This task may seem challenging the first year, but it will be gratifying as your promotional efforts convert skeptics into enthusiastic followers. Keep in mind that parents, graduates, school staff, and the community must "buy-in" to the Grad Night idea in order to have a successful event. The graduating seniors and their parents are the most important group that you must get to "buy-in" to the Grad Night idea.
Parties that have problems usually neglected to recruit senior parents to help with planning the event. Parents who believe in the Grad Night idea will volunteer to help, encourage their graduates to attend, not host another party on the same night, and not allow their graduates to attend a competing event.
Suggestions For Publicity
Publicity at School
- Make announcements over the school's public address system. Use celebrity impersonations or graduates in skit-type announcements. A local radio station may be willing to help. Be careful not to let the message get boring or stale.
- Hand out buttons with the Grad Night logo on them for teachers, staff, and administrators.
- Enlist the support of graduate leaders such as class officers and school clubs and teams.
- Speak at a Senior Class assembly and emphasize the positive, fun aspects of the event. If you have a video of a previous Grad Night event, make arrangements to show a few highlights to demonstrate how much fun a Grad Night is to attend.
- Sell Grad Night tickets early in the year. As graduates purchase their tickets, post their names in a place where seniors congregate at the school. The name display should be related to the event theme and done in such a way that additional names can be added easily. Eventually, it will be the "in" thing to have one's name on "the" list.
- Hold small, well-advertised prize drawings to encourage ticket sales (See the section on Prizes). Give prizes only to those who purchased a ticket before the drawing.
- Give a free Grad Night T-shirt to those who purchase a ticket. Encourage graduates to wear them often or have one day a week designated as Grad Night T-shirt day.
- Display or publicize the list of the Grand prizes and Door prizes.
- Design personalized Grad Night posters (i.e., make posters using pictures of favorite teachers). Display the posters in the teachers' classrooms.
- Distribute Grad Night posters or signs for display. Publicize that prizes will be awarded to graduates who have these signs on display.
- Send a letter to the parents explaining the event concept and soliciting their support.
- Place notices in the school newsletters so that all parents in the school will know and understand the Grad Night concept. This will help build support in the following years as well as provide current class parents with information.
- If English is a second language for some of your graduates, have the letter translated into the other languages.
- Notify local newspapers about the event and enlist their support. Some newspapers may be willing to provide continuous coverage of your event. Send them updated periodic press releases on your plans and progress.
- Notify local radio and TV stations about the event and enlist their support. Send them updated periodic press releases on your plans and progress.
- Distribute posters to local businesses. Request that these posters be put in a prominent place (such as the front window, counter, or bulletin board near the door). Also provide other posters such as "Thank You", " High School Grad Night Event Appreciates Your Support", or a "Proud Supporter of Grad Night."
- Request news coverage the night of the event. These articles should demonstrate to the community what the celebration was like and will help generate positive publicity for next year.
- Purchase an advertisement in the school football and basketball programs. Ads are usually inexpensive and will keep the celebration in front of both graduates and parents.
Promoting Your Event Through The Media
Remember that the media are not obligated to do any informational programs or announcements. Get to know the reporters and media persons that can best help you. When sending press releases, send them to the radio station, newsroom, and specific reporters. Use the smaller local papers and stations. They'll use your material.
Etiquette for Dealing with Media
- Supply them with only the important information. Be an expert on your topic.
- Respect their deadlines.
- Ask if this is a good time to talk. Be brief!
- Press releases
- Media advisories
- The Public Service announcements (PSA)
- Photos with captions
- Distribute a fact sheet about your organization. Give some statistics.
- With TV, think COLOR, think video. Be creative!
Live Interview Tips
- Send an expert, someone who really knows how and why this program will work. Send someone who really believes in Grad Night!!
- Send someone who is articulate.
- If it's an on-camera interview, be sure the Grad Night representative looks good and is dressed appropriately.
- Cover only the basics: who, what, when, where, why.
- Be sure to give a contact name and phone number.
- Be sure it is accurate. Read, re-read, and re-read again for accuracy then give it to someone else to check.
- Neatness counts! So does proper grammar!
- Meet their deadlines, not yours. TV and radio time is absolute. You must be on time!
Tips For Dealing With the Press
- Always be positive and upbeat. Convey excitement about the Grad Night event.
- Always try to emphasize the educational value of your event. Graduates are learning that they can have a wonderful, memorable night without using alcohol and/or other drugs and that it can be fun even when chaperoned. Also try to speak about educating the parents about ways to help their graduates have a good time without giving in to graduates' requests to host an alcoholic event after graduation.
- Never air "dirty laundry" in front of the press. Regardless of what disagreements your committee may have, try to keep it strictly within the Grad Night community.
- Give everything to the media in writing. Issue press releases.
- Understand that you may be misquoted. If your school has had an event in previous years, a reporter may pull out an old article, rewrite it and give incorrect information. Be sure to write a letter to the editor to correct the information.
- Be sure to thank the media people for their help. Maybe next year they'll do more!
- Try to return press calls immediately. They are much more apt to try to get the story right and to help you with positive publicity if they think you are helping them. Your school may be giving its umpteenth all-night event, but if the reporter is new to the concept, take the time to explain the entire concept. Invite them to attend and see for themselves.
- Never say anything to a reporter that you would be embarrassed to see in the paper.
How To Answer A Favorite Question Repeatedly Asked By the Press:
If asked: "Why the concentration on the graduation season? Kids drink in our community every weekend."
Try to use the following as a starting point to begin formulating your own answer:
"The problems of keeping our children safe and tragedy free and teenagers drinking will not be solved overnight. We have to start somewhere and we have to get everyone's attention."
"Having an alcohol and drug free event for our own individual children and a few of their friends won't have the impact that a large celebration like a Grad Night will have. Even graduates who don't drink on other nights of the year seem to do so on graduation night. Alcohol is the drug of choice for most of our teens and it is readily available."
"The event can be held anytime during the year, but it especially lends itself to graduation and is meant to involve every graduate eligible to attend regardless of age, sex, race, religion, ethnic background, and social, economic, academic or athletic status."
"This special celebration offers a positive educational experience to graduates who learn they can have a good time with their friends and classmates without using any alcohol or other drugs. Parents discover that their young adults will come to parties that are planned, implemented, and chaperoned by parents and that it can be a rewarding experience to help with Grad Night."
"The professional substance abuse prevention community has indicated its surprise that parents are doing the planning and implementing. It considers parents to be a previously 'untapped resource.' But who cares more about teens than their own parents?"
"The various law enforcement groups indicate they are pleased to have the parents involved and the kids off the streets on this particularly high-risk night. School administrators report they are pleased to have parents taking an active part, something many haven't done since their children were in elementary school."
"Slowly but surely, these celebrations are making a difference. The awareness level has been raised in the communities using the program. Other similar types of parties are being held during the year for and with the graduates."
Press releases can be valuable in generating community support. By making the entire community aware of the purpose of Grad Night, along with the rules and activities, many individuals, businesses, and organizations will not only choose to become involved but may also try to influence graduates to attend.
The press releases should be double spaced and printed on one side of plain white or letterhead paper. The releases should be simple and should include the name, address, and phone number of a person to contact for more information. The release should include who, what, when (date and time), where, why, and who is invited.
Sample Press Release
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(School name) will hold an all night alcohol/drug free event immediately following their graduation on (date). This event is being organized by the parents of the senior class to provide an exciting, fun-filled, safe celebration. The Grad Night event will begin at (time) and end at (time). All (name of school) seniors are invited to attend. The ticket entrance fee will be (amount).
The theme of the GRAD NIGHT event will be "(theme)" and will feature (give a list of general activities, highlighting special ones). Food will include (give names of a few of the major kinds of food such as pizza, soda, submarine sandwiches, cookies, breakfast items, etc.) Door prizes will be drawn all night. The grand prize, a (name of prize), will be given away at the end of the event.
All attendees (graduates, adult volunteers and vendors) must abide by a few simple rules:
- No alcohol or other drug use is allowed.
- Graduates must arrive by (time).
- Graduates may leave anytime they wish but may not return.
- Graduates must be present to win prizes.
Many businesses and community organizations have contributed to make this a truly memorable night for the graduates. Any businesses, organizations or individuals that would like to help in some way are invited to contact (name of person) at (phone number and/or address). The parents believe that if they prevent just one serious injury or death to a graduate they can call the event a success.
Promoting to Parents
Sample Promotional Letter to Parents
".... Grad Night needs help. Although Grad Night is three months away, we need your commitment now to make this evening a success. What exactly do we need? These four things:
- First - PLEASE do not plan another event after graduation. Everyone is invited to this one.
- Second - Volunteers are needed for all committees. Don't miss out on the fun and excitement of planning this big event. If you are willing to help, call (name and phone number). The committees are: Entertainment, Construction, Decoration, Security, Clean Up, Tickets, Publicity, and Food.
- Third - To be perfectly honest ... we need money. There will be an admission fee charged, but as we want to make sure every eligible graduate can come, it will be minimal. The event is expensive, and we need "seed" money to get it off the ground. If you can make a donation, just drop it in an envelope and mail it to (name and address). Make check payable to (provide group name) Grad Night.
- Finally - We need some good old enthusiasm and support. Talk positively to your graduate about the event and urge him/her to attend. Although this is a new idea at the school, these parties have been highly successful all over the Unightd States.
Excerpt from a Follow-up Letter to Parents
".... We all lead busy lives, which is one reason this is a wonderful opportunity to show your love for your child. By pooling our resources, we can give each Grad a FABULOUS event without having to spiff up our houses, prepare tons of food, and spend lots of money for individual parties. And, let's be honest: kids would much prefer being with their friends than with Uncle John and Aunt Mary. So put Grandma to bed and join us as workers for the event. (We're not chaperons; we'll all be working, and your child probably won't even see you in the midst of all
"We're all in the same boat. We're all expecting houseguests for graduation. Our Committee chairpersons and their committees have worked many hours since October to make this event a success. If we all give a little time, we can make this a special event that will keep our Grads safe so they can enjoy future reunions."