Making the Most of a Milestone

Facing a major anniversary? Not sure what to do first? A few tips for getting out of the gate:

Don't wait....Nothing will keep things on track and within budget better than getting an early start. Three years' leadtime is ideal. If you don't have three years, you can still accomplish a great deal, but be prepared to move along at a quick clip and to sacrifice a few good ideas. Decisions must be made and implemented sooner rather than later. If you're really short on time, err on the side of quality not quantity of events. Budget rush fees for ads, publications, and exhibits.

Identify your audiences....A key question to answer in the anniversary planning phase: Who is your audience? Employees? Customers and prospects? Media? All? Other? Knowing your audience is critical to picking the best theme, planning the right events, and getting the most bang for your buck.

Marshall your forces....Focus on brainstorming and securing buy-ins during the early phase of planning. Nothing is more confusing or impact-depleting than to have a half dozen departments running around doing uncoordinated celebrations. The left hand needs to know what the right one is up to, or you'll end up all thumbs later on.

Get your history straight....An anniversary hangs its hat on history. Make sure you've got your facts right. At a minimum, you need a solid, accurate historical chronology to use for media and event planning.

Start digging....Now is a good time to drag out those boxes of old documents and photographs tucked away in the file room, and find out what's hiding in there. It's also not too early to start looking for old period photographs and graphics, if your own collection is sparse. Commercial sources can respond quickly (and expensively), but places like the Library of Congress and National Archives won't rush to fill your order no matter how much you plead and beg. Don't forget to tap into the memorabilia collections of retired employees and long-time members.

Pick a theme....Anniversaries need a catchy catch-phrase to snare attention and pull everything together. Avoid ponderous, pompous language. Complement the theme with an eye-catching graphic. Use them together on stationery, seals, ads, publications, trade show exhibits, etc., throughout the anniversary year.

Build on existing programs....An effective anniversary program is knitted into the organization's normal activities, as well as celebrated on its own. The folks who handle regularly scheduled publications and meeting agendas should be alerted well in advance to incorporate anniversary material and themes into the items and events for which they're responsible.

Make a public splash....An anniversary is no time for modesty. You've got something to celebrate! Let the world know that you're proud of your longevity, your heritage, and your success. Plan a meaningful "nostalgia" event to snag the attention of the press. Catch your customers' eye with special promotions and gifts.

Give thanks.....A milestone is the perfect time to publicly thank your customers, employees and anyone else who has had a role in boosting your organization. Roll up your sleeves and roll out the red carpet!

Archive the anniversary....In the heat of celebration, don't forget to stow away at least ten copies of every anniversary-related item you produce, plus your planning documents. When you gear up the next big milestone, you won't have to reinvent the wheel.

Last, but not least....Have fun! An anniversary is a unique opportunity to celebrate, and one that won't circle back around for another 10 or 25 years. Make it an occasion to remember in more ways than one!

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