We, as Legionnaires, are lacking when it comes to promoting the good of The American Legion at the local and national level. It is known that Legionnaires and posts are very humble and do not tout the positive efforts they are doing year-round to assists veterans and their families, active-duty servicemembers, youth and community members. However, it’s time for us to start.
As we embark on our five-year membership plan, one of the strategies that departments are to adhere to is communication — communicate the Legion’s efforts at the local and national level through public service announcements (PSA’s), social media sites, etc. James McMann, a member of and service officer for Post 318 in San Jose, Calif., can attest to the positive impact a PSA can have.
McMann submitted a PSA about a Hiring Our Heroes event that Post 318 was hosting to San Jose radio station 94.5 KBAY. KBAY producer Sam Van Zandt contacted McMann, proposing an on-air interview with him during the station’s "Salute to Military and Veterans" in May. During the interview, McMann discussed the history of The American Legion, our four pillars, our many children and youth programs, and how our accredited American Legion service officers are specially trained to provide expert assistance on VA benefits, free of charge, to veterans and their families.
"It was a wonderful opportunity to convey what the Legion has done for our veterans, our communities and our children," McMann said. "And (it was an opportunity) to promote the Legion as an organization worthy of joining.
"Van Zandt offered his future help if there was anything we wished to promote. This only proves that opportunities like these and the relationships they create can be used to further the Legion’s goals, increase non-veterans public awareness of the Legion and show that we are a strong and relevant voice in the veterans community. The American Legion has a long history of service that most people are sadly unaware of."
The Legion provides a host of PSA ads, from youth programs to membership promotions, that you can download online for free: www.legion.org/presscenter/psacopy
You can also download the Legion’s Public Relations Toolkit online for free: www.legion.org/prtoolkit
With ideas from the PR Toolkit, Legion posts can get noticed by newspaper editors and other media. For example, it is important to use pictures and video to highlight the human side of things when submitting a story to a newspaper. The key to making a compelling story is to make it local and unique and show how it affects the community.
When emailing newspaper staff, target the feature or news editor, make the subject line compelling and place the press release in the body of the email and not as an attachment. Additionally, make local news personalities your Twitter or Facebook friends, so they can stay updated on what is happening within your post.
McMann said that PSA’s are one of the main communication tools that Legionnaires have to connect to people outside of the normal scope of communications.
"The next time you have something you want to publicize, don’t forget that your local radio stations (may) offer free PSA’s," McMann said. "All you have to do is ask. And you never know what else you may get from your efforts.
"In our case, we received the wonderful gift of airtime to educate our community and solicit new members that we could never afford to buy."