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
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
- 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, oped,
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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,
oped 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 lengthusually 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
- Opeds. Opeds 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 oped. 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.
- 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
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
- Contests and award ceremonies. Host a contest that culminates in a
high-profile awards ceremony to recognize exceptional participants and program
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