Through its programs, activities, and publications, the Archaeological Institute of America raises awareness of archaeology and fosters an archaeologically informed public. The Institute’s public outreach efforts reach hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world. On a local level, AIA local societies fulfill the Institute’s mission through programs that espouse archaeological responsibility, emphasize the importance of cultural heritage, and reiterate the need for the preservation of the past. This guide describes some of these programs in greater detail and provides instructions for organizing and adapting these activities for local use. The manual is a resource for any society, large or small, that is looking to strengthen and expand its public outreach activities.
The programs described in this guide are just a few of the many events that can be organized by societies. If your society organizes an event that is not described in this manual, please send us a description of the program and how you planned it and we will add it to this guide. Also, feel free to modify these programs to make them suitable for your local society.
Important issues to keep in mind when planning public outreach events:
When I was younger, I wanted to be an archaeologist!
We have all heard this before. People are fascinated by archaeology and the past. Find out what interests the people in your community.
Be current and relevant
Address current issues in archaeology especially if they are controversial or on the nightly news. Find local specialists to comment on the current stories.
Offer a variety of programs
Move beyond lectures to workshops, walking tours, and movie nights. Offer diverse programs that will attract audiences with different interests and of all ages.
Present visual and (if possible) interactive programs
Make sure that lectures are illustrated. Offer programs that incorporate hands-on or interactive activities that allow people to experience archaeology while they hear about it.
Be creative and flexible
Offer programs in non-traditional settings. Move out of classrooms and lecture halls and into museums, retirement communities, and other areas outside the usual circles.
Involve the audience in the topic
Enhance presentations with debates, discussions and other interactive activities that get people involved in archaeological discussions.
Publicize your event
Offering the event is not enough. Make sure that people are aware of the program. Use whatever means you have at your disposal—websites, direct mailing, print advertisements, community radio and TV, public radio, and e-mail lists are all useful tools for publicizing an event. Inform people about the “who, what, where, and when” for each program.
Maintain an events calendar
Keep a calendar of your events on your society’s website and list them on the AIA website. Publish the calendar in your newsletter and/or email updates to your society’s members..
Take advantage of already existing programs
Schedule your events to coincide with International Archaeology Day or statewide events like archaeology month. Piggyback on their advertising and publicity efforts.
Find other organizations and people who may be interested in helping you organize and present your program. Collaboration helps share the burden of organization, reaches larger and more diverse audiences, and allows you to plan more complex events that may not have been possible if you were working on your own.
Increase your program’s appeal
Make your program suitable for multiple audiences and provide benefits to the people who attend. Work with colleges to provide “course credit” for your programs. Register your program with your state’s Department of Education and provide professional development credits to the teachers who attend your program.
Share your ideas
Share your ideas with other AIA societies and describe your experience (both pro and con) with the program. Encourage and challenge each other to expand local programming.
Take advantage of the Local Society Outreach Grant program
The Society Outreach Grant program is a great way to get funding to help pay for your programs. See description below or visit the AIA website for details.
Ask the AIA
The staff at the National Headquarters is there to help in any way they can. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may or may not need insurance for your program. Many venues will include your event under their umbrella insurance coverage. When deciding to hold a lecture or event at a new venue, check with them to see if they will require a separate certificate of insurance from your society.
Promoting your event is an extremely important aspect of outreach programming. Make sure that people know about your program. Below are suggestions and ideas for promoting your event. The main thing to keep in mind is to spread the word about your event to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible.
By visiting the AIA’s website, www.archaeological.org, you can see other web pages for societies and also view links to additional sites which may provide more opportunities for publicizing your lectures and events. Remember, you can add your society’s additional events to the AIA’s Society pages!
Your Own Website
The Internet is a vital source of information for many people and an important tool in helping your society to reach your widest possible audience.
Beyond publicizing on your own web page, there are many other options for publicizing your event online. There are probably electronic forums or Facebook groups for your community, local campus or for special interest groups. Many newspapers and periodicals maintain a listing service, or electronic calendar, that accepts postings that fall within specified guidelines. How do you know where to look in the first place?
Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
Many radio and television stations still provide free broadcast time. Management has found that public service time is good for business; it also fills the gaps of commercial minutes not sold to advertisers.
To attract listeners, radio stations program a mix of entertainment, news, traffic, weather, and other public affairs, all geared to attract a substantial segment of the people who live within their broadcast area. Most radio stations direct their programs to a selected audience. Find out which radio stations in your area are best suited to announce archaeological lectures and events. The NPR website www.npr.org is a great place to find your local public radio stations, most of which let you submit your event announcement online at no charge.
A radio station knows its audience. To be successful in public relations as it applies to radio, you must know your audience and the stations so that you can match your offerings to the needs and interest of the audience. The general manager, the program director, the talk show host, or public affairs program producer must be convinced that the topic you propose will be of interest to the station’s target audience.
In composing the copy for your announcements, keep in mind that you must successfully:
Prepare your announcement in the same format as a press release, with a Public Service Announcement heading and an indication of the length of the announcement (30 seconds). For copy that is to be read over the air, always triple or double space your text and print the full text in capital letters. In writing copy, you should strictly adhere to word count limitations. A general rule of thumb is that a 10-second spot will have approximately 20 words, a 20-second spot, 50; a 30-second spot, 75, etc.
Talk Show Interviews
If a speaker is going to be in the area for enough time and is willing to give a radio interview, try to schedule an interview with a local radio talk show. The key to successfully pitching a story to a talk show producer or guest coordinator is to mix timeliness with consumer interest.
Most local newspapers have a section with event schedules; daily or weekly calendars of events that list meetings, and their times and places. Lead-time for calendar listings varies. Newspapers generally need them a week to 10 days ahead of time and magazines up to 3 months before publication. Call your local paper and find out the name of the editor in charge of this particular column or section. Remember to send or email that person a press release for the event. Check with local colleges to see if they will publish your listing in their campus papers.
If flyers are attractively designed and posted in well-traveled locations, they will catch the eye of people interested in archaeology who will want to attend your society’s lectures. Flyers can also be sent through the mail to your members and to other interested groups. Lectures are a public service and therefore you want the largest audience possible.
How to Design a Flyer
In order to inform the general public as well as your members of an upcoming event (and to attract new members), a press release could be sent to local newspapers. Press releases generally follow a standard format, and are, therefore, easy to write. This section gives some general hints for writing press releases using lectures as an example, but the ideas and suggestions presented here will work with all events. One way to help with local promotion is to designate one person in your society to be responsible for writing press releases and for contacting the media. The National Headquarters can also help by providing press releases for some of the National Lectures (usually the Joukowsky, Norton, and Kress lectureships).
Planning a Press Release for a Lecture
Decide your publicity goals for the lecture: Increase attendance? Highlight activities of your society? Attract future members? Then, formulate a press release strategy to accomplish these goals. Any publicity must be done well before the event and must appear in places where likely candidates will see it, e.g., university papers, suburban papers, notices in magazines read by likely participants, online calendars, and social media. Many traditional publication outlets have strict deadlines; monthly publications often need three months’ notice for items in their calendar section. Daily newspapers are less rigid, but weekend or Sunday sections often have two or three week lead times. You can learn the deadlines by calling editors of the appropriate sections or by reading the rules published in each issue.
When the speaker and topic have been decided, review the lecturer’s CV and description of the lecture. Try to figure out an “angle” or story idea. Does the topic relate to any current issues? Are there specific people in the community who would be interested in the topic? Why is this topic or speaker newsworthy? Why should people come to this event? It’s all too easy to ‘preach to the converted’: try to look at the lecture with a fresh eye, and consider how you might attract a different kind of audience in addition to your usual attendees. If you have questions about the topic, or you think the topic or speaker may be interesting enough for an interview by local press or radio/TV, call the lecturer with your questions. Most will be happy to talk and will be willing to be interviewed.
General Rules for Preparing Press Releases
Writing the Press Release
Photographs and Additional Materials
Sending to the Media
It’s better to send in your information a little early than to risk missing a publicity deadline. Think you’ve missed it already? Email it with a short ‘hot off the press’ note to the correct copy editor’s attention; depending on space, it may still make the deadline. Email is the most effective way to quickly and reliably get your information submitted, plus, most newspapers rely on electronic submissions so they don’t have to re-type any information. Digital photos (saved as TIFF or JPEG files) can also be attached to an email document and submitted along with the story.
Click here for examples of successful press releases. The first is an example of a brief press release sent to those newspapers or other media where you have established a ‘file’: repeated contact has provided them with much of the background information about your society which they can reference at any time. This allows you to send short releases that focus on the highlights of an individual event, prompting the reporter to follow up with an article. These mid-length articles can be a real benefit in garnering a larger audience (copy of the article follows the press release).
The second example is a press release in more of an ‘outline’ form that can be adapted to fit most of your press release needs; it is numbered to correspond to the breakdown in Section II:C:1, part f, below.
Specific Comments on AIA Lecture Program Press Releases
Letterhead stationery or press release paper can be made by downloading the logos from the AIA website and adding the local address. The release should look neat and tidy, but key elements are content and contacts.
(2) Contact Information
This is information for the editors in case they have any questions about your release. Give an evening telephone number if possible, as some evening reporters’ jobs are to verify information collected during the day.
(3) Sample Headline
Create a sample headline appropriate for the paper you’re sending the release to and type it in capital letters. You’re really trying to interest the assignment editor or a feature reporter by portraying the subject as something their readers might be interested in. (FYI: Even if a headline is provided, special headline writers at the paper may rewrite it.) Tailor the headline to the audience of the papers you’re giving the release to. The subject should be timely and interesting or the speaker renowned enough to catch the eye of a big-city daily paper. If there’s a local angle, use it. Try for a one-line headline, but you can create a main headline and a subhead, as in the third example. With this type of headline, each part should have an audience-catching idea.
(4) Introductory Paragraph
This section contains the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, or WHY—the heart of the release. Give this information as concisely as possible. Most people today are scanners—they glance at the section/article, and only if the subject or writing interests them do they continue reading. You only have a few seconds to get your information to the reader.
(5) Elaboration on Subject
Although the release should be one page if possible, you may wish to invest in a paragraph to tell why the speaker or topic is important or may be interesting to the paper’s readers. Draw your own conclusions; an important selling point may not be on the speaker’s resume. Include any pertinent knowledge you might have; a personal touch usually attracts more attention.
(6) Miscellaneous Details
This is a good place to give special information such as directions to the lecture or about incentives to lure undecided people to attend. Possible items to note are: provisions for the handicapped, slides, food and drink available, reception, complimentary parking.
(7) Local Information
In this paragraph, include information about important dignitaries who might be present or an award that will be given as it makes the event more “current” or newsworthy. If your society is performing a community outreach or education program, you could use it as a “local connection” paragraph. You usually have to dig or be creative to find local connection, but it often is the key to success.
(8) Institute Information
This is a mini-fact sheet with information about the AIA to establish your credentials as a credible source of information. It should not be more than three sentences long and should reflect the goals of the Institute. You can also enclose a fact sheet or brochures with the release.
(9) ### or –30–
These end markings indicate the end of the story to the editor. If you prepare a two-page release, in order to keep stories together, end the first page with —more— (centered on the page) and begin the second page with a header, e.g., Macedonian tombs 2/2.
(10) Note to the Editor
This is special information for the press: Speaker available for an interview? Camera-ready picture of relevant artifact? Interesting photo opportunities available from X p.m. to Y p.m.?
Sending the Press Release
Address your press release to a particular person or desk at a particular newspaper or media outlet. Most prefer email – it’s a good idea to send an ‘intro’ email first to determine who the correct person is and whether or not they can open attachments; some will prefer you include the information in the body of the email text. Keep the formatting simple, use Plain Text rather than Rich Text (HTML) until you know what email system they are using. Most newspapers, magazines or calendars have websites that include a ‘Contact Us’ page listing department editors. If no online site is found, or if no email is given but rather a standard mailing address, you can mail your materials in, still checking for the correct person and/or department. In this case, personalization of envelopes and a follow-up call can go a long way (you can also fax many items).
** Find out if there is a journalist or journalism student in your society. Finding members with certain special skills, who are willing to help with specific projects, is a great way to get many things done professionally! **
The AIA Society Outreach Grant Program encourages AIA societies to plan and implement outreach activities in their local community. While any event that promotes archaeology, the AIA’s mission, and focuses on public outreach and education will be considered for funding the grant encourages innovative outreach programs, replicable by other societies that go beyond the regular lecture program supported by the national office (see past projects). Funds may be used for any expense related to organizing and conducting the programs, these include but are not limited to materials, travel expenses, honoraria, advertisements, and publicity. If funds are requested for a lecture, the Society should provide adequate explanation as to how this lecture is meaningfully different from the routine lecture series (e.g., involvement of new audience, development of new partnerships, educational programs, visibility in an attractive segment of the community or the like). Attracting new members to the AIA and the society should also be a goal.
Grant money cannot be used for things like outside management (i.e. hiring an event planner) or for basic operating costs. The grant is available to any chartered AIA society. Preference is given to new projects. Grants do not have a set monetary value. The amount awarded to a Society will be contingent on the estimated cost of the event or project being planned. Please see the AIA website to determine the maximum grant amount. Applications must include a detailed budget and a final report must be submitted within two months after the completion of the event.
Multiple grants will be awarded in each cycle. All applications must be submitted online. No mailed applications will be accepted. Award winners will be notified within six weeks of submission of the completed application (including all attachments and budgets). See website for deadlines.
For more information about the AIA Society Outreach Grant, please see the website or contact email@example.com.
Have a great idea but don’t have the resources to execute it single handedly? Collaborations with local institutions may be the answer! Once you have an activity in mind, you can identify an institution (museum/school/historical society/etc.) that might be interested in partnering with you to complete your project. This can help to bring more attention to your society and the institution, as well as potentially help to defray costs on both sides.
It can often be beneficial for you society to enter into partnerships with other organizations in your area as they can introduce your society (and archaeology) to a new group of people. Often times, places like museums will have an experienced press team, which will help to get the word out about your project and relieve your society of some of the pressure of doing it yourselves. Identify good institutions in your area and begin to build a rapport with them. Who knows—they may even contact your society to help with some of their events!
The AIA organizes International Archaeology Day on the third Saturday in October each year (although events are held throughout the month of October). International Archaeology Day is a global celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA, its local societies, and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. International Archaeology Day events are often interactive and have included family-friendly archaeology fairs, guided tours of a local archaeological sites, simulated digs, and lectures or classroom visits. Local Societies have been a large part of the success of this global celebration of archaeology since it started in 2011, as they host, organize, or collaborate on a large number of the events.
Almost every state has a week or month dedicated to celebrating archaeology. During your state’s Archaeology Month/Week, your society can sponsor events to promote archaeology and educate the public. Your society can celebrate Archaeology Month/Week by: lining up local lectures; arranging for a behind the scenes museum tour; visiting a school and talking to a class about archaeology in general and the archaeology of your state; setting up workshops to explore an aspect of ancient cultures or archaeology—the possibilities are endless! Don’t forget to make sure all of your Archaeology Month/Week programs are accessible to the public. Put the list of events on your society website, local newspapers, community calendars, and local radio or television.
The Annual Meeting should be seen as an opportunity for society officers and members to interact with each other and with representatives from the National Headquarters. The Society Breakfast is an established tradition and a nice, informal way for us to share with each other the experiences of the past year. We have also held several society workshops over the years that have focused on everything from publicizing your event to organizing workshops. If you have a topic you would like to either present or discuss at the Annual Meeting please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work to create a workshop that includes/addresses your topic.
The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.