May 28, 2015

How to Save a Place: Get the Word Out

Preservation Month 2015 comes to a close this weekend, but everyone’s hard work to save places that matter to them will continue for months, years, and decades to come. So, for our final installment of the How to Save a Place series, we’re sharing ways you can continue to rally community support for your project.

Methods range from public relations to social media outreach, and from pop-up shops to community tours. (And don’t forget the other popular tactics in our Become an Advocate toolkit!) Here are a variety of tools, techniques, and tips to help you shine a light on the places you love.


photo by: Cory Doctorow/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Writing an op-ed to an editor is an effective way of reaching a large audience quickly.

Public Relations

1. Craft an effective communications strategy for your preservation project. A campaign to save a place can benefit greatly from identifying and targeting a specific audience with key messages. Plus, publicly presenting an issue through the media can also help attract the attention of policy and other decision makers who could ultimately decide the outcome of your project.

2. Pitch your story to national, regional, and local media. Pitching a preservation story to a reporter -- i.e., alerting them to all the good work you’re doing -- can seem daunting the first time. But the more you practice, the smoother your outreach efforts will become. The top tips: Know your story inside and out, target the right media outlets, make your message stand out, and follow up!

3. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor. If you have a time-sensitive or pressing preservation issue that you want to get in front of readers as soon as possible, then consider writing an op-ed or letter to the editor (LTE) instead. These allow you to express your opinion quickly while still reaching a large audience. Think like a reader as you draft these pieces, and be sure to include relevant evidence to bolster your credibility. Also, when it’s applicable, encourage readers to take action.

Newsroom Meeting

photo by: goddard studio 13/Flickr/CC BY-2.0

You can attract attention to your cause by pitching a story to the media.

Social Media

4. Create a social media plan. A social presence is close to a requirement these days – an overwhelming thought for those of us who love historical things more than technological things. The good news is, planning ahead pays dividends for your cause later. Set goals, define your audience, and list resources (human, financial, etc.) that can support your work. Most importantly, don’t feel like you have to be everywhere. Pick the channels that will work best for you and your cause.

Tip: Check out preservation-specific advice for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

5. Manage the social media time crunch. You can build and maintain an engaging social media presence with just a small window of time each day. Participate regularly, talk about what you’re already doing, and make it simple for people to connect with you. Not only will you build community, but you’ll have fun talking to people as passionate about preservation as you!

6. Use photography and photo-sharing to your advantage. In a time of short tweets and status updates, pictures have become essential to providing additional context. The good news: The places we love tend to be pretty, dramatic, or otherwise visually appealing. Take pictures often, share on sites like Instagram and Flickr, and include captions and hashtags to help spotlight endangered places and share success stories when they're saved.

Tip: Consider hosting an Instagram tour of the older or historic place you love.

Tip: Dip your toe into the hashtag pool with these preservation faves: #SavingPlaces, #preservation, and #ThisPlaceMatters.

Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico

photo by: Shiny Things/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Consider nominating your place to be a National Treasure, like the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Special Tactics

7. Nominate your site to become a National Treasure. This signature program of the National Trust takes direct, on-the-ground action to save diverse places and promote their history and significance. But we need your help identifying places of national importance that would benefit from the deep organizational resources of the National Trust. Consider nominating a threatened historic resource in your area.

8. Nominate your site to America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List. The 11 Most list has been one of the most effective tools in the fight to preserve our country’s irreplaceable architectural, cultural, and natural heritage. Think your historic site has a strong case? Complete a nomination form during the next annual submission round.

9. Create a pop-up shop. The pop-up shop concept is simple: Insert yourself into a temporary space that puts new eyes on your mission and see what you can accomplish. Would setting up a physical presence around your issue be valuable – and feasible?

10. Organize a community tour. Help people in your neighborhood play history detective right in their own backyard by setting up a walking tour. These kinds of outings are great ways for local history-lovers and preservation groups to bring a community together around beloved places (or their desire to sneak a peek inside that big house on Main Street). Try coordinating one for your town and see what happens.

Tip: Check out some easy ways to build your tour guide skills.

11. Capture the community’s thoughts on video. One of the best ways to get your message out there is to create and share video interviews with community members who support your goals. To make interviewees comfortable, explain your purpose, list your questions and expectations, and don’t apply pressure. You’ll build their confidence while compiling lots of compelling footage.

Julia Rocchi was the senior director of digital marketing at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and gawks at buildings.

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