Holding a rally is an effective way to motivate large numbers of people while drawing media coverage and congressional attention to a worthwhile issue. Rallies work well in areas where a local alliance has already been formed or there are enough active people to produce a strong turnout. Though they take a lot of work, the payoffs from a successful rally can be tremendous.
Tips for Organizing a Rally
- Establish an organizing committee. Begin working with a small group to plan the logistics of your rally and advertise it to your campus, community, and the media. This group should represent a diverse coalition of interests, so that attendance will come from a wider spectrum of people. Each person on your committee should assume responsibility for a different aspect of the event - media, transportation, speakers, equipment - so that the day of your rally will run as smoothly as possible.
- Choose a date for the rally. Organize around key events in Congress, such as hearings that deal with education funding. Members are more focussed on education during these times, and will be more likely to listen to a direct message from constituents. You should also choose a date that will maximize attendance by students and other members of the community.
- Choose an effective location. Your location should be accessible to both press and students. Reserve it as soon as your date is confirmed.
- Develop a theme for your event. Your rally should have a name and an angle for the media to focus on. To achieve this, you should develop a set of visuals that enhance that theme (i.e. banners, a creative backdrop, etc.). Even signs held by students should complement the theme you have chosen. NASFAA has created a "Why I Fight for Financial Aid" sign template. The more cohesive your message, the stronger your group will appear, and the easier it will be for the media to report on your event. NASFAA can provide "#Fight4FinAid" campaign buttons with advance notice - please email email@example.com if you are interested.
- Invite speakers with your local press in mind. Your goal in setting up your program should be to draw local media attention to student aid and motivate those attending to continue their efforts. Possible speakers include members of Congress, local college presidents, and students with personal stories.
- Identify potential sources of sponsorship. Whether you are chartering buses to take students to the rally site, or renting sound equipment for your event, consider sponsors to cover your costs. Sponsors can also help to demonstrate that support for student aid is community-wide. Possibilities include local businesses and the college administration.
- Advertise the event as widely as possible. Use the campus media, flyers, social media, or student blogs - be creative and consistent in advertising your event. The more your community is aware of the threat to student aid, the more they will be motivated to act. Attendance in large numbers will ensure the success of your event by getting the attention of the press. Remember, however, to give everyone advance notice. Most busy people plan their schedules at least a week in advance.
- Remember the details. Check and re-check your program, your location, your sound equipment, your final media advisories, and your schedule for the day of the event.
Getting Media Coverage for an Event
If you hold an event on campus to raise awareness or encourage action, but you don't invite the media, then the event didn't happen, as far as most people are concerned.
- Tell the media. Draft a one-page media advisory giving details of the event - who, what, when, where, and why - and send it to your media list. This should be done about a week in advance to allow the news directors and reporters to plan ahead. If you are holding a rally, list the names of the speakers.
- Write a news release that concisely describes the event and the message congress should not cut federal student aid programs, because college is the best investment in America's future. It should be no more than one or two double-spaced pages. Be sure your media contact's name and phone number are on the first page of all media advisories and news releases.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. Call all of the media the day before the event to remind them that you are holding an event the next day, confirm the time and location, and tell them again why it is important and who will be attending.
- Be ready to greet the media. At the event, the media contact should greet the reporters, give them a news release, and be available to answer questions or set up interviews with participants and speakers. Get the name of reporters and their organization. Send the news release to reporters who did not attend your event. Send copies of the stories to NASFAA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us know if you're planning an event in your community! NASFAA can provide resources to assist members. Use the form below to provide more information about your event.