From the silly to serious, days surrounding a cause or industry can help associations raise awareness, bolster goodwill, and even increase funding.
Everyone has seen unusual “holidays” or awareness days mentioned in the news. There are serious ones, like World Narcolepsy Day, and silly ones, like National Onion Ring Day. Have you ever wondered who declared these days, or if it’s something your association should be doing? Then read on, as we explore the world of created days, weeks, and months.
Why Do Associations Create Awareness Days?
Public relations expert Joan Stewart said organizations create days to get more attention for their industry or cause. “This is a chance to use it as a springboard for publicity,” she said.
Stewart encouraged every association to create something—and not just a day. “I’m a big advocate of choosing a month,” said Stewart, president of Publicity Hound. “The reason I recommend a trade group or association picks a month of the year is because it gives you 30 opportunities to promote it. You are active that whole month.”
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association recently completed its National Infertility Awareness Week. Rebecca Flick, vice president of communications and programs, said NIAW, which started in 1989, has done wonders for RESOLVE and its cause. “I think it’s established RESOLVE as the go-to organization for the patient voice,” she said. “We aren’t an organization that has a huge marketing and PR budget. We create the platform and then engage with all the partners who support RESOLVE, including our community members and our corporate partners.”
Most of the buzz NIAW received was driven by its member community. “The success this year was when Good Morning America did a five-day series on [NIAW],” Flick said. “That is not because RESOLVE called and asked them to do that. We built the platform, and our community did the rest.”
How an association chooses to leverage its day depends on its needs. Julie Flygare, president of Project Sleep, organized World Narcolepsy Day by bringing together 21 groups—nine of them narcolepsy associations—from around the world. With the wide array of organizations, it was difficult to pick one goal for the day.
“All the organizations have different perspectives on what’s important for messaging,” Flygare said. “We decided each group can use it to best fill their goals as an organization. If you really need to host a fundraiser, do that. Or if you have an advocacy piece you need support for, you can do that.”
RESOLVE’s effort around NIAW highlights awareness and fundraising. “We do corporate fundraising for corporate support. We ask our audience to fundraise on our behalf,” Flick said. “We have 10 do-it-yourself walks around the country. We encourage our social media to do fundraisers. We attack it from several different ways.”
How Do You Get Started?
If you want a day, month, or week, simply declare it, and do activities.
But if it’s that easy, all the days must be taken, right? Possibly, but it doesn’t matter, according to Stewart. “They don’t care,” she said. “One of the reasons that journalists love reporting on these days and months of the years is because it’s easy, especially in a slow news week.”
Flygare knew there were already multiple narcolepsy days, but she found a niche, in that World Narcolepsy Day (September 22) would be international. “They have a European Narcolepsy Day, and they get together and hold a meeting,” she said. “I don’t think it means those [other days] are going to go away.”
Once you have a day, week, or month in mind, host activities. If you want any kind of official recognition, the day must be active, Stewart said. Chase’s Calendar of Events is a well-regarded official holiday listing, and Stewart recommended associations apply to be in it once they can show their day is celebrated. Some days, like Pi Day, get Congressional recognition, but that is rare.
When creating a day, also consider the timing. Flygare initially wanted World Narcolepsy Day to be in August, but that didn’t work. “August is holiday in a lot of European countries, and they can’t do August,” she said, noting that associations should be flexible and pay attention to timing conflicts or ideal times their field might have. “I think it’s kind of a balance of both being determined and solution-oriented.”
If You Create It … Will They Come?
Creating a day doesn’t mean the publicity will just roll in. Associations must promote it. “If you can piggy back off a breaking news event, that’s good,” Stewart said. “I think if you take a poll or a survey and release the results of the poll or survey during your day, week, or month of the year, that’s a great tie-in. Or you can cite the top-five trends within your industry and release them in your special month of the year.”
Flick said putting time into a day, week, or month is well worth it. “It’s part of our annual communications strategy and outreach,” she said of NIAW. “We have very little financial investment except for staff resources, and the payoff is priceless. We’ve had a huge interest in state advocacy and increasing access to care. We’re gaining a lot of new followers and new people to engage with.”
For a little inspiration, Thursday is the National Day of Reason, Friday is International Tuba Day, and Saturday is International Respect for Chickens Day. Now that you know how, do you think your association could use a day? Share your thoughts in the comments.