that only children could imagine (our favorite: a pool full of M&Ms!). A successful Design Day will really draw attention to the playspace project and raise the level of excitement in your community. It also gives children a direct sense of ownership toward the space, teaches them about the power of volunteerism, and addresses parent concerns.
Design Day public relations tasks
- Work with your co-chair(s) and children's captain to design flyers, posters and/or banners advertising the event. (Look for a sample here.) Make sure you have plenty of project brochures/fact sheets to give to visitors and media.
- Send out press releases, public service announcements, media advisories, newsletter/bulletin listings and calendar announcements to all of your media contacts.
- Formulate Design Day talking points that emphasize the value of children's contributions to the playspace.
- Have a camera available to take pictures of the event.
- After Design Day, laminate the children's drawings and post them in prominent areas around town, or use them to decorate information booths and volunteer sign-up tables. Incorporate your favorite sketches into the project brand, flyers, banners and other literature. Drawings are a great PR tool — who can resist making a child's dreams come true?
Design Day interviewing tips
If you've played your cards right, reporters will be showing up on Design Day with cameras and voice recorders in hand. When they do, you'll want to be sure to get your message across clearly and concisely. Here are a few things to keep in mind when speaking to members of the press:
- Plan ahead.
Whether you have two weeks or two minutes to prepare, take out a pad and pencil and plan what you want to say. Rehearse your message with friends and team members whenever possible. If you're put on the spot, remember to state the most important information first.
- Compose a 'short and sweet' message.
You should be able to express your basic message in 30 seconds, particularly for radio and television interviews. Focus on what's important – it's better to repeat yourself than to wander in several different directions.
- Choose three major points to focus on.
When composing your message, think: What do people absolutely need to know about this project? Maybe you need to recognize a key sponsor, promote your organization, or highlight the long-term goals of the project. For example, you might include in every interview:
- Why the playspace is important for children
- Why you or your organization got involved
- What you hope to see happen in the future: your community's next steps
- Be positive.
Make sure that you stick with positive messages. Even if a reporter asks you a question that seems challenging, think positively! After all, you and the community are doing a great thing. Remember that reporters are trained to look for an opposing viewpoint to provide "balance" to the story. If they find a negative opinion, they'll go with it — no matter how unpopular or far-out it may be. That's their job, so be prepared to address your opponents' views with civility and optimism.
- Be honest.
Don't answer questions if you don't know the answer. Give reporters the name and contact information of someone who can respond knowledgeably.
- Mention important sponsors by name.
Your co-chair(s) and fellow team captains may have promised to mention corporate names as part of a sponsorship agreement. If not, it's still a good idea to reward important sponsors by putting them in the media spotlight.
- Mention your organization or your partners.
Keep in mind that you will be speaking to people who may not be familiar with your organization or your non-profit partners. Here is a real opportunity to let them know briefly about your organization and its services.
- Coordinate your message with your colleagues.
Remember that you represent many other people on your planning committee or at your organization. Check in with your colleagues to be sure that you deliver the right message.
- Tell a story.
If you have enough time, tell a funny or touching story about the playspace, or the children who will use it. People love stories because they personalize an issue.
- Use fun figures.
Talk about how many volunteer hours will be spent planning and building the playspace, or how many kids will enjoy it each year! Facts and figures like these are fun to share, and they help people understand the widespread community impact of your project.
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The ribbon-cutting ceremony
One of your main tasks as PR captain will be to plan a high-energy, high-impact post-build ceremony. Why is this important? There are several reasons: A ribbon-cutting is your community's chance to finally celebrate success with all the people who made the playspace possible. Volunteers will feel appreciated, sponsors will get high-profile recognition, and the media will have a focal point for a great story. Your ribbon-cutting ceremony is also a great time to invite the 'designers' of the playspace, the children, back onto the site for a photo opportunity! (Remember, the site may not be ready for play. If you used concrete to anchor the equipment, it can take up to 72 hours to set.) Playspace 'opening ceremonies' can take a variety of forms, and the style of your event will depend on the style of your community...play up your project's unique spirit!
Some communities plan two or more ceremonies – the first immediately following the build, and another as soon as the cement dries, the surface is in place, or in conjunction with an important community event. Work with your co-chair(s) to plan a fun, unique ceremony. Here are a few of our favorite ribbon-cutting ceremonies from KaBOOM! builds:
- Participants in the M. D. Anderson YMCA build in Houston, Texas wrote and performed a playspace rap for their ceremony.
- After fashioning a chain-link "ribbon" that stretched around the entire playspace, all the participating volunteers at the Andrus Children's Center in Yonkers, N.Y. stepped up to cut the ribbon simultaneously, giving everyone a small souvenir of the day's build.
- Colorful puppets took the stage in Kiowa, Colo., for a ribbon-cutting musical show written and performed by local children.
- Children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas made and decorated goodie bags for all the build volunteers, stuffed with prizes from local vendors, club merchandise, pencils, candy, and t-shirts.
- Volunteers at the Girls, Inc. build in Omaha, Neb. were treated to a personal poetry reading that honored their service. Ten girls also spelled out V-O-L-U-N-T-E-E-R-S, with each letter representing a quality shared by the community builders.
- An all-school assembly was the setting for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at C. O. Greenfield Elementary in Phoenix, Ariz., with entertainment provided by the school marching band and flag team.
- Every student at Immaculate Conception in Memphis, Tenn. colored a paper doll to look like him/her self. All of the dolls were cut out and strung together.
- The roster of guest speakers for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Little Rock, Ark. included a congressman, superintendent of schools, the president of the PTA, and a representative from CNA, the corporate sponsor. The person chosen to cut the ribbon, however, was the 8-year old girl whose drawing had been chosen for the event's t-shirts.
- The Santa Monica, Calif. YWCA finished their Build Day with a simple milk-and-brownie toast!
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