To draw the audience you seek and to create awareness about your screening(s), your library needs to plan and implement an effective promotional campaign.
The Human Rights video series is designed to accommodate diverse programming needs. You may be planning to screen just one video, a selected number of videos, or the entire 12 videos in the series. The following guidelines will help you launch a successful campaign to promote your program. Included are sample media materials and general suggestions for promotional activities.
Please note: All promotional material should feature the program's graphics and acknowledge the program funders: The Human Rights Video Project was created by National Video Resources (NVR) in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, with major funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Also credit any community partner(s). Use logos whenever possible.
To meet media deadlines and other deadlines, start promoting your screening(s) at least two months in advance. First determine your target audience, goals for audience size and the best communication methods for this program. Involving your fellow staff members in program planning is a great way to determine these things and to foster new ideas and additional support and enthusiasm. Additionally, share your program plans with the library director, board, Friends, and other library support groups and invite their ideas and cooperation.
Every Mother's Son - Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez at one of many demonstrations. Photo: Kirk Condyles
Defining Your Target Audience
Your general promotional materials such as flyers, press releases, and advertisements are great vehicles for reaching a general audience of mixed ages and backgrounds. However, there are probably several groups in your community that will be very interested in your screening(s). These groups can pass the information on to members of their organization who may be interested in attending or providing financial and other support. Following is a list of just some of the organizations in your community that may be interested in your screening(s).
Local advocacy groups
Minority group associations
Local teaching staff (high school teachers, college and university professors/staff)
Museums and arts councils
Also, in the Human Rights Resources section we compiled a list of human rights organizations and on-line discussion forums.
Choosing Your Communication Methods
Once you've determined whom you would like to invite to your screening(s), you need to focus on how you're going to let them know about the event. Most communication methods fall into these four categories:
Public Relations/Publicity: newspaper and magazine articles and letters to the editor, announcements on television and radio programs, Web sites, Web publicity, public service announcements (PSAs).
Direct Marketing: direct mailings, e-mail messages, Web marketing.
Personal Contact: word of mouth, public speaking engagements, telephone.
Advertising: print ads, TV and radio spots, banners, flyers, bookmarks, posters, buttons, displays.
Every Mother's Son - Puerto Rican Rights rally demanding justice in the police killing of Anthony Baez on Dec 22, 1994. Held on Martin Luther King Day. Photo: Kirk Condyles
Contacting the media and using the Web to publicize your event is key to getting your message out to a mass audience. Here are a few methods you can use to contact your local media and to reach people through the Web:
Contacting local media:
Send a press release announcing the event to your local newspapers, radio stations and television stations at least two to four weeks before the event. If you have regional magazines or talk shows that list upcoming events, you may want to send a release to them as well. Since these media outlets often have longer lead times, send these press releases out at least four to eight weeks before the event. A sample press release is available on the Human Rights Video project site in the Programing Resources section.
If possible, address press releases to a specific reporter. Call your local media outlets to find out who covers community, arts, or literary events, and send your release to his/her attention. If that information is not available, address press releases to the "News Desk" for larger publications or "Editor" for smaller publications. Most media outlets prefer to receive press releases via fax; however, mail is acceptable if you wish to send additional materials, such as a brochure or bookmark advertising the event. Also, if any of these publications have a "Calendar of Events" section, be sure to send a press release to the contact for this section. Quite often, publications will run an article about an upcoming event and also will include information about it in their community calendar sections.
About a week before your event, follow up the press release by faxing a media alert to key contacts. The alert provides specific information about the date, time and location for reporters and photographers who may be interested in attending the event or including the information in an "Upcoming Events" section. If possible, call each contact a day or two later to confirm that they received the media alert, find out if they have any questions, and see if they are interested in attending or getting more information about the program.
If you find that media professionals are interested in attending the event or in getting more information, you will need to have additional materials available in a press kit. The press kit should contain one copy of the press release, media alert, photo, and biographies of your moderator and other key participants, and copies of all promotional materials-flyers, bookmarks, buttons, etc. If you do get to discuss the event with a reporter, suggest story ideas and offer to schedule an interview with your moderator and partner organizations. Note: before you offer, be sure your moderator and partner organization representatives are willing to be interviewed.
Since television and radio stations are required to donate a percentage of their airtime for non-profit and public announcements, your local stations may be willing to air a public service announcement (PSA) about your screening event. A PSA will advertise your event, but is donated airtime, so there is no cost to your library.
Using the Web:
In today's world, using the Web to promote your events is very important. If your library's Web site doesn't have a "Coming Events" section, talk to your Webmaster about creating one. This is the perfect place for library patrons to find out details about your series. Make sure you include as much information as possible on your Web site. Regular library users may check your Web site for information on upcoming events, but new or potential patrons are less likely to visit your site. The Web is a key way to provide details to patrons and community members who may have heard about the event, but need details about the date, time, location, topics to be discussed, etc.
- Include links from your site to your partners' sites. On your web site, you can link to the site for the advocacy group that is working on the programming with you and you can link to sites for National Video Resources (www.nvr.org) and the Human Rights Project (www.humanrightsproject.org) When your event Web site is up, e-mail the address of the site to the ALA Public Programs Office to include on their project Web site www.ala.org/publicprograms. The ALA Public Programs Office e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you post information about the series on your library's Web site, be sure to include the Web address on all promotional materials. Using just your library's short address (i.e., www.ala.org) is acceptable and usually easier to read. While some promotional materials still carry the long version (i.e., http://www.ala.org), this is not necessary since most browsers are configured to automatically place the http:// before an address. However, if your library has an address with a different hyper tag, such as https://, you will need to include this in the address. (The http:// is always necessary within the html code when linking to a full address. Please consult an html guide for more info, or contact your web developer.)
- The Web can also be useful for getting the word out about your event through other organizations' Web sites. Your city, community centers, local media outlets, and Chamber of Commerce may post information about community events on their Web sites. Additionally, many major cities also have Web-based entertainment and event guides, like citysearch.com which provides information about events in several cities. Find out if these Web sites exist in your area and contact the site's staff about posting your event and information. Many of these sites will post free of charge the information about non-profit organizations' events.
Logo for the the project can be found in the Programing Resources section. The x-small logo should be good enough for web publication.
Using the list of community organizations and other groups you identified as your target audience, you can use direct marketing to contact these groups and individual members of these groups.
When contacting community and other organizations, use a personalized letter or
phone call. You can also use your program flyer as an informal letter, but include a personal note soliciting support, especially if you are asking for financial or other assistance. A sample Letter to a Community Group is available on the Human Rights Video project Web site in the Programing Resources section.
In addition to contacting organizations, you can target individuals in your community. If you keep a list of patrons' e-mail addresses, sending a mass e-mail message about the upcoming event can be an effective and inexpensive way to get the word out to a number of people. Send an e-mail message about the program to community group leaders to post to their electronic discussion groups or forward on to their own address lists. If e-mail addresses are not available, create a postcard to mail to library patrons, community members or others.
One-on-one personal contact is a most effective means of communicating with key individuals and groups. It can create a better understanding and foster more enthusiasm than any other communication method. Some tips:
Create a list of influential individuals in your community-the mayor, city council members, business leaders, etc.-who may be interested in your event. Send them a letter and program flyer about the event and ask to meet with them to discuss the event. If a meeting is not possible, mention in your letter that you will call them within a week to follow-up. Even if these individuals are not able to participate in the series, letting them know about the program keeps them informed about what the library's doing for the community.
Books Not Bars - Youth canvasser tries to spread the word about the prison industry to her peers on a basketball court
When contacting community groups, ask to speak for five to ten minutes at one of their upcoming meetings or events. This is inexpensive and effective since it allows you to both deliver your message and to gauge responses. At the meeting, outline your overall series plan and present convincing reasons why the series would be of interest to them. Bring flyers, bookmarks and other materials along to hand out after your speech. If possible, speak at the end of the meeting or offer to stay until the end of the meeting to answer questions. This can also be an effective way to indicate your interest in them and in future programs and events that they would like to see at the library.
If speaking at a meeting is not possible, ask the group leaders to pass out flyers or mention the program to their members and staff.
Often the most expensive promotional method, advertising also can be one of the most effective vehicles for promoting your program. Here are a few advertising methods:
Logo for the the project can be found in the Programing Resources section. The medium logo should be good enough for news paper or magazine publication, while the x-large logo can be used to make posters.
Bombies - Laotian farm family in their fields
Putting It All Together
After reviewing this list, spend a little time thinking about which of these methods will work best for your event, your community and your library. Consider your budget and the time available. Consider your planning team-is this effort a one-man production or committee-based? And, consider your past successes and failures by taking a look at which effective communication methods you've used to promote past events. For this program, you may want to combine tried-and-true methods with some new ideas.
Also, keep in mind your goals for the size and type of audience you wish to attract. If your library can only hold a group of 50, you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on publicity. Instead, use your resources wisely. Use cost-effective methods and spend the majority of your time contacting individuals and groups who you think will be most interested instead of wasting time contacting everybody in the town. While it is important to make sure that the public is aware of your event, this can be done simply with flyers and a few press releases to key media outlets and the rest of your time can be spent on contacting people via letters and the phone.
On the other hand, if you want to attract a group of 200 people who have never set foot in the library, you will need to be more creative in your promotional activities. Most likely, you will need to spend a little more time contacting new people and developing promotional materials for new outlets and locations. However, this time and effort could pay off. Bringing new faces into the library for a program will undoubtedly result in issuing more library cards and finding new life-long library patrons.