PUBLIC RELATIONS (formerly PUBLIC INFORMATION / PI)
NA World Services has compiled the following guidelines to support emerging NA communities needing some basic guidance in fulfilling our primary purpose in the public arena.
Our primary purpose as a fellowship is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. PI is a vital part of “carrying the message.” This type of service calls upon us to communicate and participate in areas of the community in which, as using addicts, we were once unwelcome. Courage and humility are necessary ingredients in our recovery when approaching the public about our fellowship. We hope that you find this part of NA service as rewarding as we have.
Public Information and the NA Member
Every member of NA has a role in helping us carry the message to the still-suffering addict. Much of the goodwill that exists between NA and the community at large is based on the relationships that we develop and maintain as NA members. We can improve these relationships by taking care to treat others with courtesy and respect. This is especially important when we represent the fellowship to professionals and members of other organizations who may spread their good or bad impressions of us to others. We need to project a positive image of NA so that these individuals feel comfortable directing addicts seeking recovery to our meetings.
When we participate in a public information event, we are responsible for our behavior. If we are rude, use profanity, or show a lack of respect for a facility or for other organizations, we bring into question the effectiveness of our recovery program.
We can also be seen as representative members of Narcotics Anonymous when we wear NA T-shirts in public, stand around outside a group meeting, or attend an NA convention or service conference. As a fellowship, we have no control over the behavior of individual NA members. As members, however, keeping our spiritual principles in mind, we can share our concerns about our public image with other members. We can communicate to them that a bad image of Narcotics Anonymous could easily keep the message of recovery from reaching the addict who still suffers.
Public Information and the NA Group
Members of NA groups can and often do perform some basic PI work to help carry the message of recovery to addicts, as well as to other members of the public. PI efforts by groups are often limited to posting bulletins, printing and distributing meeting schedules, and informing other addicts about their meetings.
Groups should always be careful not to make statements or commitments that overstep their abilities. It’s important to have enough resources available to respond to inquiries. Our spiritual foundation of anonymity can be seriously damaged by members acting alone or independently of the group and the fellowship. We never do speaking engagements, presentations, or interviews alone.
As the number of meetings and groups increases, the need for additional services to the groups is usually met by the formation of an area service committee (ASC). We start these service committees so that the groups are not distracted from their own primary purpose. Our groups need to stay focused on their primary purpose and provide a safe environment in which to practice the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
Public Information and the Hospitals and Institutions Committee
Cooperation between committees is an important part of providing service in NA. We may understand our own functions well but know little of how other committees operate. It is critical to understand the relationship between the hospitals and institutions committee and the public information committee.
The purpose of the hospitals and institutions committee, or H&I, is to carry the NA message to addicts in hospitals or other institutions who do not have full access to regular Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The H&I committee will organize a team of NA members, called a panel, to go into these institutions and introduce the basics of the NA program to addicts in those institutions. The basic difference in function is that H&I panels present the program primarily to addicts and the PI committee makes its presentation primarily to non-addicts.
Here is an example to illustrate our different responsibilities and cooperative spirit: If a hospital contacted the local fellowship to request a presentation of the program to their doctors and nurses, the PI committee would be primarily responsible to do a presentation. However, the local H&I committee should be informed of the event and invited to participate. A member from H&I would be most knowledgeable about the local H&I Committee and could answer questions about its ability and requirements to bring panels to the hospital. Using the same example, if the request were to present the program to the patients at the hospital, it would be the H&I committee’s responsibility to make this presentation. The PI committee should be available to the H&I committee if this contact were to become an opportunity for a presentation to the staff at the hospital.
Starting A Public Information Committee
A public information subcommittee is an important part of most area service committees. If there is an ASC available to you, attend a scheduled meeting with other NA members interested in doing PI work and express your willingness to serve on or start a PI committee. From this point on, public information efforts should be done with the support and guidance of your ASC.
If there is no area service committee available to you, schedule a meeting of local group members interested in public information to form a PI committee. You may want to begin by establishing the committee’s purpose, functions, and responsibilities, and then deciding how the committee should serve the local members of the fellowship. A PI committee initially should handle such things as creating, updating, and distributing meeting schedules; responding to requests for information; establishing a stable mailing address; helping a hospitals and institutions committee when asked; and managing other PI projects within that area or region.
A Contingency Plan
As Narcotics Anonymous grows, representatives of the print and electronic media will show increasing interest in our fellowship. When the media become interested in NA, their reporters often approach us without an understanding of the principle of anonymity. Maintaining personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films must be our highest priority when contacts are made with the public and the media. We have found that having a “contigency plan” is of great value for a PI committee.
Creating a public relations contingency plan is one of the first priorities for a new PI committee. This plan is a strategy for organizing our response to public and media requests for information. Very simply, it should state what to do when certain types of requests are received from the public. Use of the plan can help ensure that our most experienced PI members are involved, so that the local fellowship can keep to its primary purpose and we can stay consistent with our traditions. The plan should include a list of members involved in public information who are familiar with NA media responses.
The plan should also include guidelines for handling requests which will affect other groups, areas, and regions. If a request does affect other service groups in NA, coordination and cooperation are needed in order to respond effectively.
If your local PI committee is planning to participate in a media event that may be significant to Narcotics Anonymous as a whole, please contact NA World Services. There you will find resources available that can help make your efforts a success.
The Work Itself
It is clear that we cannot be everything for everybody. We are a recovery organization whose members meet regularly to help each other stay clean. It is all right for us to decline a request that is outside our fellowship’s primary purpose. It is also reasonable for us to decline a request that is within our purpose if we do not have the time, money, and members to honor the request. The important thing to remember is that we respond! Failure to respond, even if we intend to decline a request, demonstrates a lack of reliability on behalf of our fellowship.
To carry a clear NA message to the public, we as members need to have a clear knowledge of our traditions. It takes practice to learn the traditions and understand how to apply them. We have reserved a portion of this guide for a discussion of the traditions and how they impact PI work.
Our objective in doing public information work should be simply to spread the word that the fellowship is available, that it works, and that it’s free. Here are some frequently used methods to accomplish this:
A. Meeting List(s) If there is more than one meeting in your community, creating and maintaining a listing of meeting information should be your highest priority. This list should contain information such as the day, time, and location (a street address is preferred), and whether the meeting is open to the public. It may also contain information such as the type of meeting (step study, speaker, or discussion, for example), whether it is smoking or non-smoking, and any other special information. Meeting lists should be updated on a regular basis. It’s our responsibility to make sure that newcomers to our program are given accurate information on how to find us when they reach out for help.
B. Posters These are notices used to inform the public about how and where to contact us. It is critical that when we post these notices, we first obtain permission to do so. Some possible posting locations are detoxification facilities, hospitals, police stations, schools and universities, churches or missionary outreach offices, government service offices, drug treatment centers, or other places where addicts seeking recovery or people who help addicts might congregate.
We need to stress that “attraction rather than promotion” is an important concept when doing public information work such as this. Good judgment should be used when creating and posting these notices. We need to refrain from provocative, promotional statements or artwork that may convey a negative image of NA or appear to be promotional. Even how and where we post notices should be evaluated before we follow through on the project. A simple message explaining that we are available and how to contact us is the desired approach.
Contents of printed media, such as bulletins, posters, and newspaper ads, usually consist of an attention-grabbing statement or question, followed by information on how to contact the local meeting, group, or phoneline.
TO CONTACT PI
If you are interested in finding out more about PI, setting up a presentation, helping or just general questions please email our Regional PI Chairperson.