Press Releases By Julien Hoffman
To create more interest in the WTT project and bring attention to the great work being done in each pilot community, the WTT team created a set of press release templates that can easily be used by community advocates or Extension professionals. These press releases were designed with a “fill in the blank” format that allows each community to customize their press release—and thus subsequent news articles—to fit the unique projects they are doing. This was an excellent innovation, because it saved the core WTT team time and supported the communities in marketing themselves and gaining media attention on their own terms. Using this system allowed for a level of standardization that ensured the funder’s information and other editorial notes about the history of WTT were correct while still allowing locals to tell their own success stories. Lessons Learned Having a template available makes it easier for community members to distribute unique press releases quickly. As your project develops, it is important to have a media plan in place. This way you will be able to easily spread the word about your projects in a standardized way.
The Importance of Storytel l ing By Julien Hoffman
Storytelling allows any communicator to form a personal connection with their audience. It is a fundamental human experience that brings people together and drives deeper, more meaningful bonds. From the earliest recorded history, cave dwellers used storytelling to teach and share. Narratives are unique because they transmit real-world knowledge and emotions. We learn from observations, firsthand experiences, and by hearing stories from others. Relaying information in a narrative way evokes feeling, which is incredibly powerful and memorable for listeners. This is why, in the WTT project, storytelling and one-on-one communication were so central. To lessen the stigma of talking about mental health, it had to be humanized and made relatable. The WTT team was able to tell these stories about rural wellness, resiliency when facing adversity, and mental health through many mediums, such as PSAs, videos, podcasts, news articles, and live speakers. These avenues offer a real face or voice to topics that could otherwise feel distant. Through evaluations, it became obvious that rural community members value human connection highly, so it only makes sense that data is vital to educating, but so is testimony in this situation. In order to continue breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health in any space, but especially a rural one, we must start the conversation.
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