How to Do a Sod Turning Ceremony

A sod-turning ceremony is a crucial public relations part of any construction project.
A sod-turning ceremony is a crucial public relations part of any construction project. (Image: shovel image by Gudellaphoto from

A sod-turning ceremony, also known as a groundbreaking ceremony, marks the start of a new building project. It is an important occasion for getting publicity and acknowledging your place in the community in which you are starting your new endeavor. This ceremony can be designed to set a successful trajectory and engender feelings of good will toward your business or organization.

Things You'll Need

  • List of officials, dignitaries and celebrities
  • Photographer
  • Golden Shovel

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Set the date of the ceremony. Most sod-turning ceremonies are within a couple of months of the planned date of the excavation. The closer the date of the sod-turning ceremony is to the actual starting of the building project, the better.

List the people who should attend the event. Invite local politicians and officials. If there are any local celebrities such as radio or television personalities who could play an important role in the project, they should be invited as well. Getting these people on board with your new undertaking is always a good strategy.

Make a complete list of all your local media outlets and their contact information. List all radio networks, television stations (don't forget public television) and newspapers in the immediate area. Get fax numbers and/or e-mail addresses for all of those outlets.

Write and send out a press release announcing the ceremony. Do this at least one week in advance of the event. On the top, center "Media Release-For Immediate Release" and then center your headline. Give it a bold and exciting headline such as "Governor So and So to Attend Groundbreaking Ceremony" and a subtitle: "Phoenix Hospital Breaks Ground on New Cancer Wing." Then the dateline with the city and date of the press release: Phoenix-1/12/2011. Next to the dateline, begin your paragraph and include who will be attending, the date, time and location. In the next paragraph, tell who is invited, if it is open to the public and any other information that is pertinent to the event. In the last paragraph, write a quote by a city or state official and then give complete contact information including your name, title, and all phone numbers where you can be reached. After the last sentence, drop down three or four spaces and center "XXX" which tells the press that this is the end of the release and there is no more to follow.

Send your press release by email or by fax. It is a good practice to follow up your press release with a call to make sure it went through and to ask if they will be sending a representative. Good press releases include a quote from the company president or industry experts. Your press release is your key to getting media attention and interviews, so make sure that it evokes emotion and highlights why the media would be interested in covering your event.

Prepare a press packet. This is a pocket folder with all the information the reporter will need to complete the story. It should have a copy of the press release, any fliers or brochures about the new building, any correspondence relating to the building, a timeline of important meetings or decisions relating to the groundbreaking, a list of services to be provided to the public as a result of the new building, or any other materials that a reporter would need to complete a news report on your event. The reporter should not have to do any research on his own, you should provide him with that information. This increases your chances that the reporter will do a story on your sod-turning ceremony.

Make a contingency plan in case of bad weather. While you hope it will be a clear day, have a backup plan just in case the weather is bad. For this you may have a tent set up on the property where the ceremony could be conducted if it is a rainy day. Or, if your sod-turning ceremony is taking place in the summer, a shade canopy would serve as a shade in case of extreme heat. Have bottled water available.

Prepare your remarks for the ceremony. These remarks should not take too long since you don't want to bore your audience. Also you might considering holding an question and answer session and preparing ahead of time by making a list of potential questions that you might get at the ceremony.

Perform the sod breaking ceremony. The actual ceremony is quite simple since it is mainly several individuals making short speeches to the media after which the President, CEO and/or other important figures take the token shovel(s) and uses them to turn the sod. The shovel(s) are usually engraved with the name of the building and the date of the ceremony and are presented to key officials.


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