Tuesday, July 21, 2015

10 Simple Ways to Market Your Organization's Anniversary

The author Carrie Jaffe-Pickett with husband Emmett at Disneyland's 50th
anniversary celebration. Is this a large egg? Who cares, it's a great photo spot and, obviously, we still have the photo after a decade.

 Last month, I was in New York City on vacation. Lucky enough to attend a musical on Broadway with my mom, where coincidentally, we were sitting next to a woman who handled PR for a local museum that was planning for a major anniversary celebration. When she found out what I "did," -- social media for a large university ethics center -- she immediately wanted to talk ideas. As in, did I have any? Well, I did, but the show started and alas we couldn't talk, and intermission was spent seeking water and stretching. So now, here are the highlights of my email back to her subsequently, which she has gratefully received and is acting upon now. I'm happy to share my tips with you, with a few disclaimers first:

*Anniversaries are typically events that organizations are more excited about than anyone else. While the staff and CEO probably view them as the most important milestones imaginable, to the general public and those who aren't primary stakeholders, and even to your membership if that's how your organization is structured-- it can mean just another day--or year--a month. So the challenge is clear: make it fun, make it relevant, and be multidimensional. Don't just repeat the same content over and over again and expect it to go well. Myopia can be deadly, and can even backfire if you taint your organization's image due to ill planned events or concepts.

Start nurturing your relationships with influencers before you need them. Like any marketing, if you wait until you launch to optimize your strategic relationships, you're too late. If you wait until just before you need your friend who's a reporter for the local newspaper to request a story write-up, you're too late.

*Don't drag it out unless you can hold the public's interest. The typical social media campaign is a week to a month long, and there's a reason for it. Promotion fatigue.  Many organizations mistakenly drag out their anniversary promotions for an entire year, burdening staff with extra projects they may not have time for in addition to their regular job responsibilities. It's better to do a month-long celebration that rocks, then a year-long one where no one could care less. So timeframe is key in planning.

And now...the tips!

1. Discovery. Allow enough lead time to brainstorm ideas with your team and get feedback. Survey your stakeholders such as board members, influencers, etc. on their thoughts for an effective campaign, keeping in mind any staff, timing, or budget constraints.

Disneyland's Diamond Celebration landing page is a great example of how to organize your anniversary events in a
visually appealing way.

2. Tagline and Logo: Brainstorm a distinct tagline for your organization's anniversary campaign. If possible, engage a graphic designer to come up with a logo to go with it that you can use to brand all your publications, activities, website, etc for the year. Swag such as t-shirts, waterbottles, even pens and paper featuring your anniversary logo, can go over well if done correctly -- meaning that your logo is catchy, speaks to your audience, and has longevity beyond the event. Next time you attend a tradeshow, research giveaways you find fun and clever.

3. Special anniversary publication, if you have the budget: Special events publications like programs or magazines can serve as great souvenirs, and should include unique content not found anywhere else, such as, for example, your organization's timeline, interviews with founders, staff, and behind the scenes folks, etc.

4. Plan members-only and nonmember events highlighting the theme and anniversary: If you're feeling creative, you might want to combine this with a fundraiser, and/or the opportunity to spotlight someone special in your community, or another cause that aligns with the organization's mission. If your organization normally holds events, take advantage of the anniversary as an opportunity to amplify your routine with something really special. If budget allows, plan a gourmet catered menu, and what about music, decor, and a special lineup of speakers? This is your chance to shine. Decide on one event, or a series of events. If you don't normally have events, get help from those who are experienced and start with something small, like a cocktail party rather then a large gala.

5. Don't forget social media: Your theme and logo should easily convert to the social media platforms your organization publishes on. Of course, you would tweet or Facebook post the theme along with the link to whatever your promotion is, but how about user generated content? Hashtag and social media campaigns that highlight user content, for example: "show us what this anniversary means to you in a photo, for a chance to win...." are certainly the latest wave in online promotions, and for good reason: instant connection with your fans, followers, and stakeholders, and highly trackable metrics. Use your YouTube channel to highlight key aspects or players in your campaign, and take advantage of Instagram for user-generated hashtag campaigns.

6. Public Relations Outreach:
Once you've decided on your campaign, events logo, theme, etc., write and distribute a press release or series of releases that would mail locally and nationally. National attention for its own sake should necessarily be the goal, but rather reaching your most relevant audiences. This could also involve advertising or cross promotion with relevant sites. Emphasize the local angle if you're in a small city or town, giving writers and editors that desired "hook" they always seek for stories. Also reach out to any celebrities or influencers involved with your organization, who can help promote public interest in the anniversary. Don't forget to highlight any press pickup on your website and social media to optimize the "buzz" you've already created.

7. Timeline and Infographics: As I mentioned, create a timeline of milestone dates leading up to the anniversary on your website and/or anniversary publication,  and link to it via social media, highlighting dates that correspond to your current date to add variety and interest to your posts. You could also create one or several infographics highlighting your publicity plan or campaign, providing fun graphics for press or even bloggers who might cover your story.

8. CONTENT MARKETING! Saving the best for almost last. No modern promotion or campaign is complete without a content marketing plan. Does your organization have a blog? Use it or create a dedicated one for your anniversary activities, and have your staff writer publish aspects of the anniversary through a multimedia approach, at least once a week. Research other bloggers and influencers who might want to cover the topic, and pitch them individually -- in other words, send them a customized email and not a group email that suggests spam. Bloggers will resist any pitches that feel like they've been sent to multiple people. Use your organization's enewsletter to highlight your campaign, and cross promote your materials on social media.

9. Website Landing Page:
Create a landing page on your website that serves as the anchor for all your anniversary activities. This one from Disneyland is a great example: it highlights, food events, merchandise, other special events, contests, and more.

10. Say Thank You:
Anniversaries are a great time to thank your community, including donors, staffers, board members, regular members, volunteers, and partners. What are you thanking them for? Their time, their donations, and their commitment to your organization.

And now.. what are you waiting for? Go forth and celebrate your organization's anniversary, keeping these tips in mind. It's also a great idea to keep notes along  the way of what worked and what didn't, so you'll be ready with your own helpful tips for the next one.

What say you? Did you market your organization's anniversary? What is your most valuable tip? Share in the Comments.

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