Launching a public-awareness campaign.
April 21-27, 1991: The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI), New York City, launches "Don't Wait to Vaccinate," the first-ever public-awareness campaign for the multi-issue organization. More than 230 Junior Leagues in four countries distribute almost a million four-color handouts alerting parents to the importance of fully immunizing children by age two and providing the schedule for vaccinations against childhood diseases.
Billboards and transit displays from Boston to Los Angeles carry the leagues' reminder: "Only Adults Can Prevent Childhood Diseases. Don't Wait to Vaccinate." Campaign messages are translated into Russian, Spanish, Korean, Punjabi, Laotian, and a host of other languages to reach targeted populations. Radio stations carry the association's prerecorded (in English and Spanish) public service announcements or run messages recorded by regional or local celebrities.
Supported by massive media campaigns, leagues mount citywide immunization drives in which pediatricians and nurses, assisted by league and other community volunteers, administer free vaccinations to thousands of children. Broad-based coalitions are organized to examine health care policies in their cities and states and address barriers to early childhood immunization. Within states, Junior Leagues join forces to lobby their legislatures for increased funding for vaccines or for the establishment of centralized systems to maintain all immunization records.
At a special hearing on immunizations held by a Senate subcommittee, the association submits testimony citing Junior Leagues' experience in mobilizing communities for early immunization. Later, the association's president and executive director attend ceremonies at the White House, where President Bush lauds the work of Junior Leagues and other groups involved in immunization efforts. Buoyed by their impact, many leagues launch long-term initiatives around immunization and other preventive health care for all children.
Mounting a national public-awareness campaign was a galvanizing force within AJLI, and it can be within your association, too. When successfully executed, a campaign can build membership pride as well as organizational identity, strengthen the partnership between the national organization and its chapters, and most importantly, significantly advance an issue.
If your association chooses its issue wisely, prepares carefully for every stage, and remains sensitive to the needs of all the players involved, it can realize tremendous gains from uniting in a mutual undertaking.
Look before you leap
Every association - even one that is a seasoned campaigner - should ask itself: Why should we do this? and Can we do this? before embarking on what is sure to be an immensely demanding effort. Remember that your reputation and credibility and the successful resolution of the cause for which you're going public will be on the line. Here are some checkpoint questions that will help you determine 1) whether the issue is right for your association and 2) whether a campaign is feasible.
* Do we have a history with this issue? having a track record or long-term involvement gives your association credibility and authority. It also provides you with an invaluable base of knowledge and potential allies.
For example, AJLI's decision to launch a public-awareness campaign for early childhood immunization was the logical out-growth of the Junior Leagues' 90-year commitment to improving services for children and families. They realized that the alarming increase in preventable childhood diseases endangered the populations served by many of their programs: teens in adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives, physically challenged children, infants in day care, mothers and babies in prenatal and perinatal care programs, and homeless families.
* Is the issue applicable to all your chapters? It makes sense for an associationwide campaign to be planned at the national level. Nevertheless, unless the issue is germane to the needs and concern of communities throughout your organization, and fits with your individual chapters' program priorities, expect only limited participation.
* Does the problem permit collaboration? In these days of competing and equally compelling priorities, it's tough to attract allies and funders if you are waging war on an issue important only to you - or addressing it in a way that allows little room for collaboration.
* Is the campaign doable within the resources of our local and national organization? What is it going to take to achieve your campaign expectations? How much money? How much member and staff time and what kind of expertise will be required? Campaigns are labor-intensive. In addition to requiring the planning and oversight of a campaign coordinator (who should be able to focus his or her energies almost exclusively on the initiative), the campaign will require support from numerous other functions, such as fund development, media relations, government affairs, communication - as well as from the chief executive officer - in remaining alert to member needs and concerns and ensuring the board is involved in appropriate ways.
The amount of money required depends on the scope of your plans and the success of fund-raising efforts. Even a modest nationwide campaign (print materials, some radio and television spots, outdoor advertising such as billboards and transit displays, and costs for supporting activities, such as pre- and post-launch events) will cost upwards of $100,000. A key issue may be whether you are going to charge chapters production and mailing costs for campaign materials they will use at the local level or give each chapter a certain quantity for free and charge for additional orders.
Before you approach funders, do some preliminary research to get at least a rough picture of financial needs. For example, you may want to have preliminary discussions with the Advertising Council, New York City, to explore the types of support it could provide. Network with other organizations that have mounted national campaigns to find out how they approached staffing and funding considerations.
It's also important to set clear and feasible expectations for the kinds of support that will be needed at the grass-roots level. You'll be more successful in recruiting support if you can tell your members: "At a minimum, all you will need to do is...; beyond that, if you want to add...."
* Is there a flexible time line for doing this? The answer to this, in part, depends on the type of issue you're addressing and your choice of campaign strategies. For example, if your issue is likely to be affected by fast-breaking events, such as volatile congressional activity, you need to be ready with national media strategies. Other issues would require more sustained types of involvement. Keep in mind that it can take a year or more to plan, fund, create, and launch your campaign.
* Can we make a difference? This, of course, is the ultimate question. The answer lies not only with how you answered the previous questions but also on your capacity to advance the issue through multiple strategies (direct service and advocacy as well as public education). In the final analysis, your success also depends on whether your organization commands the influence necessary to move this particular issue.
Get member buy-in
Convincing your own organization to get behind the issue and to stay the course may be your greatest hurdle. Throughout the conduct of your campaign, constantly keep your sights on mobilizing two audiences: your own members and the wider public.
After you've assured yourself that the campaign's focus would indeed complement the work of your organization, invest sufficient time and energy in helping members understand how a proposed nationwide effort would support their local priorities. Bring all parts of your organization into the picture as soon as possible.
Segment your membership, going first to your board to lay the foundation for a campaign, followed by chapter leaders, and then the general membership. Chapter leaders appreciate it if you give them the tools to frame the issue for their members and reach a decision about participating.
In addition to providing an overview of the issue, a discussion kit might include a sample exercise to help affiliates consider the same benchmark questions that were used by the national board and staff to reach a decision. It would also be helpful to provide a "quiz" sheet addressing questions most likely to be asked by members.
Give chapters a menu of options - from simply distributing handouts or placing spots in local media outlets to full-scale program development. At every stage, be sure to report back to your members on their opinions, ideas, and decisions associationwide.
Throughout your selling job, gather information as well as disseminate it. Solicit member suggestions for ways to focus national attention on the issue and survey local expertise. Try to identify any special needs or concerns that should be factored into your planning, such as chapters' differing planning cycles for programming and budgeting decisions. AJLI, for example, learned almost too late that some Junior Leagues had secured transit display space for the entire month of April and needed materials shipped out weeks earlier than the date planned by our creative agency.
Collect and organize data
This also is the time to start planning your data-collection and data-management systems. As your chapters plan spin-off activities, what kinds of information would you like to have from them and what will they need from you? For example, for your media outreach - both for national press briefings and interviews and for generating interest among local affiliates of the networks - you will need to be able to cite specific grass-roots examples of how the issue is playing out in various communities throughout your association and the types of strategies your members are employing. This information will also be important if you are planning to submit testimony to any congressional committees.
Is there a possibility of your members working together, or with other organizations, along state or regional lines to co-sponsor events? If so, you will probably want to cross-index information by types of activities, as well as chapter names, to help members connect with each other. Or you may have chapters that are adapting materials for specific populations and want to join forces with others on special print runs. The earlier you set up systems for collecting, organizing, and accessing information, the easier it will be for you when you are in the thick of the campaign and fielding dozens of inquiries a day.
Preparing for a campaign is like building up a war chest, bit by bit adding the expertise and resources of individuals and groups who complement and augment your own strengths.
Critical to AJLI's campaign was the advice and expertise of the health and medical communities. Groups such as The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta; the American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, Illinois; and the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions, Alexandria, Virginia, helped AJLI understand the complexities of the immunization picture, reviewed campaign materials, advised on correct immunization schedules, and helped Junior Leagues establish relationships with their state and local counterparts.
Above all, build alliances among the populations affected by the issue. If their leaders are in sympathy with your campaign objectives, they will be important spokespersons in their communities. They also will help you determine appropriate strategies for reaching their groups, and their input, as well as that of a representative cross-section of the targeted population, will be vitally important when you test the efficacy of your message and materials. If you have not developed relationships with these populations, start by enlisting the help of the clergy and their fraternal and social organizations.
It's also a fact of organizational life that high-visibility undertakings, such as national campaigns, create considerable intraorganizational dynamics. Secure the buy-in and participation of all staff by encouraging campaign planners to hold brainstorming and briefing sessions and to solicit staff input and feedback at critical steps in the campaign.
Line up funding
Plan to start your funding search early to find out which foundations or corporations may be interested in your issue. If you've already succeeded in lining up other groups for a joint campaign, so much the better: Funders want to have maximum impact for their funding dollars.
There's a good chance you can secure an advertising agency's creative services on a pro bono basis. Although you are approaching them with your hat in hand, most agencies are eager to work on one or more campaigns in the public interest.
Allow plenty of time to line up an agency. In addition to selling the agency on your campaign, consider what the agency can bring to you. Consider these questions: How did the agency handle other campaigns (check references)? Would the agency's style be compatible with your campaign or your organization? Does it have a feel for your issue and for your kind of organization? What's the size of the agency and how would you fare as a pro-bono client?
Build chapter expertise
Now you are approaching the critical phase of your planning. While your members will be delivering a national message, it's at the grassroots level that your campaign is truly waged.
Your task is to help your members become hometown authorities and to customize the campaign to meet the needs of their own communities. Frame the issue by providing national statistics, regional and state comparisons, reprints of newspaper articles, relevant testimony, briefing papers, and any other information that will paint the big picture. Chapters, however, must do their own research to understand how the issue plays out at home.
Here's where the network of alliances you've formed will be helpful in opening doors to your members at regional, state, and local levels. For example, to assist with research, the CDC asked its state departments of health to meet with Junior Leagues in their area for briefings and strategy discussions; in turn, these departments provided leagues with introductions to the health departments in their cities.
As Junior Leagues connected with these and other resources, they learned about disease and immunization rates in their communities, barriers to immunization, and which populations were most at risk and where they could be reached - information that helped many begin to formulate strategies for direct service, advocacy, and public-education efforts.
Plan the campaign kickoff
Select a time for the kickoff that will afford you and your chapters maximum visibility and build momentum. For example, AJLI scheduled the opening of its campaign to coincide with National Volunteer Week, which provided a natural showcase for demonstrating what volunteer groups can do.
For greatest impact, plan an event or activity that can occur simultaneously at both the national and local levels. In addition, develop a plan for securing national media coverage that is based on promoting - and in turn is supported by - media coverage at the local level.
AJLI launched its campaign with two events: a national press briefing, held in Washington, D.C., and the following day, a satellite media tour. Both events paired the director of CDC's immunization division and the association's chief elected officer.
Given the campaign's complex health issue, this pairing was important: It allowed the medical authority to brief the media on the then-current measles epidemic and discuss barriers to disease prevention among preschool children, and the authority on volunteerism to talk about how communities and concerned citizens can respond to a national health emergency.
For the satellite media tour, CDC and AJLI representatives gave live interviews to stations in 13 large media markets throughout the United States. Footage of the previous day's press briefing also was supplied to participating stations. The association urged Junior Leagues in the 13 media markets to contact their stations to offer interviews or the opportunity to cover one of their own activities and worked closely with the leagues to help them prepare for coverage.
The national-local tie-ins not only provided an impressive picture of an entire association rallying around an important issue but generated the best possible public relations between the national association and its member chapters.
The morning after
It will be tempting to rest after your public-awareness campaign is launched, but in truth, you are far from through. As you go forward, it's important to also look back. First, evaluate whether you succeeded in what you set out to accomplish. Plan to conduct both an internal evaluation - of the conduct of the campaign itself - and an assessment of the external impact of the campaign.
* How well did we lay the infrastructure for the effort?
* Did we have sufficient human resources?
* Should we have approached funding opportunities differently?
* How well did we integrate other organizational functions into the planning and execution of the campaign?
* Were we effective in meeting chapter needs?
For your external evaluation, the critical question is: Did we really advance the issue ar simply make a splash? What desired changes in public-awareness, attitudes, and behavior did we achieve? Don't forget to elicit the opinions of others with whom you worked: collaborators, issue experts, the targeted populations. Sixty-five percent of Junior Leagues that responded to a post-campaign survey indicated that the campaign either met or exceeded their goals, based on such factors as number of immunizations performed, clinic visits, inquiries, size of audience reached, and degree of cooperation received from the media and other organizations and agencies.
What you learn from the evaluation will provide the basis for starting over, strengthening work in progress, or providing future campaign planners with valuable knowledge for mobilizing for action.
Finally, don't forget to celebrate. A celebration can be anything from a thank-you note or a proclamation by a government official to a video wrap-up capturing the highlights of your members' efforts. It's important and inspiring for individual chapters to see what a powerful force for change they can be when they choose to act collectively. And don't forget to also celebrate the contributions of everyone at the national level.
Whatever form your celebration takes, be proud. You will have made a difference.
RELATED ARTICLE: HIGHLIGHTS
* When successfully executed, a national public awareness campaign can build membership pride as well as organizational identity.
* The issue needs to be germane to the needs and concerns of communities throughout your organization.
* Set clear and feasible expectations for the kinds of support that will be needed at the grass-roots level.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Role of the CEO
The most important role of the chief executive officer in preparing for a public awareness campaign is to build a sound infrastructure.
* Budget staff time and organizational resources carefully. In addition to the person with overall oversight responsibility for the campaign, you may want to assign primary responsibility for providing assistance to affiliates to a second individual, since as the campaign gears up, as much as 75 percent of a person's day can be spent in providing technical assistance to chapters.
* Establish clear lines of authority for campaign decisions.
* Allocate sufficient funds.
* Keep a careful eye on your internal public relations to ensure that the campaign is enhancing and not jeopardizing the relationship between the national association and its members.
* Keep successive classes of board members informed and engaged so that each member can serve as a campaign ambassador.
* Be sure that you and the official board spokesperson can speak with authority and conviction on the issue.
* Anticipate and prepare for setbacks as well as successes.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Role of the Board
As the association prepares to cast its net for the appropriate issue experts, collaborators, funders, creative help, media entrees, and other vital resources, look to members of the board as a source of expertise and access.
Board members can be invaluable resources to association staff in anticipating and interpreting member concerns and needs. Board members can also help each new term of chapter leaders understand the public-awareness campaign and assist in maintaining a level of mutual cooperation and trust between the national association and its members and affiliates.
Finally, board members need to do what the entire membership has been urged to do: Study the background information and familiarize themselves with the dimensions of the problem in their own communities so that they can speak knowledgeably on the issue if so requested.
RELATED ARTICLE: If Yours Is a Small Association . . .
Don't let size scare you off. Mounting a campaign to promote an issue can be particularly beneficial for associations with small staffs or memberships. A campaign can provide your organization with a program; be the catalyst for developing a cohesive focus; or attract new members, build organizational identity, and generate interest among funders.
Although the undertaking may seem awesome, here are some possibilities:
* Think about hooking up with other organizations that share your interest in the issue you want to tackle. Pool monetary and staff resources. You might even consider aligning with a larger organization (or organization) that does have the money and clout. Carve out one achievable aspect of the campaign: encouraging your members to distribute campaign literature that has been produced by the larger organization, perhaps, or meeting with local media to ask for their support in airing campaign spots (which is a good way for members to develop relationships with grass-roots media). Or maybe your association's piece of the effort is mobilizing your members to write to their legislators.
* The same rules apply if you go solo. Create strategies that are easily executed and advance the issue. For example, engage in the aforementioned letter-writing campaign or create a simple radio or television spot (if you lack the staff resources, seek out some pro bono help in developing the spot).
* Meet with issue authorities to ask their advice about how you might tackle your issue. This is a great way to develop relationships with potential program advisers.
* Keep at the issue. It's possible - and certainly permissible - to start small and build up to more ambitious strategies in subsequent years. Across time, you'll generate momentum among your membership and, before you know it, people will be saying, "Oh, that's the group that stands for...."
Liz Quinlan is an organizational consultant in New York City. As director of communications for the Association of Junior Leagues International. Inc., she had oversight responsibility for the association's first international public-awareness campaign, "Don't Wait to Vaccinate."
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|Title Annotation:||includes related articles; Association of Junior Leagues International Inc.'s information campaign on vaccination|
|Author:||Quinlan, Liz W.|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1995|
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