by Jan Gunter
We held our first media open house this week at the Ronald McDonald House. Since it was our first, we were making it up as we went and of course checking to see how other folks have done this before. Here’s how we did it and some lessons learned.
1. Define what you will consider a success.
Does success mean that a whole lot of people show up? Or is success more about the quality of the event? In our case we determined that we would be delighted if one to five media folks came through our doors and learned about our programs in a way that made them new ambassadors for RMHC Austin. We chose to focus on quality. We were prepared for a large crowd, but we were not dependent on that for our measure of success. What is your measure of success?
2. Create an invitation and invite people!
You could create a simple media advisory and send it to your media partners. We opted to create an Eventbrite invitation. The RSVP is built right into the system in the form of “tickets.” Eventbrite helps you create an email invitation and tracks who received the email, who viewed it, and who has “purchased” tickets – our event was free, of course! Eventbrite also sends out an automatic reminder a couple of days before the event and allows you to send a note to those who are planning to attend. We chose a date and set our time for 10 a.m. to Noon – after rush hour but early in the day.
3. Follow up with personal invitations to your closest media connections.
Call them; email them – whatever you would normally do. We invited print and broadcast media from Austin and from neighboring communities where we serve, and we also invited bloggers, particularly mom bloggers.
4. Include guest (client) families and organizational leadership for interviews.
We invited the Talkington family who have not only used our services for an extended period of time, but who also have a history of volunteering with RMHC Austin. They have benefited from the services that they supported through volunteer efforts years ago. This is a beautiful “full circle” story, and with three generations present at the media event, they provided great interview opportunities.
We also included our Board of Directors President along with two other Board members, and several key staff members including our CEO, Chief Development Officer, Community Relations Director and Communications Manager. We had other staffers on standby in case we had a larger crowd and needed more support.
5. Engage the staff and communicate with them – make it a team effort.
Everyone on our day staff was involved in some way in preparation for this day! Some folks prepped the building and rooms for our tours; one staffer put together finger foods and took care of set-up; others were assigned to connect with particular media / bloggers as they arrived. I planned the event with help from our Chief Development Officer and Community Relations Director, and I made sure that the entire staff understood what we were doing, how it would impact life in the House for that morning, and how they needed to help support the effort. Maeme’s cupcakes donated delicious bite-sized cupcakes and delivered them that morning because she wanted to support our efforts!
6. Hire a photographer
Margaret Licarione of Licarione Photography did a fabulous job capturing the moments for us, including some really special moments with our guest family and some beautiful photos of our new Red Shoe Society donor wall. But don’t take my word for it! Check them out yourself in our Flickr album and on our Facebook page . These photos are already being used on our website and social media and will continue to get a lot of play in the coming months. Don’t skip this step!
7. Have a great time with the reporters, photographers and bloggers who come, and put a media kit in their hands.
We so enjoyed visiting with our media friends and bloggers – some new and some long-time friends of ours – who came, including the Tom Britton of the Hutto Chamber, Liliana Valenzuela of Ahora Si’, Catalina Berry of Univision Radio and Melissa Madole-Kopp of MomCom. The reporters and bloggers who came were able to have a great tour of the Ronald McDonald House, visit with guest families, see our newly created Red Shoe Society donor wall and interact with a variety of key staff and board members.
We know that their understanding of our programs increased greatly that day, and our relationship with them was either begun on a wonderful note or was strengthened through a positive and rich time here at the House.
We provided all attendees with a media kit. Click here to see the PDF version of it. It’s pretty cool!
8. Follow up with information and gratitude.
We sent photo links to the media outlets who attended and to some who weren’t able to attend but were interested in photos and news of the day. In addition, we have scheduled tours for two who had planned to attend and were unable to, so we will be able to give them a private tour at a later time of their convenience. In addition, one newspaper who was unable to come worked with me to get the information she needed to write a story in her publication right away. I followed up with thanks to all of those who did attend.
9. Celebrate success and evaluate!
I wrote a wrap-up which I distributed to all of the staff and board members who attended, detailing who was here, how they plan to follow up with stories or posts and what some of the good outcomes were from the day. And since some of our friends in other RMHC Chapters had asked to hear about how it went, I decided to write this blog post to share with them and others who may want to have their own media open house.
I thanked everyone for their involvement. We will definitely do this again!
Have you ever held a media open house? What did you learn from it? What was your greatest success?
Please let us know in the comments section. Thanks!