Advocacy Event Planning, Media and Publicity

Advocacy Event Planning

This area provides step by step information on event planning.

  1. Assemble a team. Make sure all the right people are a part of the planning process. Inclusion of key decision-makers or stakeholders can be a great way to build relationships and power. Delegate roles to make the planning process run smoothly.
  2. Create an ideal timeline and plan backward. Include benchmarks for when things should be prepped and ready – materials, speakers confirmed, space confirmed, invites out, etc.
  3. Create a budget. Determine what is necessary to implement the vision. Be sure to include fees for VIP speakers (honorarium, travel, lodging, food, etc..), rental fees, permits, equipment, promotional materials/advertising, catering, décor, materials.
  4. Set a date. If necessary, find out from key participants what the best dates are for them in order to maximize turnout. Make sure to set the date far enough in advance to give VIPs enough lead time to fit it in their schedules.
  5. Reserve a location. Brainstorm a big list of possibilities to ensure you’ll find a quality facility for your ideal date. If you are planning a big event that requires special permits or security, apply and reserve as early as possible. Think about accessibility, ASL, and translation services.
  6. Invite VIPs. If it’s a candidate forum, get invites to candidates as soon as you have a date and location set. Typically you’ll need at least a month of lead time. If you’re looking to invite an Expert Lecturer, Celebrity, etc, find out the lowest fee they’ll speak for.
  7. Fundraise. If your event requires funding beyond your resources, identify potential sources of funding and apply as early as possible. If you hold your event at a School, often you can partner with the School directly, and/or parent and student groups to get funding.
  8. Publicize the event. Put up a website with details of the event, send out a formal email, use event sections in newspapers and websites, social networking sites, partner groups, etc.
  9. Create materials. Branding your event will maximize your visibility and help tie it into your larger campaign. Materials for the event should include
  • Packets of info including speaker bios, organizational info, fact sheets, action plans, etc.
  • Podium banner
  • Name tags/pens
  • Sign-in sheets with clip boards
  • Materials in languages other than English,  if necessary
  • Tote to carry your materials
  1. Logistics. Make sure you give yourself enough time in advance to rent/buy everything you need.
  • Catering
  • AV equipment – find out what speakers need in advance ie projector
  • Permits/security
  • Materials
  • Volunteers – figure out what roles you need filled the day of the event and assign those roles out to the team. If you need volunteers beyond your capacity, recruit some. Colleges, partner groups, confirmed attendees, etc.
  1. Invite attendees. Develop and vet an algorithm to determine how many people you’ll need to invite to reach your target attendance, then brainstorm all the places from and methods by which you can reach people.
  • rule of halves
  • email invites – keep them short and to the point
  • make it easy for people to attend – directions on website, parking suggestions, refreshments, etc..
  • use macro and micro recruiting methods. Send a mass email, but also make individual phone calls. Individual recruitment is by far the most effective.
  1. Invite the media. If you question whether your event is media-worthy, you should question whether your event is worthy of being held at all. Get a Press Advisory out a week in advance, then again 2 days out, and a 3rd time the morning of. Make follow up calls each time. Have a press release ready to send out immediately after the event.
  2. Confirm VIPs. Do this 1-2 weeks out.
  3. Confirm/Remind Attendees. People forget things. Dance on the line of appropriateness when inviting and reminding attendees. You don’t want to annoy them, but you want to maximize attendance. Send a reminder a week out, and another 1-2 days before. If you think necessary, send one the morning of as well. To minimize overkill, think of creative reasons for the multiple reminders. Ex. “We just found out New VIP will be attending – can’t wait to see you there!”
  4. The Big Day. Although everyone should be set in motion before the day of, there is plenty you can do to make sure the day runs early.
  • Make sure all the volunteers arrive early. Allow enough time for any last minute prep that needs to happen. Make sure there is someone to run errands if necessary.
  • Greet attendees as they arrive
  • Be ready to adjust the schedule to fit the mood of the event
  • Have a post-event celebration with volunteers, speakers, and important attendees.
  1. After the event. Make sure to build on your success by
  • sending out thank-you's
  • adding attendee contact information to your contact database
  • follow-up on ideas or concerns that came out of the event
  • evaluation of the event

  • Are special permits or security required?
  • Continuing COVID requirements, precautions, and practices.
  • Some venues have policies about what kind of food/drink can be served ie. No homemade or unpackaged food
  • Weather – If you are doing an outdoor event, be prepared with canopies, tents, etc.
  • Your municipality can help (with a fee) to put up no parking signs, provide sanitation services, etc.
  • Ask for feedback on the planning process from confirmed attendees to maximize turnout.
  • Are children welcomed?
  • Are things accessible, do you have ASL or other translation services?
  • Is this a in-person/virtual/ hybrid event.

Media & Publicity

Strategies and advice for how to secure media and press coverage

Media is a great source of visibility for several reasons:

  • Advances your campaign goals
  • Influences public perception more than anything else
  • Influences decision makers – they use it to measure where the public stands
  • Adds to your credibility
  • Internal morale – getting media coverage is cool!

It’s all about relationships - just like with advocacy, it’s not just about getting the story. You want to build relationships with key members of the press so that you can get more coverage in the future.

  • Campaign launch
  • Before or after a vote
  • Passage of a bill or policy
  • Pressure a decision maker on a particular issue
  • New information/reports
  • Protest
  • Anniversaries/Holidays
  • Using breaking bad news to highlight your point of view

You need to know how you can reach the most people in your community by knowing which outlets reach them.

  • TV stations – know who they are and what they program
  • Radio – what’s their format?
  • Weekly papers – Willamette Weekly, the Bee, Mercury, do we also have local publications?
  • Wires
  • Podcasts

  • The best way to know an outlet is to read/watch it
  • What’s the outlets size/format?
  • Who are key reporters and what issues do they cover? What are their themes?  Who covers education issues?  Arts issues?
  • Who’s on the editorial board?
  • Who are the assignment people?
  • When are the deadlines?
  • How do they receive info?  They’ll be more likely to cover our thing if we get them the info in their preferred format.
  • Find reasons to call them – compliment them on a story, thank them for coverage, feedback if we don’t get covered (this is actually common for them)

Know who else is covering your issue and what they are saying

Different types of media look for different things when deciding what to cover. Knowing the outlets, as we covered above, is key. Here are other tips and/or opportunities for each media type:

  • TV
    • Has to be visual.  Press conferences, events, etc.  Whenever possible, include big props, signs, and/or VIPs
    • Human interest angles – Arts Ed as an example
  • Newspapers- digital/print
    • News section coverage – get it through sending out press advisories for conferences or events, or through having a relationship with a reporter and being their go-to person for certain issues
    • Political columns
    • Letters to the Editor
    • Op-Eds – get a public official/VIP or coalition partner to co-author
    • Editorial
  • Radio
    • PSA
    • Call in to a talk show or radio show

Press Advisory - this is like a party invitation that gets sent in advance of your press event – who, what, where, when, description of visuals, etc.

  • Be careful not to include too much information that the reporters skip the event
  • If you don’t have a direct contact at the outlet, send to “assignment editor” or “news editor”
  • Think about social media and reach out to someone directly from that platform.
  • Even if you think the outlet won’t come to your event, send it anyway.  They may want to schedule a one-on-one interview with you.  At the very least, it’ll help you build name/issue recognition.

Press Release - The press release reads like a news story, including quotes.  This gets sent when you want the story to get covered.  Can be for any of the reasons we brainstormed above.

  • Send it out right after your event to all outlets that don’t attend
  • If you don’t want the material released till a certain date but want the reporter to have some lead time, you can “embargo” it until a specific date.
  • A proper release should include:
    • Be on organizational letterhead.
    • Be double spaced and one-sided.
    • Be no longer than 2-3 pages.
    • Have a brief headline describing the story.
    • Highlight the release date and provide contact names and numbers.
    • Indicate page continuation by placing the word "more" in parenthesis at the bottom of the page.
    • Indicate the end of the page by placing a "-30-" or "###", which are universal "end" symbols used by news outlets.
    • Include a short blurb at the end about your chapter or organization

Opinion Editorial - newspapers have a special section for these.  Often they are written my VIPs, but they can be a great opportunity for us to partner with VIPs to get our message out in a unique and highly visible way.

Letters-to-the-Editor - this is the best way for us to get coverage.  Elected officials often read the Letters-to-the-Editor  sections of papers to gauge public opinion.  They are short and easy to write, and a great way to send a powerful message.

A professional presence on the Internet is critical for any legitimate endeavor.  There is so much on the Internet, and so many pleas for involvement from so many groups, that it is critical for us to be creative in building an Internet presence

Ways to be visible on the internet:

  • Listservs
  • Our own email list
  • RACC site
  • School District site
  • Blogs related to Arts, Arts Ed, Parents, Community Culture, etc
  • On-line news
  • Social networking sites ( repost, reblog, retweet, retoot…)

With so many options for being visible on the net, it’s important that we be strategic in our approach.

  • Pick targeted audiences – where do our people go on-line?
  • Only send emails to our listserv when they serve a specific function.   Brainstorm clever subject lines to make them stand out among the inundation in the reader’s inbox
  • Do big Internet visibility in “splashes”
  • Use consistent messaging and graphics

(RACC acknowledges much of this Advocacy Tool Kit and information is inspired from Arts for LA)