People give generously to causes they believe in. But they have to know about a cause before they can believe in it. So, how do you get your cause to the forefront of attention? Many organizations do this by hosting a special event. The event is often a fun fundraiser, such as a concert or relay. But the most important aspect of the special event is to raise awareness for the cause. Funds follow awareness. Special events often raise only a very small amount of money but are used to recruit new donors and unite current volunteers and staff in a fun activity. This activity should draw attention to your cause and create interest within the community. Media publicity is one of the primary methods used to grab the publics’ attention for your event and therefore your cause.


The first rule of getting publicity is to make sure your special event really is news.


The media thrives on news…real people doing something noteworthy. To get the best media coverage, you should involve as many local people and organizations as possible, then do something unusual that will make the world a better place.


● Local people are important because the newspapers know that they will buy more papers if their name is in it. Radio stations know that more people will listen if the event they are involved in is being promoted. The internet thrives on people posting and blogging about their activities.

● Local organizations are advantageous because they have community connections. They each have resources of volunteers and media connections that will help you get the word out about your special event. The media likes to promote events combining several organizations because they know more local people are involved.

● Doing something unusual is critical in order to get media attention because boring news does not sell. Front page print news is always flashy with great photographs. The top stories in broadcast media immediately grab your attention and give you something to talk about. The media often focuses on negative news simply because it is more flamboyant. Which is more exciting: a person donating a new piece of diagnostic equipment to the hospital or a bomber who sends 50 people to the hospital? The equipment may save thousands of lives, but the bomber is news.

● Making the world a better place is important to remain true to your organizations mission. Truthfully, the business aspect of the media does not care if you are saving the world or destroying it, they want news that will sell. But people run the media business and make the final decisions. Tug at their heartstrings with an amazing human interest story and you will get the coverage you desire without compromising your cause.


Coming up with the idea for a newsworthy special event is the hardest part of getting publicity. The best way to go about generating ideas is simply to ask everyone you can. Diversifying who you ask and how you ask should create a large list of ideas you can then hone to meet your specific needs. Often the best special events are a combination of modified ideas from different people.


Here are some ways to ask a variety of people to give you ideas for your special event:


● Host small focus group discussions – these can be anything from impromptu conversations at local coffee shops or by invitation to the organizations office.

● Use online forums and blogs to ask the people who are not in your geographical location.

● Ask staff for ideas through office meetings or one on one conversations.

● Donors love to give input - ask them through your organizations regular newsletters and e-mails.

● You can talk to volunteers while they are doing tasks such as stuffing envelopes.

● Board members should be asked to bring ideas to the next meeting.

● Finally, don’t forget to ask the most creative people of all – children. They have vivid imaginations and their ideas are not confined to what is actually doable. Seriously consider what they say, then figure out how to make their ideas practical.


Keep a list of all the idea suggestions, even the crazy ones. You will not use most of them for the first special event, but you will have generated ideas for many future events. As you discuss the ideas the list will continue to be combined and refined. Discuss the ideas until you have narrowed them down to the best. When making the final decision as to which idea to pursue for your special event, keep in mind newsworthiness. Choosing the event that is the most fun for your volunteers or the least work for staff will not meet the organizations goals of raising awareness. Decide to do the special event that involves as many local people and organizations as possible, is something unusual and will make the world a better place.


In Getting Publicity for Your Special Event: Part Two I will cover how to tell the media about your special event using a Media File. Part Three will include Public Service Announcements, and Press Releases. The Publicity Handbook, New Edition: The Inside Scoop from More than 100 Journalists and PR Pros on How to Get Great Publicity Coverage has great insight into every aspect of Getting Publicity. I use this book myself and highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get the most publicity for your special event.