You’ve had your cookouts and gone on vacations. So, what else could you be doing to fill your summer, you ask? At APHA, the summer brings the annual Public Health ACTion, or PHACT, Campaign, which empowers members, Affiliates and other health advocates to amplify critical public health issues.

On Wednesday, APHA hosted a PHACT Campaign Google Hangout On Air to offer tips on how media can be used to make a difference in moving public health efforts.

The campaign encourages APHA members, Affiliates and other public health advocates to engage with their members of Congress during the summer congressional recesses when they are in their home districts. Campaign participants connect with their local leaders by attending town hall meetings, sending messages to Congress and a host of other activities.

The interactive chat, “PHACT Campaign: Making the media work for you,” enabled panelists to video chat live as viewers commented and asked questions. Covering a host of media advocacy topics, the panelists included social media expert, Brian Hiatt of M&R Strategic Services; Whitney Gronski Buffa of The Pioneer in Big Rapids, Michigan; and Katie Baker, PhD, co-chair of APHA’s Maternal and Child Health Section. APHA’s Lindsey Wahowiak, senior editor of The Nation’s Health, led and moderated the discussion.

Panelists discussed how individuals can influence the stories that their local news media reports and how social media can be a catalyst for change. The discussion addressed success stories of media advocacy, helpful resources and even how social media memes can improve advocacy efforts.

“If you think of advocacy as publicly supporting and taking a stand for something you believe in, then you’ll see that social media has made it so much more accessible,” Hiatt said. “We all probably have these things in our pockets that can allow us to be advocates 24/7.”

Buffa explained the importance of contacting your local newspaper with specific stories you think are important to your community.

“A lot of times, even though our reporters and editors are out there and observing what’s going on in our community and coming back with story ideas, a lot of those stories are walking in our front door, whether its individuals who have something to say or share with us, or maybe people that are involved in some local non-profits or other organizations around town,” she said. “We see a lot of success with those kinds of partnerships, where people are really willing to participate with us and they’re chasing us to do the story.”

Visit PHACT online to learn more about the campaign. And check out APHA’s Action Kit to help you kick-start your advocacy efforts.