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Organizing and Marketing the Project or Event

Part 3 of designing and implementing a pop-up project

With the major decisions made about the location, the tool or technique being used and the name of the project, the next batch of work involves targeted outreach efforts and occurs in Month 2 of this tool kit's three-month process.

1. Apply For Permits And Insurance

Check with municipal representatives or offices to determine which permit or permits, if any, the team will need to obtain. In most cases, a "block party" permit is suitable. Event or liability insurance may also be needed. In addition, volunteers might be required to sign waiver-and-release forms to reduce liability risks. If alcohol will be served, such as at a pop-up beer garden, a special permit and supplemental insurance may be needed.

2. Invite Merchants To Operate Pop-Up Shops

If your demonstration project needs on-site vendors, publicize that need to the community. Google Forms, Survey Monkey and other websites offer free and easy form and sign-up management tools. If more applicants are received than can be accommodated, select vendors or "shops" that are a good fit for the community and will ensure a variety of offerings.

Examples of pop-up shops include cafes, ice cream stands, art stores, vintage shops, booksellers, barber shops, bakeries, fruit stands, brew pubs and more. (See the image below for examples of potential pop-up shops.) As an alternative or to supplement existing merchants, the planning team can organize pop-up shops that are stocked with donated or purchased items and staffed by volunteers.

3. Fill The Needs List

Create a list of needs — from materials and resources to volunteers and skill sets — and push the list out to the community. Use online forms to allow people to sign up for materials or for pre-build workshop slots. Be sure to engage the municipality so it can provide materials, tools and equipment.

For example, for a pop-up demonstration in Akron, Ohio, the city painted a green bike lane using professional equipment and materials. In other places, bike lanes have been painted or striped by volunteers using donated or purchased materials.

Icons representing various pop-up shops and services.

Image from the Better Block Foundation

The icons shown here represent the types of shops and services that work well at a pop-up demonstration event.

If donations don't provide all the materials that are needed, develop a fundraising campaign (such as by using Kickstarter or IOBY tools) and begin soliciting for financial support to purchase the supplies.

4. Organize The Training Workshops

People with experience in construction trades will be needed to lead volunteers in assembling the project elements during pre-build workshops. These tradespeople should be given a "recipe" for the desired demonstration so they can develop an appropriate approach to building the elements.

Someone from the leadership team needs develop a plan for how the work will get done and then assign suitable tradespeople as doers or trainers. The project elements should be organized into pre-build workshop slots so volunteers can sign up to work.

5. Refine The Workplan And Timeline

As the event comes together, update and refine the workplan and timeline. Communicate any changes to all leadership team members and volunteers.

6. Market And Publicize The Project

Although marketing of the demonstration project began with the community walkabout, now's the time to kick public relations efforts into a higher gear.

  • Stay true to the brand — including the "voice" or tone — that was already developed. Maximize its value by incorporating the language and style into all marketing communications.
  • Maintain contact on social media. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are the mainstay social-media platforms.) Building an audience and maintaining interest require posting to each platform regularly. Be intentional about whether or not to employ all four platforms. For instance, there may not be enough volunteer resources available for unique posts on each platform at regular intervals. If a Kickstarter or other fundraising campaign was launched, that's another platform that will require maintenance and a volunteer's time.
A flyer promoting a pop-up demonstration project in Denton, Texas

Image from Team Better Block

A sample promotional flyer for a pop-up event in Denton, Texas.

  • Having a project or event website is helpful and sometimes essential as an information source. Even non-web-designers can use templates from website providers to create an attractive site that is easy to manage. Securing and hosting a domain is relatively simple and shouldn’t cost more than $40 per year. However, creating and maintaining a website can be time-consuming, so the volunteer who manages this task needs to understand the commitment before taking it on.
  • Engage the community in the process and project by sharing photos and videos of the meetings, the project elements being built, the volunteer workshops, and other events. These visual files will also be important in reporting on the outcomes of the effort.
  • Inform the media. (See the box below for more about that.)

7. Engage The Opposition

Make a special effort to identify and reach out to people who are or might be opposed to the changes the demonstration project may bring. It's important to get naysayers to the table and increase the community's odds of building their trust and involvement. Try to identify their concerns, invite them into the process, and perhaps give them a stake in the project by testing some of their ideas through the project elements.

8. Develop The Evaluation Kit

Create forms for collecting the information that will be used to assess the project's success. Although online forms are most efficient and can often be completed via a tablet like an iPad or a laptop computer, it may be necessary, and wise, to also have printed forms available for collecting information on-site. (See an example survey in the article "Building and Launching the Project or Event.")

A photo showing the covers of Annapolis magazine, The Capital newspaper and The Washington Post

Photo by Melissa Stanton

Promote local pop-up demonstration events to local media outlets.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Conducting effective outreach to news outlets is important to the success of the project and any long-term changes undertaken as a result.

The pop-up demonstration project is an opportunity to build relationships with reporters and help ensure that the public is receiving accurate, timely and meaningful information about efforts and improvements happening in the community.

  • Write a news release that's engaging and structured in the form of a news story. Be sure to include the important five W's — Who, What, When, Where and Why. Describe, for example, the goal of the workshop, who should attend, who will be presenting, where and when the workshop will be held, and any other information that will help make the story meaningful and relevant to the local and regional audience. (Include web-friendly keywords to ensure that the news release and its contents can be easily found online.)
  • Contact and/or distribute the release to key media outlets and reporters. Keep a list of the contacts made and how they would like to receive additional information.
  • Be sure to include non-traditional news sources in the media outreach strategy. For example, a good outlet for local news is Patch.com, which focuses on small communities that may be underserved by media. Distribute the news release to local partners and other local contacts, asking them to share it with their media contacts.
  • For additional coverage before and/or after the event write a guest commentary or letter to the editor. (Many of the messages and details from the news release can be repurposed, but with a personal perspective applied.)

Next: Building and Launching the Project or Event »

The AARP Pop-Up Demonstration Tool Kit was written by Robert Ping (Executive Director, WALC Institute) and edited by Melissa Stanton (Advisor/Editor, AARP Livable Communities). 


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