Increasing Progran Awareness and Marketing to Program Participants

AF Massachusetts Chapter Uses Marketing Campaigns to Increase Program Awareness
AF Michigan Chapter Conducts Program Marketing Campaigns


AF Massachusetts Chapter Uses Marketing Campaigns to Increase Program Awareness

The chapter has been successful in implementing three types of awareness campaigns, including one using billboards, the CDC’s Physical Activity Campaign and an initiative targeting young adults.




  • The chapter has successfully used billboards for the past two years. After obtaining advice from the Lupus Foundation which had used billboard ads, the chapter staff discovered how to make the project possible through Clear Channel.
  • Money to pay for the billboards was raised by a fund-raising event committee member who worked at a law firm and who identified a trust that was managed by the law firm. The approximate total of the trust was $3000, and Clear Channel agreed to produce two of the largest sizes of billboards available for that amount.
  • The chapter targeted the population of Central Massachusetts. The focus of ads was “FACES OF ARTHRITIS,” featuring ethnically and generationally diverse people (see graphic).
  • Focus groups said that the ads increased overall awareness of AF and its programs. Clear Channel has kept up billboards for two years though the location keeps changing.  
  • The chapter honored Clear Channel at its past annual meeting.  The approximate worth of donation is $24,000 a month.
  • Also, as a result of billboards, the chapter obtained more sponsors, more participants, overall increased brand and name recognition and Web site recognition.


Key Learnings/ Tips


  • Find a trust or a grant to give money.
  • Ask lawyers /bank committee members to help the chapter find a trust.
  • Target the local population groups that are driving to work or school, etc.
  • Make sure companies are willing to negotiate prices.
  • Identify what type of marketing is appropriate for the population you are targeting.
  • Include diversity of age and ethnicity on the ads.




The chapter involved many different partners and implemented several campaign strategies.


  • The chapter staff contacted the community relations department at Herald Media Company, (the owners of many community newspapers) and asked for a grant.

    • The chapter budgeted clipping service costs in the grant.
    • Herald Media agreed to run ads for this campaign pro bono statewide.
    • The chapter got calls and raised total awareness of AF and its programs, and callers got a packet of information about classes, programs, etc.
    • As a result of the campaign, there were 6.5 million impressions on the Web site.


  • The chapter’s existing radio partners agreed to run the physical activity ads concurrently.
  • The Massachusetts library systems do one free drop of a flyer, brochure, etc. a year. In one of their mailings, they included information about the physical activity campaign and a response form that people could send back to the chapter. Physical Activity campaign bookmarks were also created and distributed.
  • The campaign was also promoted through Lunch and Learn sessions at companies.

    • The chapter used Boston Business Journal to locate companies with targeted demographics, including baby boomers, those with certain educational levels, etc.
    • The chapter used different speakers for these presentations (including physical therapists, orthopedists, chapter speaker’s bureau, etc.)

  • At one of the chapter’s Arthritis Walks, a parent of a child with arthritis who is also a physical therapist created an obstacle course for kids and included educational messages about physical activity and joint injury prevention, etc.


Key Learnings/ Tips


  • Do not be afraid to ask radio sponsors for free PSAs.
  • Do not pay for services or goods because someone WILL donate them.
  • Include the AF logo on everything you produce.




  • The young adult campaign targets those with arthritis aged 18-44 years.
  • The most effective communication with young adults is through e-mail.
  • The chapter received a grant to pay for a four-program dinner series.
  • The dinner series included different topics such as pregnancy and arthritis, adoption and Arthritis in Workplace to  appropriately address the target population
  • The chapter created a Web link for their Young Adult Web site from the AF, Massachusetts Chapter Web site.


Key Learnings/ Tips


  • When working with hospitals, do not be afraid to contact the Community Relations, public relations departments, etc.  Many of them use an intranet system or other internal means to post information about programs.
  • Identify the right contact to send calendar releases. For example, look for the calendar editor or call paper directly, or send something to ATTENTION: Calendar editor. Know what format they prefer the calendar listing.
  • Many hometown papers will only print events/programs information if being held in that area. Use the wording ‘local residents are invited to AF program/event if it’s a few towns away. Take time to customize press/calendar releases.
  • Use good colors for flyers, and keep flyers gender neutral in color. Try and use real people instead of clip art/cartoons on ads and flyers.
  • Keep in mind how people will react to the ad. Think about marketing tools that are appropriate for the program and the target population.
  • On the outside of mailers, use stickers saying something like “Learn more about upcoming programs” to ensure receivers that they are not being solicited.
  • Use slightly different shapes for mailers. Shop around with printers for best prices for creative approaches. Collect mailers from other organizations.
  • RULE OF THREE: Have at least three people edit marketing materials. Use a diverse group if possible – age, ethnicity,etc. before sending out to mass public


Contact:  Heather MacFarlane/AF  Massachusetts Chapter/617.219.8231



AF Michigan Chapter Conducts Program Marketing Campaigns


  • The chapter conducts a major media and marketing campaign for its  AF Life Improvement Series twice each year, in August/September and December/January. Smaller campaigns are conducted for single partners who sign letters of agreement between these dates.
  • The campaign includes:

    • Direct mail of a course catalog to 10,000 people in areas served by AF Life Improvement Series classes. Labels are generated through a Team Approach query and through the purchase of mailing lists from a direct mail firm.
    • Distribution of course catalogs and brochures to referral sources such as physicians, program sites, physical therapy clinics, libraries, senior centers and other outlets. Single copies of marketing materials are sent along with a faxable  order form for additional materials.
    • Distribution of ad templates, news releases, newsletter articles, program listings and other materials to program sites.
    • Distribution of press releases, calendar listings and public service announcements to 100+ newspapers, radio stations and TV stations statewide.

Also see the chapter's Marketing / Media Checklists (AF Aquatic, AF Exercise, AF Self-Help) & Sample News Release


Contact:  Barbara Spreitzer-Berent /AF Michigan Chapter/248-649-2891 x 224




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