Now that you’ve started a Mood Walks group, spreading the word can help your group gain traction. A strong communication strategy can attract new participants, new partners, and new sponsors. Following are some ways to get started.
Raise Awareness within Your Organization
Ensure that your organization is informed about your program’s value. Decision-makers in your organization may need some initial education about the value of your program and the effectiveness of physical activity in preventing chronic disease and promoting recovery from mental illness. Consider ways to keep your board members and management staff up-to-date on your Mood Walks group. Celebrating group achievements in a public forum, such as a Mood Walks bulletin board, can help raise awareness in your organization.
Don’t overlook the other programs within your own institution—they may be your closest partners. Let everyone else know what you have to offer. There may be an opportunity to introduce your Mood Walks group into another program or into your co-workers’ routines with their clients. Or invite your co-workers to attend a walk and bring along a client who may be interested in joining your group; being accompanied by someone familiar can raise the client’s comfort level in a new situation. Those same clients may tell their peers about their experience and help generate excitement. Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to promote your program. Connecting with others in your organization is also a good way to extend your reach: your co-workers can help spread the word through their own network of partners and help you make new connections in the community.
Shift Your Organizational Culture
Launching a Mood Walks group for your clients presents an opportunity to promote workplace mental health as well. Look for leaders in your organization who can serve as champions for your group. Ask them to lead by example and demonstrate a commitment to physical activity at the office. You can make the case for improved productivity and a happier, healthier workforce. For more information, see “Workplace Mental Health Promotion: A How-To Guide” (wmhp.cmhaontario.ca).
Are there ways to have other staff involved in your Mood Walks group? Perhaps there are staff within your organization who have expertise in walking or fitness. Are there ways to encourage the whole staff team to also become physically active? Consider holding an institute-wide challenge. If you and your co-workers walk the talk, it only strengthens your ability to motivate and inspire the participants in your Mood Walks group.
Use Your Local Media
The local community is an important audience to reach. By interacting with other organizations and opening doors for clients, you have the opportunity to reduce stigma and to build community connections.
One way to reach out is through the local media. This will raise your group’s profile, but it will also raise the profile of your organization as a whole. Local media could offer the necessary promotion and outreach, as well as educate the community around physical health and its relationship to mental health issues.
Connecting with local media can also assist in forming partnerships. As mentioned in the “Working with Partners” section, partnerships can help spread the word about your walking group, and also be valuable sources of merchandise, transportation, and equipment.
Check out the “Sample Press Release” provided in the Appendices to get started communicating with the media!