This week Kimberly Ackmann, our Foreclosure Mediation Program Coordinator, 17th Judicial Circuit, contributes her first blog post about her program’s successful event.
When my colleague Shawn Davis and I were asked to plan a publicity event for our foreclosure mediation program in one week’s time, it amazed me how many things we had to think about that were not foreclosure. I did not have any previous knowledge about press releases or media events, but I was able to get feedback and pointers from our whole foreclosure mediation team. In the end the event was a great success, because we were able to manage the details. For anyone who may need to promote an ADR program like this, here’s an outline of what we did.
In early November, the 17th Judicial Circuit’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, which is managed by RSI, hosted a media event to celebrate the Winnebago County Program’s early impact on the community, and to announce that it is growing to include nearby Boone County. Ultimately the event was a great success, with reports aired on two local news shows, as well as a wonderful write-up in the local newspaper.
With about a week’s notice to prepare, we worked busily to get everything together. We created an invitation and, with the help of the Court Administrator in our Judicial Circuit, Tom Jakeway, we forwarded it to the major media sources. Tom was kind enough to send out the invite by email and fax, and I made follow-up phone calls to help ensure our key guests would be attending. We made sure that the invite contained everything that a news editor might want in a good story: a news-worthy topic, potential interviewees including judges, program-partners, and community members who have benefited from the program, and key speakers. We also closed with “light refreshments to be served.” Who doesn’t want a bit of free food?
We were also careful to follow the AP Guidelines in our News Release, which we made available on the day of the event, and forwarded electronically to all of our media sources. Along with the media, we also invited supporters of the program such as court administrators, mediators and housing counselors to partake in the celebration.
The day of the event, we made sure to place interesting “eye-catchers” around the room. We wanted to have things around that would make an interesting background for the news crew. I knew that the news crew might choose to record their own dialogue, with video images from the event in the background. The plan worked! We had displayed a mediator training manual, small cardstock houses with balloons attached to the roof (as this was a foreclosure mediation event), and a banner. These were all a part of the news coverage, (though, to my chagrin, the balloons were bouncing around in the media’s video due to faulty helium). In hindsight, I should have featured the program’s website more prominently, since it is our portal to the program.
The speaking portion of the program lasted about twenty minutes. A judge who has been instrumental to the program’s development spoke, me (the program coordinator) and partners including our housing counselors. We read from homeowner testimonials, and even had a homeowner present who spoke about her experience in the program. The talks made a perfect introduction for follow-up interviews. (A note to all those who might be filming an event like this: remember, it is not live! If someone makes a mistake, ask to start over. By following this rule, the press can edit and put together a wonderfully usable statement.)
It will be interesting to see if our media event will increase the number of applicants to the program. The trend isn’t clear yet, but I’ll be sure to let you know.