It’s who you know
by Communications Staff
November 18, 2010 — Her Girl Scout Gold award project is still helping people navigate the historical sites of her hometown, and now Angel Brownawell is helping psychologists navigate the maze of social media. Originally from a small town just east of Pittsburgh, Angel moved to Washington, DC, in 2003 and has worked at the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) for three years.
As the newly-minted Integrated Media Manager, Angel collaborates with public relations staff on traditional media outreach, as well as social media campaigns. She believes it’s important for the public to be able to trust what they hear about mental health. As a member of the public relations staff, Angel is able to connect reporters with the best sources for mental health information. In addition, Angel is involved with outreach and publicity for the Public Education Campaign (PEC), which promotes the message that good mental and emotional health are vital to overall health and wellbeing.
For those psychologists new to television, radio or blogging, Angel provides media resources and training. “Anyone can write a book or call themselves an ‘expert,’” says Angel, “It’s important for psychologists to feel confident engaging with the media because psychologists are the true experts on mental health.”
Using social media to expand psychologists’ practices
A storyteller at heart, Angel enjoys using her background in journalism from Northwestern University to help disseminate accurate information to the public. “Psychologists can now use so many tools to develop connections with a wider community,” she says, “It’s all part of creating a larger story about psychology.”
With Angel’s help, members are learning to utilize social media tools to expand their practices. Angel edits the PEC official blog, which is written and updated by members. She recalls one PEC coordinator in particular who used to have difficulty with the simplest computer tasks: “Now she blogs, she can do photos and links – she has become a great example of how people can make use of social media tools.”
“I’m just a little bit of a nerd,” about social media tools such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, she laughs. “I’m very excited about how they can be used to do the work we’re doing.”
Traditional media outreach
“I get upset when I see someone on the news doing something that a psychologist could do better,” says Angel, “I want to make psychologists the go-to source for information on mental health.”
And she’s working to make that a reality. When media requests come in about specific topics, such as depression, stress and anxiety, Angel reviews a list of psychologists who are involved in the PEC and matches the reporter with the staff member or psychologist best able to address the topic.
The PEC is open to both APA and state, provincial and territorial association (SPTA) members; those who are interested in participating should contact their state association or state coordinator.
She also contacts the media about potential stories and works to promote, among other things, the Mind/Body Health PEC and the APA’s annual Stress in America survey.
Reaching the public through Public Education Campaigns (PEC)
The Mind/Body Health Campaign uses grassroots efforts to educate the public about the connection between physical and mental health. “Our psychologists are incredibly involved: they give community presentations at YMCAs, they’re a media source for local media outlets and they recruit and lead committees of other psychologists,” says Angel.
The PEC Network page provides resources, discussion groups and tips for working with the media, building committees, and giving presentations, among other topics. Angel points out that while APA public relations staff “don’t act as personal PR agents,” they are happy to “give members as much information and background as possible to help them prepare to work with the media.”
Angel recalls one PEC coordinator who was initially nervous about talking to local reporters: “She has really become a media darling. She does regional newspaper interviews, TV interviews radio talk shows – she was hesitant at first, but now she’s a voice representing psychology.”
APA members interested in learning more about the PEC can visit the APA Public Education Campaign Network or contact their state association or state PEC coordinator.
Though her Girl Scout days may be behind her, Angel has turned her passion for helping people to helping psychologists get vital mental health information to the public.