In the previous part of this series on starting a new SMART Recovery meeting, I talked about the training process and how I found a nice meeting location. In this article, I will talk about the promotion process of my new meeting. In the next article, I will discuss actually facilitating the first couple of meetings.
When I left off in the previous article, I had just submitted my new meeting information to SMART Recovery for listing in their meeting directory. This is done via an online form which they send you a link to once you complete your training. It took about three weeks after submission for them to respond saying my meeting was officially listed on their site here.
To start promoting my meeting locally, I needed some promotional materials. SMART offers promotional brochures for sale on their website with a blank space on the back to include your local meeting details. They are very affordable. I ordered 75 to start, along the Facilitator’s Manual, and they arrived in the mail very quickly.. I purchased some blank label stickers from Wal-Mart, which came with a Microsoft Word template for printing. I included the meeting day, time, and location on the labels and stuck them on the back of the brochure over the blank space provided. My local treatment center and the family services organization which I host the meeting at were my first stops. I gave them each a few brochures with my meeting info to start with and told them to let me know as soon as they needed more.
While the brochures are great sources of in-depth information about SMART, I needed general information flyers to hang on bulletin boards at local businesses. SMART has some flyers for download on their website, but I didn’t like any of them so I decided to make my own. They also have nice professionally printed posters you can buy on their website but I decided making my own flyer would suffice and keep costs down. I have some experience in graphic design so I trusted myself to come up with a simple flyer. There is an online design app called Canva. It also has a mobile version if you download the Canva app. It is pretty simple to use and even comes with pre-made templates for various uses including flyers. Using the pre-sized flyer template, I put together a flyer that I could print on normal paper. I printed off a bunch of copies to post in public places. The library, gas stations, coffee shop, and some restaurants were where I started. I simply went into the business and asked at the counter if I could post a flyer for a new addiction support group on their bulletin board. All have said yes so far. I still need to do a deeper dive in the community for spaces to post the flyer but those locations were a good start.
I also reached out to my local newspaper. I simply visited their website and went to the contact us section where there was a form to fill out. I basically introduced myself and shared a little info about SMART and told them I would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss getting an article in the paper. Now, if I had to do this again, I would go to the newspaper office in person with my brochures and flyers to speak to someone personally. It took a while for them to respond and, just as I was about to go talk to them in person, I received an e-mail from a reporter requesting digital copies of the flyer and brochure for more information. I sent over a PDF of the flyer and brochure. I had to check in about a week and a half later to make sure they had everything they needed and ask if they had any additional questions. Finally, about three and a half weeks after the initial contact, I was surprised to find an article about my new SMART meeting on the front page of this past Saturday’s newspaper. The article was way better than I had anticipated, plus it was on the front page! I e-mailed the reporter back afterwards to thank her for the article.
A couple of days after the newspaper article, I received a call from my local community corrections department. The lady said that she had some clients who had been talking about this new meeting and wanted to attend it as part of their mandatory meeting attendance for probation. I told her some basics about SMART and she just confirmed the time and location of the meetings and asked if I would sign verification slips. I told her that I certainly would and she said she would approve her clients attending my meetings. I asked if I could drop off some brochures for her to provide information to new clients and she said absolutely. The next day, I went to the community corrections office at our city courthouse and dropped off a bunch of brochures with my meeting details. Contacting my community corrections department was something I had planned to do before they called me. If they hadn’t called, I would have gone to the office with my brochures and flyers and asked to speak with someone about my new meeting. Either way, getting in touch with the local community corrections or probation is an important step.
Also, the other night I attended the online SMART Management Meeting for facilitators. These meetings are held each Monday and Wednesday nights and are for meeting facilitators, especially new ones. They are led by Joe Gernstein, who is one of the founding members and directors of SMART. You receive the link to these meetings on the SMARTcal e-mail list that you get added to after completing the training program. There were 12 people on the meeting that I attended. In introducing myself as starting a new meeting, Joe made it a meeting topic to discuss community outreach for new meetings. I shared what I have done so far and Joe said I was right on track but he wanted to recommend outreach to my local hospital. He offered to write an official letter of recommendation from SMART to the emergency director of the hospital. I took him up on this offer and shared the necessary information with him. He quickly followed up with sending me a copy of four recommendation letters that he sent, along with brochures, to area hospitals. This will be a great lead for me to get my foot in the door with the hospital. I will keep you posted on this.
Another resource that I haven’t connected with but plan to soon is my SMART regional coordinator. My coordinator reached out to me asking me to call or text him so he could get more information from me. I’m planning on doing this tomorrow and will update this post on how it goes. I was told in the management meeting that he would be a great resource for me.
So, I have covered ordering brochures and creating a flyer. Distributing information to my local treatment center, family services organization, and community corrections department. Reaching out to my local hospital is in the works. I distributed flyers to public bulletin boards in my community. I got an article about my meeting published in my local newspaper. SMART Management Meetings and my Regional Coordinator are my supports and great sources of information. I have also created a Facebook page for my meeting and regularly post pieces of information about SMART and reminders of my meeting. My page is at https://www.facebook.com/SMARTRecoveryBlufftonIN/. These are most of the promotion efforts I have made to this point. My meetings began about a month ago and attendance has been 2-3 people so far, but now I have the newspaper article out there and community corrections referring people so I expect better attendance starting this week. In my next article, I will talk about the process of actually facilitating the first few meetings with small attendance.