I spent most of the day representing the college I work for at an Earth Day festival in my hometown. Various community organizations and businesses set up tables, giving away items and talking to visitors about ways to reuse, reduce and recycle. There was food, live music and a lot of mingling.
I had more fun engaging with the public at this small-town festival then I do in an average week at the office. And surprisingly, it’s these types of activities that often make the most impact as far as increasing brand strength and recognition. So many of us are trained to believe that we aren’t making progress in our work if we aren’t in front of a computer, at a meeting, or talking to someone from the media. This just isn’t so: believe it not, progress can be made while we’re having fun. It’ll do us and our clients a world of good if we can get comfortable with that notion.
In public relations, we’re here to shape the way the public views certain ideas, organizations and individuals, and PR professionals shouldn’t discount the value of devoting time to having a presence at these types of local gatherings. Two simple rules exist for your organization to be a successful part of almost any local event like this:
- People are looking for free giveaways.
- People are looking to be engaged.
It’s almost too simple! For this event, I created two components to my table: a drawing for one of two copies of a book written by a local professor, and a quiz, with the prize being a reusable water bottle that bore the name of the college. All of my signs were hand drawn, including the slips of paper for the book raffle. We already had the water bottles, so all I had to purchase were the books to give away. I also took a stack of car decals we keep around the office, should anyone want to grab one. (They did.)
We gave away every water bottle I brought: nearly 100. So that’s 100 people who’ll be reminded of the college each time they use the bottle, in addition to everyone they’re around when they use it. The bottles are bright yellow, so they’re hard to miss.
Furthermore, faces and personalities were given to an institution. A number of kids came up to the table to say, with great assurance, that they were going to be attending this college. And even more important: a presence at this type of event shows solidarity with the community as a whole. We often take for granted our “internal” or “local” audiences. We assume they know us and like us. That isn’t always true. With any type of relationship, consistent resassurance is absolutely necessary. For instance, I know my significant other loves me. But…I like to hear it every now and then.
And putting forth extra effort to be a part of something like the local festival I attended today tells an importance constituent that we love them. And if we love them…well…maybe our public will continue loving us back. And that means we’re doing our job.