Pro Tip #1: Simple Actions Can Raise Awareness "Getting involved in the fight against Parkinson's doesn't have to be complicated. You don't have to be famous or be a big shot. Anyone can do it! Find what you like to do best and do it for PD." Ruth Lotzer of Bloomington, MN, should know. Her design won the 2014 Parkinson's Awareness Month T-shirt Design Contest (thanks to everyone who voted!). Each simple action can make a difference, including wearing the t-shirt Ruth designed.
Help raise awareness of the impact of Parkinson's. Here are a few strategies to help you get started:
- Read All About It: Put PD in the Local Papers
- Paint the Town ... with Tulips!
- Involve Public Officials
- Dare to Go Digital by Sharing Awareness Online
Publicize Parkinson’s! Write a simple letter to the editor or post information about a local PD support group or awareness event. The keys to media outreach: start early and be persistent.
What You Can Do
Option #1: Write a Letter to the Editor
A letter to the editor of your local paper can help to raise awareness. It puts a personal face on Parkinson’s disease in your community. Write a letter in late March to ensure coverage in April during Parkinson’s Awareness Month. In the letter, describe your personal story with Parkinson’s, provide facts (such as statistics and symptoms) and let your community know what they can do to get involved (see sample here).
Option #2: Submit an Event Listing or Press Release
An event listing can simply include the basics: who, what, when, where, why and how (see sample here). An event listing is best if you would like the public to learn in advance about how they can attend your event. When you send it, specifically request that it be listed on the paper’s calendar of events.
A press release is more detailed, including your personal story, while also including facts about Parkinson’s disease. A press release is best if you would like press coverage, rather than simply a calendar listing. If your event includes any public officials, be sure to include their names in the release. Invite reporters to attend and take photos. Use our template, and insert your own story and facts (see sample here).
Option #3: Develop a TV/Radio Public Service Announcement
A public service announcement (PSA) can generate more awareness about Parkinson’s or promote specific events in your community. Depending on the radio/television station, it may be read by an on-air reporter, or even by you. Use our template to draft a very short announcement that can be read in 15-30 seconds.
How to Do It
Learn to Tell Your Story
Perhaps you have been living with Parkinson’s for years. Maybe you have a loved one living with Parkinson’s. Either way, no one can tell your story about Parkinson’s better than you. Jot down ideas, and then be sure to add in facts and statistics about PD (for example, nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson's).
Develop a Media Kit
Make your kit easy to present to reporters and event sponsors. It can include:
- A letter to the editor or press release (see samples here)
- Parkinson’s disease facts (download PDF's fact sheet)
- A proclamation from your governor or mayor (see sample here)
- A flyer or promotional information for your event, if applicable.
Build a Media List
Contact your local newspapers, radio stations and TV stations, which you can find by searching the Internet or by calling their general numbers.
Then ask, which reporters would be most receptive to my story? For local papers, it is typically the community news reporters but for larger outlets, look for a relevant “beat,” whether it is health, science or community news.
Reach Out & Follow up
Begin with an email or phone call. Keep it short – introduce yourself and immediately state your purpose for writing. Make sure the subject line of your email is concise and relevant (i.e., Local Resident Aims to Raise $5,000 for Parkinson’s Research). Copy and paste your document (whether it be a letter to the editor or PSA) within the actual email, since attachments may be marked as spam.
Do not be afraid to follow up many times via phone or email. Reporters are accustomed to it. When you call, be prepared with an “elevator pitch,” meaning that you have 30 to 90 seconds to communicate your message.
If the reporter is interested, he or she will ask for a follow-up email, in which you can include details about your activity. A few days later, follow up again asking if there is anything else that you can provide. For instance, if you are working on a proclamation locally, provide a copy.
Always follow instructions. For instance, if a reporter asks you not to leave a message, then do not, but continue to call.
Media Outreach Schedule for Parkinson's Awareness Month
February and March
- Select your targeted media outlets.
- Find the specific contacts for each outlet that you will reach out to.
- Fill in the personalized material on the sample press release.
- Develop your talking points for the phone and your selling points for the pitch email.
- Draft your email so it is ready to go by the end of March (or before if your event is early in the month).
- Send out your press release.
If your event will be held in early April, readjust the timeline to maximize the time you have to get media coverage.
- Send follow-up emails and make follow-up calls to reporters.
- Continue to be persistent and follow up again.
- Once you have set up coverage for your event, confirm all details.
- After the event has been covered, send thank you notes to the reporters who
worked with you to get your story heard.
What’s a powerful way to raise awareness of Parkinson’s? Show your support, on a tree, on a bulletin board…or on you! Use our free supplies to show off the symbol for Parkinson’s, the tulip.
What You Can Do
Option #1: Wear Awareness (or Design It!)
Get decked out in PDF awareness gear to show your support for Parkinson’s. Purchase your t-shirt from our online store and complete the look with a wristband or a PDF cap. Better yet, design the t-shirt yourself. Each fall, we accept entries for the official PDF PD Awareness T-shirt Design Contest, and in the spring, the community votes for the winning design that is ultimately worn by thousands of people.
Option #2 Post a Poster
Hang up a free PDF poster or distribute stacks of free awareness postcards in community centers, recreation centers, hospitals and churches. Are you driving around town all the time? Purchase the PDF car magnet to spread the word. Are the trees in bloom? Order our popular tree ribbons to line your street.
Option #3: Display the Parkinson’s Quilt
Showcase a block of the Parkinson’s Quilt. It is the perfect conversation piece for your local library, workplace, support group PD proclamation signing, event, community center, school, or medical center.
The Parkinson's Quilt includes 42 blocks (each containing 16 quilt panels created by people living with Parkinson’s and loved ones), which are available for rental, for a modest fee, by individuals, nonprofit organizations and corporations.
How to Do It
Place Your Order
Order supplies by visiting support.pdf.org/publications. If you are interested in renting a block of the Parkinson’s Quilt, visit www.pdf.org/quilt to learn more. Keep in mind that April is a busy time for the Quilt, so place your order early.
Enter the T-Shirt Design Contest
Are you interested in designing the t-shirt? Typically, we begin accepting new designs in November. Check our website at www.pdf.org/parkinson_tshirt_contest for updated deadlines and design guidelines.
Look around. Where are people most likely to see a PD Awareness poster or the Parkinson’s Quilt? The sky is the limit based on your community and your connections! Here are a few ideas:
- Local library
- Support group meeting area
- PD proclamation signing
- Community events
- Community centers
- Hospitals or medical practices
- Local businesses, including the gym, coffee shop or restaurants
Support from a mayor or governor can increase awareness about Parkinson’s and the need for better treatments and a cure.
What You Can Do
Ask for public recognition of Parkinson’s through a proclamation. This is a government document that makes Parkinson’s Awareness Month officially recognized in your community.
How to Do It
Allow plenty of lead-time. Getting a proclamation approved and signed can be a lengthy process.
Coordinate with others in the community. Has your state or community had a proclamation signed in past years? Who is handling it this year? You are more likely to get a public official’s involvement if you invite other local support groups, Parkinson’s organizations and individuals to join you in submitting the request.
To work together with other advocates, contact the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) at (800) 850-4726 or www.parkinsonsaction.org.
Send a Request
Find contact information for city and state officials by using the telephone directory or searching online. Send one request using a formal letter, including signatures of your collaborators. Choose one person to sign it. Make it easy for your official by including a copy of the proclamation with your letter.
If you are also requesting that the public official publicly sign the proclamation at an event, include this request, as well as any potential dates, times, locations and the names of any other invited public officials, sponsors of the event, a general description of the audience and the role you would like the person to play.
Similar to media work, plan to make frequent follow-up phone calls.
Publicize your efforts! (see tips for media outreach)
Are you on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest? You never know which one of your online followers or friends is also dedicated to the fight against Parkinson’s.
Here are just a few ways to share your awareness message.
What You Can Do
Option #1: Show It
It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words! Share photos, such as your members of your family wearing the PD awareness t-shirt or simply change your profile photo during April. Feature PDF’s awareness graphics on your website or blog. Do you see an inspiring graphic on PDF’s page? Just click ‘share!’
Option #2: Tell It
Do your friends and family know why this cause is so important to you? Do they understand how many people live with PD? Tell them, even if it’s just a short, polite status update that says, “Parkinson’s is important to me because my Dad lived with it for 20 years. Get involved at www.pdf.org.”
Option #3: Connect to Others Committed to the Cause
Get ideas and inspiration from other people! We are amazed and inspired each day by the creativity of the community. See their work by joining PDF’s online channels and those of other organizations.
How To Do It
How to Show It
- Use our free images, including Facebook-sized profile images, at www.pdf.org/april. Share them on your page via a status update, “I am changing my profile picture this April for Parkinson's Awareness Month. Join the fight against Parkinson's by changing your picture at www.pdf.org/april.”
- Don’t forget, sometimes the most powerful images are your own. Share photos from everyday life – whether it’s you with a loved one with PD, or fighting Parkinson’s with your family.
- Tear out the handheld ‘make a difference’ sign in the back of the kit or download one at www.pdf.org/difference. Fill in the blank and then take a photo! Post to Facebook and tag us at www.pdf.org/facebook or email the photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with a 100-word description and we can post it on our website (and Facebook) for you! Others will be inspired by seeing what YOU are doing to make a difference.
How to Tell It
- Do you have a blog? Use this month to blog about Parkinson’s Awareness.
- Send a simple email letting folks know that it’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
- Send personalized awareness eCards – designed by members of the PDF Creativity and Parkinson’s Project – by visiting support.pdf.org/ecards.
- Help us trend on Twitter! Follow us @PDFparkinson. Join us on James Parkinson’s birthday by tweeting. (Use hashtags: #PDmonth #Parkinsons, #ParkinsonsAwareness #fightparkinsons
- Submit details about your awareness event at www.pdf.org/event_calendar so we can share it on PDF’s website!
- If you’re comfortable using video, develop a YouTube video about your awareness efforts and let us know about it at www.pdf.org/youtube.
Start Here to Connect with PDF:
- Facebook: www.pdf.org/facebook
- Twitter: www.pdf.org/twitter
- Blogger: www.pdf.org/blog
- Flickr: www.pdf.org/flickr
- You Tube: www.pdf.org/youtube
“The City of Elizabethton, TN, declared April Parkinson's Awareness Month. Here is a picture of my mom, Charlotte Pruitt, holding the proclamation and other awareness items I put in a frame.”
–Becky Pruitt Jarnagin
“April Awareness Month Proclamation — City of Tampa 2011: Love to my dad and everyone else fighting this disease, and all your loved ones and supporters. We will win. We will get that cure.”
PDF Research Advocates Patti Meese, of Scottsdale, AZ, and Jim Patterson, of Dunedin, FL, both found success when they lobbied their hometowns for Parkinson's Awareness Month proclamations.
In April 2011, 20 individuals, including Ruth Pearce of Gainesville, GA, displayed the Parkinson’s Quilt in 11 states. An estimated 2,500 people came to view it!
Rénee Gerrior shared this photo on PDF's Facebook page. She and members of her family are all sporting the 2011 Parkinson's Awareness Month T-Shirt, "It May Shake Me, But It Can't Break Me.”