Section 5: Options for Media and Public Relations Activities

Some participating organizations will have greater capacity to mount a wide-ranging and sustained effort to promote the Guidelines in their communities. This User's Guide is designed to give you a large menu of options from which you can choose according to your organization's needs and resources.

Internal Outreach: Creating Excitement From Within

Support from within an organization is crucial to the success of any outreach. Buy-in from internal stakeholders (e.g., your staff, volunteers, allies from other groups, and board of directors) will help increase overall awareness of the Guidelines as staff and leadership spread the word to their constituents and external partners. Ultimately, you will depend on these on-the-ground "ambassadors" to pass out new literature, explain the value of the Guidelines, and assist in evaluating the success of your efforts. Here are some ways to engage and sustain the support of internal audiences:

  • E-mail lists. Create a physical activity Listserv or e-mail distribution list of all those who may serve as advocates and champions of the Guidelines. Provide regular communication about Guidelines outreach activities and use this channel to encourage coordination among staff and relevant partners.
  • Newsletters. Produce a content-rich monthly report that highlights best practices, success stories, and upcoming events and activities supporting the Guidelines. If your organization produces a newsletter, take the opportunity to incorporate information about the Guidelines and various ways for staff members to become more active. Refer newsletter recipients to Supporter organizations and resources, where staff can learn more about ways to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.
  • Flyer. Develop and distribute flyers (print and/or electronic versions) announcing upcoming activities, seminars, or workshops. Encourage your organization's staff to disseminate this information through every available channel and to recruit individuals throughout the community.
  • Announcement boards. Post announcements about upcoming related events on bulletin boards where staff and program participants can easily view them. Showcase information and photographs from previous events on announcement boards to encourage involvement in future activities. You might also use the announcement boards to highlight staff members who have been particularly instrumental in promoting and supporting the program (e.g., "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Champion of the Month").

External Outreach: Utilizing Media and Public Relations

Incorporate our key messages into information about your activities and share them with the media. This can be a powerful and cost-effective way to reach the public. Send press releases or call specific reporters to pitch story ideas, or offer editors a bylined article, letter to the editor, or op-ed (Opposite the Editorial article), for publication from one of your leaders.

Checklist for Getting Started

  • Research the media in your area (local television, radio, community newspapers, church bulletins, school papers, etc.) that would be interested in covering health related stories.
  • Consider other local leaders (e.g., political leaders, physicians and nurses, retired athletes) in your area who would be interested in your story and who would enthusiastically share your message.
  • Determine the types of communication that would be most appropriate for each media outlet (telephone call, e-mail, press release, op–ed, advertisement, direct mail, etc.).
  • Brainstorm various ways to increase media coverage (host an event, invite reporters to moderate or sit in on a seminar or workshop, etc.).
  • Develop a plan for periodically bringing local media up to date on your activities and accomplishments with regard to the Guidelines.

Building Relationships With Media To Raise Awareness About the Guidelines

Local publications tend to be small and understaffed. Consequently, they are constantly in search of compelling stories or exciting news. As chronic disease accounts for a large percentage of all American deaths and because obesity is a rapidly growing problem in this country, many journalists are now more interested in covering these issues. Your organization's involvement in the outreach of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans will likely get their attention, as they offer simple and solid solutions to help prevent or delay chronic disease and obesity. Use the Guidelines to draw attention to the fact that physical activity has a profound effect on health.

Use the Guidelines to draw attention to the fact that physical activity has a profound effect on health.

Familiarize yourself with the publications and other media outlets that serve your community and the editors and reporters who work there. Identify those reporters and editors who might cover health topics. Introduce yourself to them and stay in touch on at least an occasional basis to remind them that your organization is an information resource for them. Make their jobs easier by shaping the information about the Guidelines as clearly and concisely as possible. Their readers are your target audiences, and like you, these reporters and editors feel an obligation to publicize issues that affect the local community.

Checklist for Utilizing the Media: Building Strong Relationships

  • Be mindful and respectful of reporters' and editors' deadlines. Try to find out what days or what times of day are most convenient to contact specific media representatives who would likely be interested in the Guidelines. Keep this information on file so that it is available to all your staff members.
  • Be responsive. If you receive a media inquiry, return the call as soon as possible.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to provide reporters with useful information and credible sources concerning the Guidelines.
  • Train spokespersons who can talk articulately and concisely about your organization's role in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outreach.
  • Stick closely to the universal messages whenever you discuss the Guidelines with media.
  • Communicate your health and physical activity related story in a straightforward manner, providing reporters with specific information they have requested.
  • Pitch the right people the right story. Make sure to research the most appropriate contact for a particular story and be prepared to offer compelling, newsworthy, and accurate information.
  • Provide frequent updates and establish a pattern for continuous and regular contact.
  • Make useful information available on your organization's Web site. Add information and links to your organization's existing Web site that promotes regular physical activity. Consider linking to the Guidelines Web site at Highlight descriptions of workshops and seminars offered throughout the community and maintain a calendar of upcoming events and activities. Enable staff members and partners to post testimonials about their involvement, recruitment efforts, and successes.

Media Tools and Methods for Effective Outreach

Before contacting a reporter or editor, it is valuable to develop media tools that tell the press what is new, interesting, and exciting about your organization's involvement in the outreach associated with the Guidelines.

Media Tools

  • Press releases. Issuing a press release is a quick and effective way to publicize a specific event or activity that your organization is sponsoring to promote the Guidelines as a way to encourage people in your community to become more physically active. Press releases are most often used with print media. If you are communicating with a television or radio station, you will probably want to send a personalized letter. However, the station may request a press release for further information on the event.
  • Fact sheets. Fact sheets will provide basic, objective, detailed information about the Guidelines. Usually a single page, a fact sheet supplements the information in a pitch letter or news release. It adds credibility to any accompanying public service announcements, media kits, op–ed pieces, or other timely materials. In addition, reporters may not have time to read over all the materials, so an easy-to-read, bulleted fact sheet can facilitate coverage.
  • Letters to the editor. Letters to the editor provide an easy way for you to voice your opinion to policymakers and to educate people in the community about physical activity issues. Use these response letters to correct facts in an inaccurate or biased news article, to explain the connection between a news item and your activities, or to praise or criticize a relevant article. You may send the editor as many different letters on the same subject as you have allies to write and sign them. Keep it simple and brief. Most newspapers have requirements for length—usually no more than about 200 words, which is about one double-spaced typed page of text. Most important, don't be discouraged if your letter is not printed. Keep trying. You may want to submit a revised letter with a different angle on the issue at a later date.
  • Op–eds. Op–eds express a strong opinion on an issue, backed by well-researched, documented facts. While a letter to the editor provides a concise and direct response to a specific article or broadcast, the op-ed is more detailed, and may incorporate more than one article or study. We recommend that you ask a board member or a local politician to sign the op–ed. The prominence of the signee will go a long way toward improving your chances of getting the piece published, but even more important is his or her credibility or recognized authority to offer the opinion.
  • Desk-side briefings. Arrange in-person meetings with reporters to introduce yourself and provide background on the Guidelines. This is a great opportunity to give reporters a fact sheet, press release, or any other basic information you have about your organization's efforts and successes in engaging in the Guidelines outreach.
  • Editorial board meetings. Arrange meetings about the Guidelines with the editorial boards of local community publications to familiarize them with your organization's activities and events. The more useful information you can provide in this one-on-one setting about the Guidelines, the greater the likelihood of generating media interest.
  • Public service announcements (PSAs). Like advertisements, PSAs are an effective means to communicate a focused message. PSAs come in print, radio, or television formats. Working with a local television station or production company, consider developing 15- and 30-second PSAs that feature a prominent spokesperson and/or local personalities who have benefited from physical activity. Remember that testimonials from adults who meet the Guidelines are particularly effective in motivating less active adults to get involved in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outreach.

Publicizing Events

  • Supporter promotions with media. If you are planning a high-profile rollout event to showcase the Guidelines, you may want to explore various sponsorship opportunities with local media. In return for helping to publicize the event, you would offer various media outlets the opportunity to become in-kind sponsors. Specific benefits might include the opportunity to display the outlet's logo on event signage, T-shirts, and various printed materials; feature its reporters or on-air personalities at public events; and present awards to noteworthy participants. To enhance your chances of garnering interest in the Guidelines, be sure to contact media outlets that have a good track record in being involved in community service programs (many local TV and radio stations have a special interest in promoting health care awareness). With such a partnership, you can leverage a great deal of publicity free of charge for your work.
  • Community events. Whether you are considering a physical activity seminar or workshop, a contest or award ceremony, community events are a wonderful way to generate local interest in the Guidelines and promote physical activity. These events provide not only an excellent forum for generating visibility but an opportunity for educating target audiences about the wide array of services offered through your organization. This type of informational outreach should be supported by success stories highlighting the achievements of people who have improved their health, changed their exercise habits, boosted their energy levels, and generally improved their overall quality of life. Each event presents an opportunity for your organization to promote physical activity.

Community events are a wonderful way to generate local interest in the Guidelines.

Regular physical activity needs to be made an easy choice for Americans.

Specific promotional opportunities may include but should not be limited to the following:

  • Challenge events. Publicize your organization's participation by making it a community event. Kick off this friendly competition by announcing the competition theme, goal, and activities during a press conference. Follow the press conference with a 30-minute walk.
  • Press conferences with political leaders. Ask your mayor or governor to speak about the importance of the Guidelines and physical activity for Americans. Invite members of your community, as well as local press representatives.
  • Contests and award ceremonies. Host a contest that culminates in a high-profile awards ceremony to recognize exceptional participants and program organizers.