Representatives of non-profit organizations often talk about wanting media coverage because it will “increase public awareness” of their cause. This is true, but often I ask them the question, “Is it awareness or education you really need?”. I have had this discussion with several health organizations and it is a good question to ask yourself.
Sometimes the answer is both. Often, the real answer is specifically one or the other.
For example, if you take a social cause like dangerous driving, it is important to increase public awareness of the problem. This can be acheived by having good, accurate statistics that demonstrate the death, injury and property damage that results. However, at the same time good media coverage of the problem can provide education about what can be done to reduce it.
With health conditions, it depends on how well-known or little-known the condition is. It also depends on how long a media relations campaign has been active and how successful it has been. If you surveyed media audiences, you would find few people who are not “aware” of commonly-known health conditions. The role the media plays for these causes is one of public education. Getting the word out about new treatments and technologies, recognizing the symptoms, and the aspects that are not commonly understood should be your goal.
Some health conditions are not well-known, although they may be common. They are another example of the need to raise awareness and educate at the same time, through the use of good media stories.
Before you set your media goals, ask yourself which you need most — awareness or education.