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During an Event: Distributing an Advisory

Brief Elected and Public Officials

Brief the appropriate public officials on the essential information before you notify the media. Media often will contact public officials rather than a water system for information and comments.

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tool icon Tools and Templates

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Implement Your Communication Platforms

Determining the most appropriate strategies and tools for a particular situation is a reflection of the severity of the public health concern and the ability to define clearly the affected area. Effective communication will require distribution through multiple methods:

  • News media outlets(are a primary means of distributing the advisory)
  • Automated message systems (helps reach specific service areas quickly). See Automated Messagestool icon [DOC - 3 pages] for more information.
  • Door-to-door contact or door hangers (often used for small areas)
  • Hand-delivered fliers
  • Websites
  • Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)

Use Your Communication Network to Expand Distribution of the Advisory

As noted in the Collaborating with Partners portion of Section 1: Before an Event, network partners can assist with translating, formatting, and distributing messages to specific audiences.

Coordinate with local public health departments to help alert hospitals, health care providers, childcare providers, and food service and preparation facilities (See Appendix B: Online Resources, Additional Water and Health Resources and Appendix B: Online Resources, Disinfecting Water).

Coordinate with school districts and private schools, including colleges and universities.

Use your communication network to reach diverse populations that may be outside mass media communication channels.

Work with the Media

The Public Notification Rule requires wide distribution and encourages the use of mass media. General circulation newspapers, radio, television, websites, and ethnic media are good channels for issuing advisories.

See the following for more information:

After issuing a press release, call media outlets to verify they received the release. Ask for the duty editor or news director. Take time to explain the importance of this information to the public. This is especially important for lifting an advisory.

Monitoring the media, customer calls, and the status of the advisory will guide decisions about the need for media activities. Press conferences, additional calls to reporters, or expanding media work to partners are necessary in large-scale advisories.

Working with the Media

  • Get the facts straight. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
  • Write the message to fit the circumstances.
  • Keep all messages consistent.
  • Edit, review, and get clearance for all media releases.
  • Use standard press release format indicated belowresource icon.
  • Link to other information from relevant entities.
  • Use e-mail, fax, and other methods to deliver the press release.
  • Make follow-up calls to the media.
  • Track contact with the media.
  • Post the release and the advisory on the water system’s website.
  • Be honest with the media. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so, then offer to find the information.
  • Discuss use of maps and visual aids with media outlets.
  • Consider issuing a joint press release with the state and/or local health department.
  • Send a release announcing the end of the advisory to media outlets and partners and post the announcement on your website.
  • Make follow-up contact with media to encourage publicizing the end of the advisory.
  • If the advisory is large or long-term, consider scheduling regular press conferences to keep the media up to date. These should be at a time that allows the media to meet press deadlines.

Tier 1 PNR Compliant Press Releases

News editors will edit and reformat releases to fit their style and available space. Some of the required elements or language may be omitted. It is the water system’s responsibility to post the official advisory in public places, apartments, schools, businesses, on websites, and other places as required by your state.

See the following tools and templates for guidance:

Press Conferences and Briefings

News conferences or briefings become necessary during some advisories. Press conferences and briefings create additional work and demand extra resources, but they can eliminate the need to answer large numbers of media inquiries individually. Preparation helps ensure a successful press event.

Planning a Press Conference

The first step is to refer to the messages and essential information developed for the advisory. These messages and information are the basis for media kits, advisories, and statements. Messages should be consistent in all communication.

Media kits are simply a collection of information to provide to the media. Media kits should have:

When planning a press conference, coordination with partners is absolutely required.

  • Work with partners to plan the press conference, develop materials for media kits, and ensure appropriate clearance is obtained from each agency.
  • Designate one person or group to organize the press conference and one person to act as the emcee. Emcee responsibilities include introducing speakers, managing the question and answer period, and closing the press conference.
  • Identify a spokesperson for each organization participating in the press conference See Spokesperson Assessment Tool.
  • Use the essential information and messages to develop statements for each speaker. Brief the spokespersons prior to the event and review messages and materials. Speakers need to know the order of their appearance and roles. See Basic Elements of a Spokesperson Statement and Spokesperson Assessment Tool.
  • Rehearse before the session and practice statements and possible questions and answers. It is important to prepare for difficult questions. Plan a strategy in case the situation becomes contentious. Include all spokespersons if other agencies are involved. Phone calls can work if spokespersons cannot meet in person ahead of time.
  • Plan logistics. This is central to a successful press conference. Study the location. The space should be accessible and have enough room, no echo, a central focus point, and a designated sign-in area. Media kits should be provided at the sign-in area. If possible, set aside a separate space for one-on-one interviews. On-site press conferences are more of a challenge. Use tape or cones to designate a specific safe area. Limit work noise and activity, if possible. Make it clear how long the press conference will last.
  • Announce the press conference through media contacts. Develop a media alert and distribute it by e-mail, fax, or other methods. Follow up with calls to the media to make sure the right persons received the advisory. Select a time that will allow sound and video crews to set up equipment and all media to meet press deadlines. Use the Media Alert Template.

Conducting a Press Conference

With the right planning in place, the press conference should go more smoothly. Make sure each media outlet signs in and has a media kit. Press conferences have a standard format:

  • Entrance: Spokespeople enter the room or area in the order they are speaking.
  • Introductions: The emcee gives a short summary of the reason for the press conference and introduces each spokesperson. One spokesperson may play this role if necessary.
  • Statement: Spokespeople stand up, give their names and titles, and proceed with their statements.
  • Questions: It is standard practice to have a question and answer session. The person doing the introductions should handle media questions and refer them to the best spokesperson for the topic.
  • Close: Stick to the time allotted. The emcee thanks the media for their interest, states that the session is closed, and announces where to get more information and/or the time of the next update. Spokespersons leave the room.

After the Press Conference

If appropriate, the media can conduct one-on-one interviews directly after the press conference. Make sure to get back to any member of the media that asked for more information. A debriefing, either in person or by phone, will identify concerns that are not addressed, determine changes needed in messages, and prepare participants for the next update. Information from a press debriefing should be incorporated into the advisory protocol during the evaluation process.

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