Pulling together a large community event for your school takes an inordinate amount of work, so you’ll want thousands, rather than hundreds, to come. While your P&C probably has proven ways to inform parents at the school, getting the word out to the general public can be trickier. We’ve collected tried and tested ideas for you to consider, and some important regulations to note that your P&C might not have been aware of.
Even if your P&C does not have a social media page, it is the perfect tool for spreading the word. Simply ask parents at your school to share news of your event to their personal social media feeds. You’ll need something easy to share and an attractive graphic containing the essential event details is ideal. You can easily create attractive layouts of simple text using free services such as Canva or Easil, or combine free images from sites such as Unsplash or Pixabay with text using an App such as Wordswag or Over. (Or see these tools for great visuals.) Once you have your image the school might email it to all families and ask them to consider sharing it. Personally ask people you know or who are involved with the event to share the image on social media. Just 10 or 20 people can have huge reach.
There are also Facebook groups where you can post about your event to a broad audience if you join, such as ‘Canberra Notice Board Group’, ‘Garage Sales Canberra’, ‘Canberra Buy/Sell/freebies and Notice Board’, ‘Canberra and ACT Region Buy Swap Sell and Giveaway’. Pages with large followings, such as ‘Canberra Mums’ may also share your event if you ask nicely. 'My Gungahlin' is happy to promote P&C events happening in that end of town.
If your P&C runs a social media feed, build up to the event over time. Again, personally ask people – friends, P&C members, people running stalls at the fair – to share your posts. Facebook’s recent algorithm change counts against pages run by businesses and groups like P&Cs, but if everyone gets behind crucial posts – like a great graphic advertising your event – it can make a difference. Facebook Ads or ‘boosting’ crucial posts can also be a cost effective way to promote your event. You can set the amount that you wish to spend (even $20 can make a real impact), dates you want the ‘sponsored post’ to appear, and target your audience based on location, age and interests.
Flyers and posters – everywhere!
With a bit of foresight your Social Media graphic might also be a flyer for your event, or at least the beginning of one. Word processing programs also come with ready-made flyer templates which can look great if there’s not a volunteer graphic-designer in your community. Talk to your school about printing these on the school photocopiers (black and white is much more in line with school budgets) or get them printed in large numbers at Officeworks or a print shop.
It will ensure a crowd and create a community feel if you can deliver flyers to local letter boxes. Several companies will deliver for a surprisingly low fee, or divide your suburb into smaller areas and ask parents to take a patch to deliver to.
Alternatively, talk to businesses that do regular mail-outs and ask if they will include your flyer. Research shows that customers respond to companies that support community causes, so make sure the businesses you contact know this.
If you’re making a flyer, why not also print it out as some A3 size as posters? Put them up on local noticeboards at shopping centres, community centres, clubs and gyms. Local shops may be happy to display your poster if you ask.
Also arrange for your flyer/poster to have a whole page of the school newsletter with a note asking parents to print it out and pin it on noticeboards at their own office, gym etc. That will multiply your message further!
Your school’s large street sign is the obvious place to start and most principals are happy to include P&C messages. To reach more motorists, you’ll need more signs. Several Canberra printing and sign-writing companies print to flute-board to make the signs we’re all familiar with along roadsides. A standard 600x900mm sign costs $20-25 for black and white, and $30-35 for colour, depending on how many you order. Think carefully about the following before you order.
Keep it simple. The sign must be readable as people drive past. That means simple fonts, large lettering and few words. ‘Roma School Fair Saturday 8-2’ might be all you need. Artwork can be nice but make sure the main details visitors will need are big and bold. Be careful with colour – it’s more expensive and nothing is easier to read than simple black and white.
Think long term. If your event is likely to be annual, consider omitting the date and instead write ‘this Saturday’ and then erect them six days before the event. Alternatively, design them with the intention of pasting next year’s date over the current one. You’ll need a few layers of paper to properly block out the old date when the sign is backlit. A sheet of clear contact over the whole lot keeps them looking good and the rain out.
Get someone else to pay for it! Many P&Cs have been able to strike up partnerships with their local real-estate agents. Agents regularly print signage and may be willing to pay for yours in exchange for adding their branding.
Once you have your signs, attach one or two garden stakes. Zip-ties work well, or use screws with large washers to stop the fixtures tearing through the flute board. Work out where to place them. Marking this on a map will make it easier to divide up the job between a couple of people, and easier to collect afterwards. In dry weather take along some water the soften the ground so you can drive the stakes in far enough to resist the wind!
Following the rules!
The ACT Government has a Code of Practice relating to Movable Signs (see the Transport Canberra and City Services website). It is an offence not to comply and city rangers can confiscate wrongly-placed signs. Schools and community groups may display a maximum of 20 movable signs for up to two weeks before the event. Signs may be an A-frame or the more familiar board mounted on stakes and must not exceed 900mm x 1200mm, including the frame/stakes. Include your P&C name as small print for identification. Your P&C must have public liability insurance of at least $10 million to place road-side signs (which is easily covered by Council’s P&C insurance package).
Signs must not be placed anywhere where they obstruct the path of pedestrians. They must be at least 1.2m from the road curb, and cannot be placed:
Think about where motorists in your area queue or pass daily, but make sure that you know and follow the rules for sign placement (see right). Be sure to collect your signs shortly after the event and store them for next time.
Making it news-worthy
If you event is linked to something newsworthy, the local Chronicle newspaper might be interested in a story which includes the details of the event. An occasion linked to a significant school birthday, with a unique offering or guest, or a world-record attempt, for example, might get them interested. You’ll need to contact the paper a couple of weeks in advance for the story to get to readers before your event.
Online and On-air
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 2, 2018.