More Than Cake and Streamers: Using Strategy to Drive Celebrations

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Medicare.  And the 80th anniversary of Social Security is quickly approaching on August 14.

In such a contentious, highly politicized environment, how does an organization generate goodwill for programs that can sometimes be seen as controversial? That was the question that we, and our clients, were faced with when it came to determining a communications strategy.

While every situation is unique and should be approached with fresh eyes, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan an upcoming celebration or event for your organization – especially for politicized issues:

  1. Plan ahead – By starting strategy discussions a year out, we were able to refine tactics and ensure a consistent flow of information in the months leading up to the event. Building a long-running campaign can allow additional time to generate support and resources, while providing the benefit of time to anticipate and mitigate possible opposition.
  2. Honor history – Both programs we worked with have been part of America’s social infrastructure for decades. We highlighted and utilized history to our advantage in communications efforts around these landmark anniversaries.
Adding a client’s executive director to the signing of the Medicare bill – Photoshop magic!
  1. Team up – Using the “strength in numbers” approach can both amplify celebrations and strengthen partnerships with likeminded organizations. Offer to speak at partner events or share social media content; issue joint press releases and statements.
  2. Encourage action, gently – It would be a wasted opportunity to draw attention to these landmark events without calling for future – positive – improvements. Choose a common-sense “ask” (i.e. something that has some support already, or something that can be implemented fairly easily – to allow your ask to have success) and use it all of your outreach, without pushing too forcefully, which could overshadow the event itself.
  3. Experiment – Take advantage of the positive tone of celebratory campaigns. They can offer opportunities to test out new tactics, especially those that may fall outside of your organization’s comfort zone. Want to try out social media memes? (We highly recommend Philosoraptor) Or, develop a new infographic? This is a chance to experiment and practice.

We love advising on and developing strategic campaigns. Let us know if we can help plan for an upcoming landmark event on your organization’s calendar.