A tongue-in-cheek editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a critical look at the myriad health-related observances (awareness months, weeks and days) that crowd the calendar with opportunities to draw attention to a cause. They are so pervasive, the writer argues, that “almost nobody is aware of anything.” He points to a web listing of health-related observances in which a dozen and a half are associated with this month alone.
What the columnist neglects to discuss, however, is that when these occasions are executed well, they provide context, structure and immeasurable opportunities for raising funds, building awareness or changing policy. We need only think of October, an entire month virtually synonymous with breast cancer awareness, or National Wear Red Day, when the country is awash in a scarlet sea, to realize the power an awareness observance can have to rally the nation around an important issue. The media, influentials and the public alike take notice. However, as Earth Day approaches and environmental releases and announcements flood journalists’ inboxes nationwide, the point, that an awareness occasion in and of itself is not a sufficient news peg, is well-taken.
Companies and nonprofits must add new and meaningful content to the dialogue, as well as provide a relevant call-to-action, to engage and inspire constituents before hitting send on the press release. And please, don’t wrap yourself in a green flag without the substance to back it up.