Engaging Participants

How can you encourage people to attend and contribute at your event?

Engaging Participants involves a focused outreach and publicity effort. To ensure a large, representative turnout at the event, it is essential that all community members are aware of the event, understand its importance, and how they can participate. Word-of-mouth is the most effective strategy, and printed flyers and social media posts are important, too. Everyone on the Project Team needs to work together to spread the word and invite all of their contacts to the event.

Roles & Responsibilities

For an overview of all RoPA Roles and Responsibilities, please review the Building a Team module.

Community Coordinator

The Community Coordinator will be responsible for leading the outreach and publicity efforts. They need to make sure there is a clear and strategic communication plan and that tasks are delegated to individual members of the Community Working Group. Given the overall workload of the Community Coordinator, your Project Team may choose to designate an Outreach Specialist to fulfill this role and the duties described within the module.

Outreach Specialist (Optional)

Your Community Coordinator and Project Team may decide to designate an Outreach Specialist to be responsible for event outreach and publicity in lieu of the Community Coordinator. Should your Project Team decide to go this route, tasks in this module assigned to the Community Coordinator will fall to the Outreach Specialist instead.

Social Media Specialist (Optional)

If needed, the Community Coordinator will designate a member of the Community Working Group to serve as the Social Media Specialist. The Social Media Specialist will have experience with a variety of platforms used by the community and be available to post and share frequently for at least one month prior to the event. They may also occupy a professional social media role in one of the partner organizations and have direct access and control of the social media platforms and accounts that the team will use.

Community Working Group

The Community Working Group collaborates to produce and distribute: a press release, flyers, postcards, social media posts, and radio and TV public service announcements (PSA)s. In addition, these group members: make public presentations, speak to the press, and invite personal contacts to the event. This group is collectively responsible for the focused outreach effort to ensure a strong, representative turnout at the event. Ideally, this group includes a broad cross-section of Community Representatives and Project Team organizations.

Community Representatives

Community Representatives are active community members and leaders who have many personal ties and connections already in place. Typically, each representative is tied to an individual sub-group of the defined community and is well-positioned to reach into that sub-group to spread the word about the event. The Community Representatives will help community members understand the unique opportunity to document their stories, the importance of participating, and what they should bring to the event.

Event Coordinator

The Event Coordinator will provide information about date, time, and location of the event as well as what participants can expect at the event. They review all publicity materials (including flyer, press release, social media description, etc.) and are available to answer questions throughout the outreach and publicity process.  In addition, they will assist the Community Coordinator in volunteer recruitment as needed.

All Project Team Members

Everyone on the Project Team can leverage their networks to spread the word and invite people to the event.

Steps to Success

Download a Quick Checklist of the Engaging Participants steps here.

Best Practice Examples

Do you know of a project or program that could be featured here? Please contact us.

Flyer for hip-hop Road Show event shows red text over a number of hip-hop related photographs.
Spreading the Word with Personal Photographs on Social Media

In 2018 UMass Boston and the Boston Public Library (BPL) hosted the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition to document the emergence and growth of hip-hop culture in the greater Boston area. The two institutions hired Cindy Diggs to serve as the event’s Director of Hip-Hop Community Engagement. Her responsibilities included organizing planning meetings to introduce the event to community members and recruiting volunteers. 

Cindy used her Facebook page to publicize the event and encourage her contacts, nearly 5,000 “friends” and 700 “followers”, to show up. In the month before the event, she posted over a dozen times and shared photographs from her personal collection. Each post included a different image featuring performances and informal gatherings with hip-hop community members along with a caption. Cindy chose playful taglines to attract attention: “I’ll show you mine, if you . .” and continued to explain, “here’s what I found while looking for my three things” to bring to the event. She also shared these posts on the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Facebook event page. Cindy was extremely successful in generating a strong turnout on the event day because she consistently used social media to model how community members could prepare for the event and encouraged them to look in their own closets for their own hip-hop mementos.

Logo for Queens Memory project shows the word
Choosing Publicity Media to Suit Your Audience

The Queens Memory Project is an ongoing community archiving program supported by Queens Public Library and Queens College, CUNY in New York City. The project partners with many different community organizations to publicize its scanning days and other events. 

Based in the Queens Public Library, the Queens Memory staff finds that it is still most effective to print paper fliers and display them on library counters and tables. These fliers appeal particularly to older library patrons and community members who reliably pick them up and take them home.  On the other hand, the project’s Community Coordinator finds that Instagram is an especially good way to connect with civically active younger audiences.


Community Tool Box: Increasing Participation and Membership 

While the Community Tool Box from the University of Kansas is geared toward public health, its “Increasing Participation and Membership” section can be relevant for participatory archiving event outreach. The page helps Project Team members identify who needs to be involved in order to achieve the event and collection goals. You may also want to check out the “Implementing Social Marketing” section.

Culture in Transit Toolkit: Outreach Strategies 

The Culture in Transit Toolkit includes a helpful list of effective outreach strategies used by its library partners in New York City.

How to Create a Social Media Strategy in 8 Easy Steps 

While this blog post from Hootsuite includes steps and “pro-tips” to creating a social media sales marketing campaign, you can use the steps to promote your event. You can also sign up with Hootsuite to receive a free downloadable planning template.

How to insert Outlook, Apple Calendar, and Google Calendar invites right into your email 

By including meeting invites in your emails to community members, you can help them put your event right on their calendars. This blog post from Hubspot takes you step by step through the process of adding different types of calendar invites into your emails.

How Press Releases Work 

This entry on press releases from How Stuff Works is a good primer for learning more about what a press release does, how to write one, and how to distribute it. You’ll need to click through all 7 pages to get the complete picture

Why Is Word-of-Mouth Marketing So Incredibly Important? 

This article from Referral Rock explains the power of word of mouth marketing: 92% of people trust word of mouth above all other types of advertising.


Community Engagement

The process of cultivating a two-way relationship with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the wellbeing of those people. Community engagement can take many forms: mobilizing resources and influencing systems, changing relationships among partners, and serving as catalysts for changing policies, programs, and practices. Partners can include organized groups, agencies, institutions, or individuals.  (Adapted from the US Department of Health & Human Services and the Indiana Arts Commission.)

Press Release

A brief, compelling statement written by a publicity or outreach person outlining the facts of a news story or event to be sent to targeted members of the media. The goal of a press release is to get the attention of a journalist, blogger, or writer. It needs to include the basics of who? what? where? when? how? and why? for the journalist to easily create their own story using information from the release. (Adapted from HowStuffWorks.)

Social Media

A collective term for interactions of users and the platforms where they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual networks and communities. Social media platforms include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, and TikTok. (Adapted from Tufts University Relations.)

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Actions taken by an organization to motivate people to share the organization’s products, services, or brand with their friends and family. Word of mouth marketing can also mean the actions of those who share their experiences with a product, service, or brand and then recommend them to others. (Adapted from Referral Rock.)