Getting the right information to the right people at the right time requires some advance planning.
And while you’re making these plans, it is important to continually ask the following questions:
- Who do you want to reach? (your audience)
- What is the best media for reaching them? (communications channels)
- What do you want to tell them? (your message)
- When do you want to reach them? (timing)
- What do you want them to do? (call to action)
Who do you want (and need to) reach? (your audiences)
Consider schools with >50% of students on the Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) program which is an indicator of lower socioeconomic status (visit the Colorado Department of Education website for more information on high FRL schools). School-linked oral health care champions can be cultivated in a variety of sectors of your community and may include anyone interested in health, education, child welfare or or all of the above, such as:
- School nurses
- School-based health center staff
- Oral health practitioners
- School board members
- Community groups
- District health or wellness teams
- Parent groups
- School staff
Be sure to think broadly about your target audiences. Oral health champions are often found in unlikely places. Are there community leaders or members who have a personal connection to the issues you are seeking to address?
Reaching Your Audiences (Communication Channels)
There are a variety of ways to get your message to your audience(s). Channels may include local news media coverage, advertisements in school or district newsletters, e-mail blasts, social media, flyers, presentations at meetings and in-person opportunities wherever community members gather. Select communications channels based on who they’re most likely to reach. Download the “Communications Channels” and “Sample News Release” handouts.
What Do You Want to Tell Them? (Your Message)
When it comes poor oral health among children, the facts often speak for themselves. Use compelling data and facts to demonstrate the importance of your program. Examples include:
- Dental decay is the leading cause on chronic disease in childhood.
- Nearly all tooth decay is preventable.
- Reaching children early can instill habits that influence their lifelong health.
- Working in school environments is the most effective way to ensure that children access the services they need.
- Children who suffer from dental problems may also experience:
- Excessive school absences
- Decreased academic performance
- Difficulty socializing
- Lack of sleep
- Damage to self-esteem
- Trouble eating and speaking
Also, be sure to provide stakeholders and community members with updates about your program’s progress and results. Download the “Key Messages and Facts” tool.
When Do You Want to Reach Out? (Timing)
The school year dances to a special rhythm. For example, excitement and energy levels are at their peak at the beginning of the year and tend to wane as summer approaches. The construction and delivery of your oral health program also will follow its own rhythm. Therefore, you’ll want to time your communications efforts to accommodate both. Download the “Calendar Opportunities” handout and the “Communications Planning Worksheet.”
What Do You Want Them to Do? (Call to Action)
It is important to let your audiences know what the “ask” is. Therefore, you should try to include a call to action in every communication. Examples include:
- Learn more about the oral health status in your community
- Attend a meeting
- Join the local oral health coalition
- Reach out to school and community leaders
- Volunteer at schools
- Donate services or equipment
- Help distribute information
- Provide transportation