Tips for Getting Local PR for Myeloma Awareness Month

Almost every newspaper has a Health Section and some have a specific ‘Health Editor’. Often times they are looking for stories to fill their section. So…first step is to call and get the name of that person and email address, which they should freely give you. I prefer to call so that I can connect on a personal level. Once you have made contact, let them first know about your support group, asking if they have ever heard of MM. Tell that person the reason for your call is to raise awareness of this rare blood cancer and if you are the patient or caregiver, give as many details that you are comfortable with. Most like to know that this disease has had a LOCAL impact on the community, so feel free to elaborate about your group, even inviting him or her to a meeting. I also suggest you tell them about your efforts and activities for March MM Awareness month.

In addition, many newspapers have a list of ‘Happenings’ weekly. Be sure to get your group’s meetings, time, etc listed. I recommend you build this relationship by sharing via email important tidbits from your group from time to time to stay connected.

Here is a step-by-step guide to this process:

Create list of possible media outlets
Use the internet or phone book to create a list of media outlets in your area. If using the internet, search for (town name) media outlets. This will likely bring up several sources for the information. You may need to check out several listings so you get TV, radio and print media. Also your Chamber of Commerce may have a media list available to residents.

o TV – check listings for local television shows; typically early morning or mid-day; note the type of stories they do and which anchor typically handles health-related stories. Call or email them – should be able to find the information on their website. Also ‘become’ a friend of the station on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
o Radio – check for AM stations in your area that may have local programming – Internet and phone book are good sources for a list.
o Newspaper – major and minor publications. Don’t overlook the free publications that are distributed around town. You can usually find contact information in the front pages of these publications. For your primary newspaper, contact the health or lifestyle journalists.
o Magazines – locally produced publications and publications produced by your major medical centers.

Additional sources

o Major Medical Centers/Oncology Groups – contact their Public Relations office and see how they can help. They often do lots of advertising and may have some ‘pull’ with the media and they may be able to promote within their facilities. If your local oncologist is part of a statewide or regional practice, they may also have a Marketing contact that could be a resource.
o Civic Clubs – Rotary, Lions Club, etc. They are often looking for speakers at their meetings. Survey your support group to see if anyone is a member of a possible organization to approach.

Creating your Story – things you might want to include

o When first making contact, have a concise ‘pitch’ – maybe 3 – 4 sentences. For example, I am working with the International Myeloma Foundation and our local myeloma support group to create a greater awareness about multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer and the symptoms are often confused with other conditions and overlooked. Increased awareness will help our local citizens and medical community recognize the symptoms sooner which can lead to quicker diagnosis and treatment. I was diagnosed in XXXX and would like to share my story and information about this cancer with your readers/viewers.
o Once you’ve gotten their attention, some other things to discuss or have featured include:

  * Put a personal touch on the story, such as, how has myeloma affected your life, what lead to your diagnosis, etc.
 * What are the symptoms – many of the myeloma symptoms can be dismissed as something else, so this is the reason we need to increase awareness.
 * Facts about myeloma – # diagnosed annually, estimate of the number in your community, etc. Much of this can be pulled from the IMF’s press release on   Myeloma Awareness Month.
 * Information about your support group – when and where you meet.
 * What you are doing for Myeloma Awareness Month
 * Myeloma Month Awareness proclamations – mention which towns/communities in your area have declared March as Myeloma Awareness Month.

Making contact with the media

o Start EARLY! Especially for TV and magazines. TV shows begin booking in January for the entire year. Magazines create yearly editorial calendars that may already be set. IF they are, ask about being included in 2015.
o Survey members of your group, family and friends to find out if anyone has a special connection to a media person in your community. Having a connection always helps, but it’s not imperative. Do not be shy to ask and be sure to always follow-up. Persistence can really pay off.
o Watch and read to see what type of stories your local media is covering. This may help you create a compelling story that they will want to cover. This is a great project for a member of your group who may not be able to get out much.