Photo Credit: Lars Howlett The Half Moon Bay Review
In 2011, Marian Bumala of La Honda, CA, submitted a t-shirt design to PDF’s annual contest that depicted a tulip, the official symbol for Parkinson’s, rising above the sun. Written beneath the tulip were the words, “It may shake me, but it can’t break me,” signifying her outlook that “Parkinson’s may shake a person’s body and shake up a person’s life, but there is still hope.” Her slogan resonated with others. (See information on how to participate in the annual t-shirt contest here).
5 Easy Ways to Spread the Word
- Hang a flyer or poster in your workplace or office.
- Change your Facebook profile picture.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.
- Sign the Global Parkinson’s Pledge. Send an Awareness eCard.
- Send an Awareness eCard.
Spread the Word
Help raise awareness of the impact of Parkinson's. Here are a few strategies to help you get started:
- Focus the Media on Parkinson's
- Involve Public Officials
- Bring the Parkinson's Quilt to Your Community
- Sign the Global Parkinson's Pledge
- Choose the Parkinson's Awareness Month T-Shirt
- Spread the Word Online
Your effort to publicize Parkinson’s — whether writing a simple letter to the editor of your local paper or developing a press release about your event — can go a long way to raising visibility of Parkinson’s in your community. The key to media outreach is starting early.
Write a Letter to the Editor
A letter to the editor of your local paper can easily raise awareness and put a personal face on Parkinson’s disease in your community. To encourage coverage in April, write a letter in late March asking the community to get involved (see sample here).
Write a Press Release
A press release is a tool that will enable you to share your story. It should be personal, while also relevant to the broader community. Keep it short and include facts about your work or event — who, what, where, when, why and how. If you know that your event will draw a large crowd or include a moving personal story, highlight that. Use our template, and insert your own story and facts (see sample here).
How to Tell Your Story
Perhaps you have been living with Parkinson’s for years and want to spread awareness. Maybe you have a loved one living with Parkinson’s and raised funds through an event in their honor or you are an artist who finds therapeutic benefit from your artwork. Either way, no one can tell your story about Parkinson’s better than you. Start jotting down ideas about what you’d like to communicate.
No matter what your story, it is important to include facts too. Statistics (for instance, the fact that nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson's) will help others to understand your story in context. (download PDF's factsheet to see statistics).
Your kit can include:
- Letter to the editor or press release (see samples here)
- Parkinson’s disease facts (download PDF's factsheet)
- Proclamation from the President, your governor or mayor (see sample here)
- Flyer or promotional information for your event, if applicable
Build a Media List
- Research a list of local reporters.
- Start with the media outlets with which you are already familiar — your local newspapers, radio stations and news stations (many contacts can be found by doing a simple Internet search or by calling the main number of the publication/outlet).
- Which reporters would be most receptive to your story? Consider a reporter’s “beat.” Often for local papers, it is the community news, community health or science reporters who may be most interested.
- Contact reporters in advance with a phone call or pitch letter to introduce yourself.
Send the Press Release to Your Media List
- The easiest way to communicate is via email, although some reporters prefer calls.
- In the subject heading of your email, include a phrase that is concise and eyecatching (i.e., Local Resident Aims to Raise $5,000 for Parkinson’s Research).
- Keep your email short; include an introduction and state your purpose for writing. Tell the reporter that your press release is included in the email and then copy/paste it within the actual email. Do not send the release as an attachment. Attachments are often marked as spam and may never reach the editor’s inbox.
- If you prefer to call first:
- Devise a list of talking points before calling.
- Utilize the “elevator pitch” method. This means that you have about 30 to 90 seconds to get your contact interested in wanting to hear more. If the person is interested, he or she will also ask for a follow-up email and this is where you should include more details of your event as well as your sample press release.
- Follow-up is one of the most important tasks after reaching out to your targeted media list. Reporters are used to follow-up, so do not be afraid to call many times. Emails are also helpful — state that you wanted to make sure the reporter received your previous email and re-state why you contacted him or her initially.
- Follow instructions! If a reporter’s voicemail asks you not to leave a message regarding pitch emails, then do not, but continue to call.
- When calling, be prepared and polite.
- If you have received confirmation of receipt of your email, ask if there is anything else that you can provide for the reporter. If he or she is receptive, ask if the reporter would be interested in writing about your event or Pa rkinson’s Awareness Month in general. For instance if you are working on a proclamation locally (see next section), provide a copy for the reporter.
- If a reporter seems as if he or she needs more convincing, tell him or her that you have a media kit prepared with more information (see suggestions above). We have provided samples for material you may want to place in your media kit.
Say Thank You!
- If a reporter covers your story, write or call to thank them for supporting the cause.
Suggested Media Outlets
- Health producers at local news station
- Radio stations
- Community or health editors at local newspaper
- Web staff at local newspapers or broadcast outlets
- Hospital medical newsletters
- Online bulletin boards
- Calendar of events for your neighborhood
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.
Public officials can help to make Parkinson’s Awareness Month a newsworthy event. Receiving a proclamation from a mayor or governor can increase awareness about Parkinson’s and the continued need for research for better treatments and a cure. For more information on partnering with public officials, contact the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) at (800) 850-4726 or www.parkinsonsaction.org.
Tips for Passing the Word to Public Officials
- Allow plenty of lead time. Getting a proclamation approved and signed can be a lengthy process. Plan to make frequent follow-up phone calls.
- Coordinate with others in the community. Has your state or community had a proclamation signed in past years? Who is handling it this year? To find out and work together with other advocates, contact PAN at (800) 850-4726.
- You are more likely to get a public official’s involvement if you invite other local Parkinson’s organizations and prominent individuals to join you in submitting the request.
- Send your request on the letterhead of one organization and include the signatures of coalition members. Choose one person to sign the cover letter.
- If you are asking an official to sign a proclamation, include a copy with your letter.
- If you are requesting that a public official participate in a Parkinson’s Awareness Month event, include the date, time, location and a brief description in your letter. Also note the names of any other invited public officials, any sponsors of the event, a general description of the audience and the role you would like the person to play.
- Contact information for city/state officials can be found in your telephone directory. If you wish to invite an official’s spouse, call the official’s office and ask for the name of the staff person who handles the spouse’s correspondence and scheduling.
- Publicize your efforts (see tips for media outreach).
What’s a powerful way to show the impact of Parkinson’s?
A block of the Parkinson’s Quilt can be the perfect centerpiece for:
- support group events
- awareness or fundraising events
- academic settings
The Parkinson's Quilt is the first global quilt to focus the world’s attention on Parkinson’s disease. Each of the more than 600 quilt panels was made by a person living with or affected by Parkinson’s disease.
After its debut in Scotland in 2010, blocks of the Parkinson’s Quilt became available for rental, for a modest fee, by individuals, nonprofit organizations and corporations. In its first year, the quilt visited 30 states and was seen by more than 3,500 visitors.
Because April is Parkinson’s Awareness month, the quilt will be in high demand at this time! If you are interested in renting a section of the quilt during April or another time, please send in your application as soon as possible.
Display the Parkinson’s Quilt to show the impact of Parkinson’s.
You can support the global effort to fight Parkinson's disease today … by simply signing your name to the Global Parkinson’s Pledge.
The community has created this pledge to work for increased awareness of Parkinson's, new treatments and a cure. The World Parkinson Coalition aims to have one million signatures on the pledge by its next meeting in October 2013. (The pledge was first announced at the 2nd World Parkinson Congress in September 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland).
Can you help them meet their goal?
Each year, PDF invites the community to submit t-shirt designs for Parkinson’s Awareness Month. After a committee of judges chooses five finalist designs, the general public votes for their favorite. The winning design is featured on a t-shirt available to order online and at PDF’s booth at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in April in New York, NY.
- Design It*: November
- Vote: February
- Wear It: March … and beyond!
*Be sure to check our website for design regulations.
There are many ways to raise awareness online. Here are some suggestions:
- Change your Facebook cover photo! Change your photo during April, and we can make the world take notice of Parkinson's. In past years, thousands of people took this simple step, by changing their photo to a tulip with a Parkinson’s Awareness message.
- Visit www.pdf.org/april to download the 2013 cover photo
- Upload the new image as your new cover photo
- Let others know why you changed your photo via a status update!
- Suggested: I am changing my cover photo this April for Parkinson's Awareness Month. Join the fight against Parkinson's by changing your picture at www.pdf.org/april and copying and pasting this to your status.
- Join our Facebook page at www.pdf.org/facebook to encourage others to do the same! Nearly 25,000 people are already sharing resources and news.
- Send personalized eCards at http://support.pdf.org/ecards to your friends and family to encourage them to join the fight to find the cure.
- Make a Facebook birthday wish. If you have a birthday that falls in April, set up the option for your Facebook friends to donate to a Parkinson’s organization for your birthday.
- Follow us on Twitter at @PDFparkinson and use hashtags #Parkinson; #PDmonth, #ParkinsonsAwareness and #fightparkinsons. For example, you can tweet to your followers:
- Suggested: April is #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth. Visit www.pdf.org to help #fightparkinsons Pls RT!
- Publicize your awareness event! Submit details about your event at www.pdf.org/event_calendar and it could be published on PDF’s website!
- Download Parkinson’s awareness banners to post on your blog or website. When your site visitors click on your banner they will be taken to the PDF Awareness Page.
- Let the online community know what you’re doing. Use the photo-sharing site Flickr (www.pdf.org/flickr) to share photos of your awareness activities. If you’re comfortable using video, develop a YouTube video about your awareness efforts and let us know at www.pdf.org/youtube.
Connect with PDF
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.”