A primary goal of LCCs is to make cultural activities available and accessible to every sector of the community by communicating with the public. Ensuring that grantees publicly credit the local council and the MCC for their grants is important for councils as well as grantees. Be sure to direct grantees to the MCC Credit & Publicity Kit. Visibility and audience development are essential for the continued success of councils and the projects they support.
Publicity efforts should be tailored to each council's specific community. Included below are some important steps to help navigate the varied strategies used for council publicity:
Credit & Publicity Requirements for LCCs
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is extremely appreciative of the efforts made by local cultural council volunteers in ensuring public access to culture in our communities. LCCs and their grant recipients are vital partners in our attempt to raise awareness about public funding for culture in Massachusetts, both in the Legislature and with the public.
According to a focus group study conducted by the MCC, most people, while supportive of state funding for cultural programs, are not aware of the Massachusetts Cultural Council or of the public dollars that this agency makes available to all of the state's towns and cities. We need each council's help to increase the visibility of the MCC and the 329 local cultural councils in Massachusetts.
Below are credit and publicity requirements and strategies for local cultural councils. The MCC greatly appreciates the help of LCCs in increasing visibility of the important role public funding plays in arts and culture in the Commonwealth.
Each council is required by the LCC Program Guidelines to conduct certain publicity about the grant cycle. Local councils are expected to:
- Promote local awareness of funded programs.
- Inform the public of the availability of funds, location of applications, program guidelines and submission deadline.
- Publicize the names, addresses, and phone numbers of council's local office or contact person.
- Communicate with all applicants regarding grant decisions.
- Publicize the grant awards.
Proper Acknowledgement Formats
MCC should be credited using the MCC's logo and credit line. LCCs are encouraged to use both the MCC logo and the credit statement when possible, but are only required to use one.
Credit Line. "The (name of the local cultural council) is a local agency funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency."
Logo.The MCC logo is available online in a variety of formats. Please use the logo as a complete unit (words and graphics). Alterations of the MCC logo are not permitted. If a council has their own logo, both logos should be included. The MCC logo may be paired with a council's own logo. See the Lakeville Arts Council's logo to the left as an example. If you have questions, please contact the LCC Staff.
Letterhead. Your LCC's letterhead must include the MCC credit logo. This acknowledges the collaborative relationship between your LCC and the MCC. One simple way to comply is to place the logo on the bottom of your stationery.
Printed Materials. The MCC logo must appear on all of your local council's printed materials (including announcements, invitations and posters) as well as in films/video tapes.
Online Materials. Use the credit line and credit logo prominently in online materials (including web sites, listservs, intranets and electronically distributed releases). The electronic logo should link to the MCC web site, www.massculturalcouncil.org.
Media Releases. Credit must be given to the MCC in all media releases. In addition to the MCC credit logo appearing on your stationery, the credit statement must appear in the text.
Promotional Appearances and Newspaper Interviews. On television and radio appearances by representatives of the LCC, verbal credit must be given at least once during the broadcast to acknowledge support the LCC receives from the MCC. Also, the LCC must acknowledge the MCC's support in any newspaper interviews about LCC programs.
Credit Requirements for LCC Grant Recipients
Grant recipients are required to acknowledge the LCC and the MCC as funding sources. Councils should include the grantee credit and publicity requirements with letters of approval sent to grantees. Councils may require submission of printed materials with grantee reimbursement requests to show how they used the MCC logo and/or credit line. Recipients who do this incorrectly (or not at all) should receive a follow-up letter from the LCC affirming the credit policy.
Please note that in order to assist LCCs in efforts to implement the credit policy, each spring, the MCC emails grantees and directs them to the credit policy and to logos on the MCC web site.
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Develop a simple publicity plan for the year, with tasks and assignments on a calendar timeline. Publicity plans should be crafted to reach a council's specific community. Many councils find success in promoting their grants program by combining outreach to traditional media (i.e., newspapers, television, radio) with at least one other publicity technique. Council administrative funds may be used to pay for publicity materials and strategies.
The plan can be very simple but should cover:
- How and when to announce the availability of funds in a way that encourages a variety of applicants and proposals.
- Other ways to create greater visibility for the council and its programs beyond a press release.
One or two members of the council can serve as a council publicist. Design a campaign for the year and plot it out on a calendar timeline. Determine which strategies will best help to publicize the availability of council funds or increase visibility and community support. See a sample publicity plan.
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Working with the Media
Developing good working relationships with the media can help an LCC and its grantees promote events, increase memberships, expand programming and reach audiences. Here is some information on how to successfully cultivate productive relationships with media:
Before starting, it's important to consider what information reporters will want:
- Organization - Have a clear sense of what the council is promoting (is it an event, an artist, a program?). Be sure to have all the specific details on hand.
- Timeliness - Know the media deadlines, and be sure to give advance notice for upcoming events.
- Local Angles - How is this event/awareness campaign/grant announcement going to impact the community? Are local people involved? Will local schoolchildren benefit?
- Newsworthiness - Play up any ties the program has to current events.
- Accessibility - If a reporter has a question and wants information, make sure to be accessible by phone at least on a 9-5 basis.
- Photos - Photos are hard to get placed unless they are great quality. Make sure photos are dynamic, colorful and with good contrast. Before sending digital images, be sure to ask what file type and size the individual would prefer.
- Unique Information - Most reporters will want to cover a story differently than their competition covered it. A daily paper will cover things as news; weeklies tend to want a feature angle about the people or communities involved. Prepare several story angles to offer.
Most editors and reporters prefer to receive information by email, but it always helps to first ask journalists how they like to receive news. Many media outlets will include submission guidelines on their web sites. If you are interested in delving more deeply into the topic of working with the media, the Corporation for National & Community Service has an excellent Media Advisory Guide.
Contacting the Media
Most newspapers and other media outlets have information available online (look for the "contact us" section). In addition, be sure to read the local paper the names of the editor and writers will be published there.
Radio and TV stations usually have time slots set aside for public service announcements. Community access TV and local radio shows are also great outlets for disseminating information.
Computerize a media contact list. Identify an LCC member or a volunteer in your community who would be willing to assume this task for the council, or check with the town hall about access to a computer. Be sure to keep the list edited and updated for future use.
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Press releases are an important marketing tool. Most press releases need to be received at least a week (sometimes up to six) before they are published, so plan accordingly. The most important points for the news release are the availability and purpose of council funds. Press releases often include information about:
- Application deadline
- Where/how to get application forms
- Grant period for completing projects
- Typical range of dollars awarded
- General criteria used in awarding grants, including local policies or priorities
- Contact address/telephone number for more details
- Past projects to illustrate what has been previously funded and for how much
- Information about reimbursement policies
- Applicant interview option
Your press releases are more likely to be effective if they:
- Are typewritten, dated and include a contact name, telephone number and email address.
- Answer the "5Ws" of journalism: "who, what, where, when, and why".
- Do not require revision (such as spelling corrections) it helps to have someone proofread a submission first.
- Are concise, clear and free of opinion and flowery language.
Due to space limitations, even good articles are often edited. Place the most important information at the beginning of the article so that it can be shortened if need be. This includes the MCC credit statement. If left to the final sentence it will often be removed. If possible, try to keep the release to one page.
Key times of year to make announcements:
- An initial release, between mid-August and the first week of September, to announce the upcoming grant cycle. Since official MCC notification comes in late August, consider publishing the previous year's allocation and the average range of awards the council typically makes. See a sample fall press release.
- A second release three to four weeks before the October 15 reiterating the application deadline
- A third release in late winter to early spring announcing final grant awards. State legislators are notified of the awards in their district and encouraged by the MCC to issue a press release. Consider collaborating with legislators to make this announcement jointly. See a sample spring press release.
Additional releases could be submitted regarding:
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In addition to press releases, there are plenty of other ways councils can raise their visibility and become a more integral part of their community. The following strategies have been used successfully by local councils, large and small. Consider what's feasible and what kind of impact the council wants to have in the community.
Take the time to craft some different promotional materials. These could be event- or deadline-specific, or a more perennial format that could be reused or easily updated for ongoing use.
Flyer/Poster: Design a simple, inexpensive flyer or poster using administrative funds. Consider collaborating with one or more other councils in the region to share the work and expense of creating it. Post or distribute flyers in offices, factories, day-care centers, schools, community centers, supermarkets and general stores, health clinics, store windows, post offices, libraries, art supply stores, bookstores, cafes, laundromats, etc.
Brochure/Fact Sheet: Create an informal piece to distribute at events, community input meetings, in mailings to potential applicants and to give to the general public. These are some examples of brochures other councils have created:
Activities Report: An activities report is an effective way to publicize the impact of cultural programs and services on the vitality of the community and can be submitted for publication in the municipality's annual report. These brief reports could include:
- The funding philosophy of the LCC (mission and goals)
- Local priorities and guidelines
- Funded projects
- Special events conducted by the council
- Current/retiring members
- Attendance at conferences and conventions
In addition to local media, annual reports can also be sent to local and state elected officials, community organizations, schools, PTOs, individuals, and business contacts. See an example of an LCC Activities Report (PDF).
Web site: Update the council's basic information on its public web page (accessible only if using LCC log-in) and give out your council's web address liberally (e.g. mass-culture.org/Bolton or mass-culture.org/Scituate).
- See an example of a successful public web page as part of www.mass-culture.org
- See an example of a successful stand-alone web site (locally created)
- Tips for using your MCC public web page
- Although councils' MCC public web pages are already ranked in Google, if a council has a stand-alone web site, there are ways to help Google find you.
Social Media: Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter can help you connect to your community and promote council activities and funded programs. They are also free and relatively easy to use after some practice.
Online Calendar: Create an online resource to keep your community informed of council activities and local cultural events. Many services like CalendarWiz or Google Calendar are very easy to maintain and very inexpensive (or free).
LCCs are in a unique position to become a cultural hub for their communities. Additional outreach will go a long way towards raising the council's visibility and creating or strengthening local relationships.
Host a Table at a Local Community Event - There are many community events at which the council can have a presence. Think about Fall Festivals, town parades and events, Founder's Day festivities and more.
Host an Awards Ceremony - Recognize a business, an educator and/or a volunteer who supports the cultural life of the community in some way during the year. This is similar to a grantee reception and some councils celebrate both grantees and other community members at one event or connect the event with an exhibit opening or performance that was council-funded.
Take the Lead on Collaborations - Be the catalyst to get people together to talk. Bring together local artists and arts organizations with companies, stores, restaurants and banks.
Use Direct Mail - Mail out council promotional materials to a list that includes community service, civic or religious groups, town hall staff and elected officials, business associations, individual artists and cultural groups, school representatives, etc. Consider developing a mailing list on a member's computer which can make labels easily or piggyback with a town mailing that is already being done (i.e. census, water/electric bill etc).
Start an Email List - Collect email addresses at all public events where the council has a presence. Then communicate regularly about what is happening in the community. Some councils have had success with email marketing companies like Constant Contact. While email marketing is a convenient (and "green") alternative to direct mail, make sure you do your homework first to avoid being identified as "spam." See tips on email marketing.
Submit Calendar Listings - These succinct notices are meant to encourage a listing in a local calendar. They generally follow a "who-what-where" format, with an announcement or short description of the event. Check the web sites of your city or town and local newspaper to see if they publish online calendar listings. For more information about publicity resources, see the ArtSake blog post How to Let the Universe Know about your Art News.
Get Published - Write an opinion piece or letter to the editor about something important to the council's work. For example, is the town restoring a local landmark statue? If so, it may be an opportunity for the council to talk about the benefits of public art. Or, have the LCC chair write a letter about grant availability or to thank the community for its support.
Give a Public Presentation - Discuss the funding program and priorities with community groups seeking speakers (Rotary, Lions, PTO/PTAs, teacher associations, human service coalitions), local elected officials (select board, city council), and listeners of radio talk shows or public access television. More information about giving a presentation can be found below.
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Giving a Presentation
Getting people to understand exactly what the local cultural council does can be a challenge. A great way to educate people about council work is to give a presentation providing the background they need to understand the program as a whole, and showing them the types of projects that get funded. Telling the council's story to a variety of audiences can benefit the council in many ways:
A group of new or potential members:
- Get them excited about the program
- Get them on board as members
Officials from your local town or city government:
- Show them the value of the council's work
- Strengthen the council's request for additional funding
Potential donors such as businesses or individuals:
- Strengthen the credibility of the council by demonstrating its role in a larger program
- Show them what their money would be supporting
The public - catch them at the council's community input meeting, ask to give a presentation at a town/city meeting, keep a slide show running at your LCC booth at a local fair/event, or have a slide show running on your local access cable channel:
- Educate them about the council
- Get them interested, ask them what they would like to see in their community
Applicants - give a presentation to kick off an applicant information session or grant workshop
- Help them understand the goals of the program and the LCC before they apply
- Provide examples of excellent programs, encourage quality grants
Councils can create their own slide show or download a PowerPoint slide show presentation from the MCC. (Please note: The file size for this presentation is 8MB, so it may take a while to download, depending on the internet connection.)
The MCC's PowerPoint presentation is ready to use, as it is. If an LCC would like to provide additional information about the program to the audience, we have provided possible speaking points (within the PowerPoint presentation) for each slide, as well as highlighting places where LCCs can personalize their message. Or a council can modify the presentation to suit its needs. One can take out slides, add slides, write a different script or insert council pictures.
The slide show is formatted as a PowerPoint file and requires Microsoft's PowerPoint software program to run it on a computer. For information on using PowerPoint, read our tip sheet.
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One way to increase the council's visibility is to purchase an LCC banner, which can be displayed at LCC events in the municipality. The banner is an excellent way to promote the council's work in the community.
The MCC has negotiated a 15% discounted rate for cultural councils with the vendor The Sign Center which allows LCCs to obtain a high-quality personalized banner at a savings.
Each banner and poster is designed to last for many years with proper cleaning and care, so a small investment will pay for itself over time. To order a banner and find out information about additional sizes and types of signs, please contact Caitlyn Cuomo at The Sign Center at 781-619-1130. Banners can either be picked up or sent via Federal Express ground shipping for a small additional charge. Instant Sign is eager to work with LCCs and has promised a quick turnaround time.
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