8.7 Free Media
An effective damage prevention education program utilizes all available free media.33
When identified and used correctly, free media can be highly effective to communicate the Dig Safely message at minimal cost. For organizations with limited budgets, use of free media should be emphasized.
This tool is the preferred method to communicate “newsworthy” information about your damage prevention program to newspapers, trade publications, and radio stations. Examples of occasions/events that are appropriate for press releases include the following:
- Call center milestones (millionth call, record month, record day)
- Year in review (call volume statistics, damage reduction/increases)
- Election of new board members
- Announcement of excavator safety program schedule
- Announcement of a new utility member
- Changes to the state/local damage prevention law
- Seasonal “call before you dig” reminders
A basic press release, containing the damage prevention message and fundamental program information, is on file for distribution to newspapers and other periodicals that often run special sections on topics such as home improvements, safety around the home, and damage prevention actions related to severe weather. See Appendix C for a sample press release.
Not-for-Profit Public Service Announcements (PSAs):
Television and radio stations, as well as billboard companies, often are willing to donate air time or space for public service announcements (PSAs) to not-for-profit organizations. To qualify, the organizations must have a safety-related message that benefits the general public.
Member Facility Owners/Operators:
The member facility owners operators of the damage prevention system are, in effect, another source of free media for the Dig Safely message:
- Major facility owners/operators who purchase paid advertising on television, radio, and billboards can require that free Dig Safely PSAs be included in any media buy they make.
- Cable TV members should be provided copies of any Dig Safely commercial and encouraged to run it as a PSA on their system. (Many cable members have created their own messages for this purpose!)
- All members facility owners/operators should be offered vehicle bumper stickers and posters to place on their locating and service vehicles promoting the “Call Before You Dig” phone numbers.
State and local governments can be yet another source of free media for your damage prevention education program. The following are successful examples of their use:
- Use of proclamations by state and local governments to support “National Safe Digging Month.” See Appendix C for a sample press release
- Inclusion of safe-digging messages on state tollway/highway electronic message boards
- Damage prevention messages in community newsletters of member municipal facility operators
- Various 811 centers including AL, AZ, CO, CT, GA, ID, IL, IA,KY, MS, MO, NM, NY (City), NC, OK, OH, OR, TX, WV, and WI
- Various 811 center member companies, such as Media-One, GTE, TCI Cable Co., Ameritech, and others
- Proclamations from various state and local governments
- Press release from Ohio Utilities Protection Service announcing Ohio’s Safe Digging Month (see Appendix C)