The first qualification for doing P.I. (or any other service work) is sound sobriety. All committee members need to be thoroughly familiar with the A.A. program and able to provide consistent and accurate information about the Fellowship. Experience in public relations is not essential. An understanding of the Twelve Traditions, including a firm grasp of the Anonymity Traditions, is most important. This is often enhanced through committees studying basic P.I. material together. Many local P.I. committees find it beneficial to review the P.I. workbook at their initial meeting, familiarizing themselves with it before setting goals.
Some examples of visits might include schools, local businesses, church and civic groups. Where no C.P.C. committee exists, P.l. committees might also be in contact with professionals such as the clergy, health care providers, lawyers and teachers. In advance of initial contacts, P.l. committees often distribute a simple letter describing their availability and how interested persons can make contact for more information. They might also plan a visit by two or more committee members.
A P.l. visit might include distribution of A.A. literature, a brief talk and/or showing an A.A. video. It is essential that participating A.A.s agree on the basic outline for the visit, and are familiar with the details in “Speaking at Non-A.A. Meetings” and “Understanding Anonymity.” A few points to remember:
• Open by describing the need for personal anonymity at the public level; give your first name and A.A. membership.
• Avoid drunkalogs, keep your A.A. story general and brief. Use humor with good taste; what’s funny to A.A.s may not be laughable to nonmembers.
• Confine your comments to A.A. information; remember that we’re not experts when speaking as A.A. members. We don’t try to speak for A.A. as a whole.
• As nonprofessionals, we do not give any information concerning the general subject of alcoholism, including on treatment, medication, prevention, advocacy and legislation.
• If appropriate, offer A.A. literature, such as “A.A. at a Glance,” “A Brief Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous” or the A.A. Membership Survey flyer. Include information on local open A.A. meetings.
• Be on time. Dress simply and neatly. First impressions are important.
Public Meetings and Luncheons:
Some P.l. committees host informational meetings that are open to the public. Careful advance planning is important to assure a successful outcome.
The gratitude luncheon is another way of thanking non-A.A.s who have given a P.I. committee an opportunity to carry the message.Committees have also invited public representatives to a special luncheon as a means of introducing them to Alcoholics Anonymous. Brief talks may be given, but the atmosphere is kept informal. For both these and the gratitude luncheons, it has been suggested, the seating arrangement should alternate hosts and guests, to give the latter a chance to meet some live examples of recovery in A.A.
Staffing an A.A. Booth:
Many P.l. committees are active in staffing “A.A. booths” at health fairs in the communities they serve. The invitation to participate may come directly to the local P.I. committee or through the G.S.O. staff person on the P.l. desk. The local P.l. committee ascertains if taking part serves A.A.’s primary purpose. The invitation is acknowledged with appreciation whether or not the invitation can be accepted. Many times a simple table is provided by the organization hosting the function, and two or more committee members staff the booth. P.l. committees rotate this responsibility to assure that all have an opportunity to participate.
A.A. Iiterature specifically for the public is set out on the table and offered to interested passersby, along with “P.l. mailing labels” from G.S.O. for those wishing more information. Soon after the event, completed mailing labels are sent to G.S.O., who sends information packets to each.
G.S.O. can help by sharing experience and by furnishing basic literature to the committee undertaking this service (“A.A. at a Glance,” “A Message to Teenagers,” the most recent A.A. Membership Survey pamphlet or display, “A Brief Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous,” etc.).
INFORMING THE FELLOWSHIP
Though the “public” in “public information” refers to non-A.A.s, many local P.I. committees consider that helping to keep the Fellowship itself informed is also among their responsibilities. Building wider understanding of the Twelve Traditions among A.A.s, especially as they pertain to online social networking sites, is a common P.I. activity; special meetings are often held for this purpose. Committees everywhere have been successful in explaining the P.I. applications of Tradition Eleven. A helpful resource is the A.A. Guideline on the Internet. Many P.I. committees provide local members with reports on all P.I. activities in the area. This is an excellent way to enlist the cooperation of local groups in planned projects.
Information is disseminated through:
• A regular P.I. newsletter or a P.I. section in a local A.A. bulletin, including list of all completed P.I. projects in a given year. For instance, the types of outside groups that requested P.I. speakers may be shown.
• Visiting local groups to give brief talks about Public Information service.
• Setting up P.I. workshops at assemblies, conventions, conferences, and other A.A. get-togethers.
• Inviting members of local A.A. groups to attend a special meeting on P.I.
• Informing local groups when a TV or radio program produced with the cooperation of the P.I. committee is about to be aired.
COOPERATINGWITH THE MEDIA
A.A. has enjoyed excellent relations with print, radio and television journalists.
By Conference Advisory Action, G.S.O. annually sends several thousand Anonymity letters requesting that those working in print, radio and TV journalism observe our Tradition of personal anonymity at the public level for all A.A. members. Some P.I. committees distribute copies of this Anonymity letter locally, while others use the text on their letterhead for a mailing to local media outlets.
Information on Local Events:
Upon request, some P.l. committees assist by distributing information about upcoming A.A. conventions, or Regional Forums, to community and local newspapers.
For Small Communities and Foreign Language Papers or Publications:
P.l. committees may request that A.A. information be included in the public service page or community bulletin board. The committee offers a simple description of who A.A. serves and how to obtain more information locally.
Public Service Announcements (P.S.A's):
Whether for radio or television, A.A. Conference-approved P.S.A's are widely accepted as a way to provide information on A.A. All are described in the literature
catalog available at your central office/intergroup, or by contacting G.S.O.
In 2002 the General Service Conference recommended that, “In addition to the work of local committees, the newly produced television public service announcement (P.S.A.) be centrally distributed, tracked and evaluated....” This option is reviewed yearly by the
Conference and has continued to support the efforts of local P.I. committees.
Local P.I. committees frequently purchase P.S.A.s from G.S.O. to distribute to local stations. Many times, P.l. committees find that a personal visit to deliver the cassette often results in an opportunity to share A.A. information, emphasizing the principles of anonymity and nonaffiliation. It is always helpful to request that the station lead into an A.A. radio o r TV P.S.A. with a statement such as “Here is a public service announcement from Alcoholics Anonymous.”
If you would like more information about working with radio or television stations, please write or call G.S.O. and ask for the service piece “Suggestions for Working with Your Local Radio and Television Stations to Help Carry the Message.”
Conference-approved videos are listed in the literature catalog and serve as an excellent way of telling the A.A. story visually.
Occasionally, a TV station is willing to air information on A.A. in more detail than can be included on P.S.A.s. “Hope: Alcoholics Anonymous” is suitable for this purpose, as well as the “Young People’s Videos.”
Keep in mind that no A.A. video or P.S.A. can be altered without the permission of A.A.World Services, Inc.
Requests for A.A. Presence on Radio or TV:
Such requests are carefully considered to assure that:
a.) Anonymity of members will be protected;
b.) A.A. cooperation will adhere to our primary purpose and Traditions.
Two suggestions seem to be essential for a good outcome:
1) Discuss the request with other A.A.s involved in service, seeking input from a wider group conscience beyond the P.l. committee; and
2) If the decision is to proceed with A.A. participation, use members with good experience in discussing our program with the public.
The 1969 General Service Conference considered this matter and approved this resolution: “We will endeavor to avoid participation on radio and TV programs, unless:
a. We are given adequate time for preparation;
b. Our presence will serve an A.A. objective;
c. The primary discussion is appropriate for A.A.—not concerned
with crime, sex, controversy or any other sensationalism;
d. We are satisfied that our anonymity is guaranteed.”
CARDS AND SIGNS
These are often used to offer the telephone number of the nearest central office, groups, or A.A. contact (depending upon the size of the community), or to give the times and places of nearby meetings. Cards and signs have been placed in telephone
offices, police stations, sheriffs’ offices, hospitals, county infirmaries, hotels, and taxi stations. Signs may be in the form of car cards (in buses or subway trains) or of road signs or billboards (those that welcome the traveler to “our town” by listing local
lodges and civic clubs).
TELEPHONE DIRECTORIES & WEB SITES
Sometimes, it is the local P.I. committee that is responsible for the A.A. listing in the phone book (including the Yellow Pages).
Many local A.A. entities have created their own A.A. Web sites to offer information on local meetings and events. Often the P.I. committee is responsible for the maintenance of these Web sites.
P.I. COMMITTEE SHARING
As part of P.I. shared experience, the following is a list of goals from a district P.I. committee:
1. Be sure every public library has at least one Conference approved book, e.g. the Big Book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions or Living Sober.
2. Let the Fellowship know how to reach out to the hearing impaired or blind.
3. Place a literature rack in every high school, college, police station, library and hospital in the district and keep the rack stacked with appropriate literature and meeting schedules.
4. Send a letter to high schools, offering A.A. Iiterature and/or a presentation on A.A.—what we do and what we do not do.
5. Send a letter to convalescent homes, rest homes and senior centers in the district offering A.A. Iiterature and/or a presentation on A.A.
6. List open A.A. meetings in the newspapers in the district.
7. Place a small (paid if necessary) announcement in every district newspaper around the holidays.
8. Work with the newspapers — generating interest in our Fellowship.
9. Respond to speaking requests at non-A.A. meetings in the district.
10. Place Public Service Announcements with radio and television stations.
11. Put meeting schedules behind the front desks at every hotel, motel and bed and breakfast.
12. Participate in district and state A.A. seminars and conventions.
13. Fight apathy within the Fellowship, find a co-chair and interested people in order to achieve all the above, and most importantly, keep your sanity and stay away from the first drink.
Reprinted from AA Guidelines, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.