Autobytel wants YOU to spread the message of safe neighborhood driving by organizing a "Take the Pledge" rally in your community – and we're here to help, with tips, helpful hints and free, downloadable Pledge certificates and artwork.
Here are 7 tips for organizing a high-profile, well-attended and SUCCESSFUL Pledge event:
1. Build Local Community Leader Support:
Work to build a coalition of community leaders who can help raise awareness and support for your event. Police departments (and other branches of law enforcement), emergency response departments (fire, trauma centers, etc.), local school principals, neighborhood watch programs and PTA groups all have an interest in safe neighborhood driving, and are good places to start. Start doing this essential groundwork well in advance of the event, at least a month prior to the scheduled date.
2. Alert the Media!
Contact reporters and media members who, based on their past work, might be interested in a safe-driving rally. In cities, this might be a metro or calendar/event listing writer, or an editor of a neighborhood paper. If you live in a smaller town, you won't have as many outlets to choose from, but your story might be bigger news; in addition to your local paper, also contact the local TV/radio sources. When planning a date for your event, you'll have to balance public and media accessibility – newspapers and TV stations maintain smaller crews during weekends, which means less staff to divide among news events. Print media sources have longer scheduling windows than broadcast media. Contact newspapers and magazines at least a month before the event, and TV and radio stations a week prior. Finally, let our public relations department know about your event and contact us at email@example.com if you have questions.
3. Location, Location, Location:
When selecting a location for your Pledge event, the primary considerations should be accessibility, visibility and, of course, safety (for participants as well as passersby). Beyond that, look for a location that works well symbolically. A local elementary school, for example, is a great symbolic venue, if it's something you can arrange with the principal, or perhaps an intersection notorious for speeding (or a recent speeding-related tragedy). Of course, any venue you select would either have to be a public or an authorized private space. In any case, try to get local police involved ahead of time, or at least give them a courteous "heads up."
4. Set the Mood:
Banners, signs and other colorful "eye-catchers" are more than mere window dressing; they can help motivate attendees, get attention, provide context for news photos and video – and help you make your statement. Signage should feature The Pledge program logo and mottos (i.e., "Slow Down," "Drive Like You Would In Your Neighborhood," etc.); and Autobytel is currently providing free downloadable artwork for signs, decals, or other materials you have ideas for on this website. Ideas include large-scale charts showing local traffic fatality and/or speeding statistics and an oversized Pledge certificate that local officials and citizens can sign. Click here to download a low resolution pdf version of the "Take the Pledge" sign.
5. Select Insightful, Effective Speakers:
At our Pledge events we have had speakers from the mayors' offices, city councilmen, state and federal highway safety and transportation officials, trauma doctors, and police and fire chiefs. Together, they make for an inspiring, well-rounded lineup. You should strive for the same – in other words, try to create a panel of experts with wide-ranging insights, stories and perspectives about the problems of speeding and unsafe neighborhood driving.
Don't be afraid to aim high when assembling your speakers. Consider contacting a representative from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), as well as someone from the state department of transportation or your governor's highway safety representative – or even the governor him- or herself. On a local level, definitely contact the mayor, the chiefs of police and fire, and perhaps an American Trauma Society member or another trauma specialist. Anticipate what each speaker might add to the whole experience – e.g., a medic or bereaved parent sharing a personal story, for example, followed by a FHA representative crunching statistics, etc.
On the other hand, don't OVER-book speakers. Each should speak for a short period, with the entire event (including press questions) taking no more than 30 minutes. Solicit the presence of officials and other potential speakers by sending them invitations 2-3 weeks before the event requesting that they demonstrate their support for traffic safety by attending.
6. Spread the Word Online:
The internet represents an essentially cost-free resource to educate people about the Pledge and drive traffic to your event. Create a "group" email list that includes your official and community group contacts (including potential speakers), plus appropriate friends, family members and co-workers. Distribute strategic updates about your event to this group, and encourage them to forward your emails to people they know who might be interested in attending. Don't overwhelm your contacts with detail and lengthy prose –
just key information and developments: time, date, place, speakers, etc.
And if you're not up to hosting a live rally, you can still use the internet to spread the word. Just send a message about the Pledge to five people (or more) and ask each to tell five of their friends, and so on. The internet is an easy, fast, cost-free way to take the power of one and turn it into the power of millions.
No matter what shape your internet activism takes, be sure to paste in a link to the Pledge home page to help recipients learn more about the cause, and take the Pledge online.
7. Stock Up on Pledge Certificates:
Of course the ultimate goal of a "Take the Pledge" rally should be to encourage people to … Take the Pledge. So be sure to stock up on plenty of Pledge certificates – and be sure to let your email contacts know that they can take the Pledge online if they can't attend your event. Click here for a ready-to-print Pledge certificate file can be downloaded at our Download Artwork page.