Media Relations: Volunteer Recruitment for an Event
When the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation needed to recruit additional volunteers in less than two weeks to place more than 225,000 flowers to honor fallen military troops at Arlington National Cemetery over Memorial Day Weekend, we designed a media outreach strategy to help. Given the event fell on what is traditionally considered to be the first weekend of the summer, we knew many people would have already made plans for the long weekend, and most of the volunteers were needed for Sunday afternoon, not for Memorial Day itself.
First, we worked with the Foundation to improve visibility and to make signing up easier for volunteers on its website. Recruiting more volunteers would not be possible, if they couldn’t easily sign up through the Foundation’s website. We also made sure the messaging talked about volunteering on a Sunday afternoon to help “bring back the meaning” of Memorial Day, so people would understand the benefits of volunteering and connect volunteering with their love for country. We positioned volunteering as something you could with your family or alone, to honor our troops and to connect with the deeper meaning behind the Memorial Day holiday.
Next, we added more direct calls for volunteers to social media channels for the Foundation. Because the Foundation was also publicizing work and efforts in other cities and at dozens of other cemeteries, it was important we be deliberate and clear about the need for volunteers in the Washington, D.C. metro area. One way to keep that need front and center, was by pinning a post to the top of their Facebook page so it would be easy for potential volunteers to sign up. We also boosted for a few dollars some targeted Facebook posts for the Washington, D.C. metro area to people interested in military and veteran issues.
Third, we reached out to area news stations and talked to them about the Foundation’s need for volunteers and asked them to help. The news director at NBC Washington responded and looped in a writer to get a story posted online, and said they would try to get information on air too. The Arlington Connection Newspaper also ran a story asking for volunteers. Inclusion of the event on area events calendars led to listings on things like this community calendar by a storage company. Radio station WMAL also ran a story on the need for volunteers. Within a few days of the news stories running, the signups for volunteers were full. On the day of the event, more than a thousand volunteers turned out to help place the flowers for Memorial Day at one of our nation’s most sacred burial grounds.
We are Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact us to discuss your project, review our portfolio, sign up for our e-newsletter).