Public Relations



The purpose of public relations in Narcotics Anonymous is to inform the public that NA exists and offers recovery from the disease of addiction. A public relations committee helps to ensure that accurate information about our fellowship is available to the public.

NA World Services has compiled the following guidelines to support emerging NA communities needing some basic guidance in fulfilling our primary purpose in the public arena.

Our primary purpose as a fellowship is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. P.R (formally known as P.I) is a vital part of “carrying the message.” This type of service calls upon us to communicate and participate in areas of the community in which, as using addicts, we were once unwelcome. Courage and humility are necessary ingredients in our recovery when approaching the public about our fellowship. We hope that you find this part of NA service as rewarding as we have.

Public Relations and the NA Member

Every member of NA has a role in helping us carry the message to the still-suffering addict. Much of the goodwill that exists between NA and the community at large is based on the relationships that we develop and maintain as NA members. We can improve these relationships by taking care to treat others with courtesy and respect. This is especially important when we represent the fellowship to professionals and members of other organizations who may spread their good or bad impressions of us to others. We need to project a positive image of NA so that these individuals feel comfortable directing addicts seeking recovery to our meetings.

When we participate in a Public Relations event, we are responsible for our behavior. If we are rude, use profanity, or show a lack of respect for a facility or for other organizations, we bring into question the effectiveness of our recovery program.

We can also be seen as representative members of Narcotics Anonymous when we wear NA T-shirts in public, stand around outside a group meeting, or attend an NA convention or service conference. As a fellowship, we have no control over the behavior of individual NA members. As members, however, keeping our spiritual principles in mind, we can share our concerns about our public image with other members. We can communicate to them that a bad image of Narcotics Anonymous could easily keep the message of recovery from reaching the addict who still suffers.

Public Relations and the NA Group

Members of NA groups can and often do perform some basic P.R work to help carry the message of recovery to addicts, as well as to other members of the public. P.R efforts by groups are often limited to posting bulletins, printing and distributing meeting schedules, and informing other addicts about their meetings.

Groups should always be careful not to make statements or commitments that overstep their abilities. It’s important to have enough resources available to respond to inquiries. Our spiritual foundation of anonymity can be seriously damaged by members acting alone or independently of the group and the fellowship. We never do speaking engagements, presentations, or interviews alone.

As the number of meetings and groups increases, the need for additional services to the groups is usually met by the formation of an area service committee (ASC). We start these service committees so that the groups are not distracted from their own primary purpose. Our groups need to stay focused on their primary purpose and provide a safe environment in which to practice the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Public Relations and the Hospitals and Institutions Committee

Cooperation between committees is an important part of providing service in NA. We may understand our own functions well but know little of how other committees operate. It is critical to understand the relationship between the hospitals and institutions committee and the public information committee.

The purpose of the hospitals and institutions committee, or H&I, is to carry the NA message to addicts in hospitals or other institutions who do not have full access to regular Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The H&I committee will organize a team of NA members, called a panel, to go into these institutions and introduce the basics of the NA program to addicts in those institutions. The basic difference in function is that H&I panels present the program primarily to addicts and the P.R committee makes its presentation primarily to non-addicts.

Here is an example to illustrate our different responsibilities and cooperative spirit: If a hospital contacted the local fellowship to request a presentation of the program to their doctors and nurses, the P.R committee would be primarily responsible to do a presentation. However, the local H&I committee should be informed of the event and invited to participate. A member from H&I would be most knowledgeable about the local H&I Committee and could answer questions about its ability and requirements to bring panels to the hospital. Using the same example, if the request were to present the program to the patients at the hospital, it would be the H&I committee’s responsibility to make this presentation. The P.R committee should be available to the H&I committee if this contact were to become an opportunity for a presentation to the staff at the hospital.

Starting A Public Relations Committee

A public relations subcommittee is an important part of most area service committees. If there is an ASC available to you, attend a scheduled meeting with other NA members interested in doing P.R work and express your willingness to serve on or start a P.R committee. From this point on, public information efforts should be done with the support and guidance of your ASC.

If there is no area service committee available to you, schedule a meeting of local group members interested in public information to form a P.R committee. You may want to begin by establishing the committee’s purpose, functions, and responsibilities, and then deciding how the committee should serve the local members of the fellowship. A P.R committee initially should handle such things as creating, updating, and distributing meeting schedules; responding to requests for information; establishing a stable mailing address; helping a hospitals and institutions committee when asked; and managing other P.R projects within that area or region.

A Contingency Plan

As Narcotics Anonymous grows, representatives of the print and electronic media will show increasing interest in our fellowship. When the media become interested in NA, their reporters often approach us without an understanding of the principle of anonymity. Maintaining personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films must be our highest priority when contacts are made with the public and the media. We have found that having a “contingency plan” is of great value for a P.R committee.

Creating a public relations contingency plan is one of the first priorities for a new P.R committee. This plan is a strategy for organizing our response to public and media requests for information. Very simply, it should state what to do when certain types of requests are received from the public. Use of the plan can help ensure that our most experienced P.R members are involved, so that the local fellowship can keep to its primary purpose and we can stay consistent with our traditions. The plan should include a list of members involved in public information who are familiar with NA media responses.

The plan should also include guidelines for handling requests which will affect other groups, areas, and regions. If a request does affect other service groups in NA, coordination and cooperation are needed in order to respond effectively.

If your local P.R committee is planning to participate in a media event that may be significant to Narcotics Anonymous as a whole, please contact NA World Services. There you will find resources available that can help make your efforts a success.

The Work Itself

It is clear that we cannot be everything for everybody. We are a recovery organization whose members meet regularly to help each other stay clean. It is all right for us to decline a request that is outside our fellowship’s primary purpose. It is also reasonable for us to decline a request that is within our purpose if we do not have the time, money, and members to honor the request. The important thing to remember is that we respond! Failure to respond, even if we intend to decline a request, demonstrates a lack of reliability on behalf of our fellowship.

To carry a clear NA message to the public, we as members need to have a clear knowledge of our traditions. It takes practice to learn the traditions and understand how to apply them. We have reserved a portion of this guide for a discussion of the traditions and how they impact P.R work.

Our objective in doing public information work should be simply to spread the word that the fellowship is available, that it works, and that it’s free. Here are some frequently used methods to accomplish this:

A. Meeting List(s) — If there is more than one meeting in your community, creating and maintaining a listing of meeting information should be your highest priority. This list should contain information such as the day, time, and location (a street address is preferred), and whether the meeting is open to the public. It may also contain information such as the type of meeting (step study, speaker, or discussion, for example), whether it is smoking or non-smoking, and any other special information. Meeting lists should be updated on a regular basis. It’s our responsibility to make sure that newcomers to our program are given accurate information on how to find us when they reach out for help.

B. Posters — These are notices used to inform the public about how and where to contact us. It is critical that when we post these notices, we first obtain permission to do so. Some possible posting locations are detoxification facilities, hospitals, police stations, schools and universities, churches or missionary outreach offices, government service offices, drug treatment centers, or other places where addicts seeking recovery or people who help addicts might congregate.

We need to stress that “attraction rather than promotion” is an important concept when doing public information work such as this. Good judgment should be used when creating and posting these notices. We need to refrain from provocative, promotional statements or artwork that may convey a negative image of NA or appear to be promotional. Even how and where we post notices should be evaluated before we follow through on the project. A simple message explaining that we are available and how to contact us is the desired approach.

Contents of printed media, such as bulletins, posters, and newspaper ads, usually consist of an attention-grabbing statement or question, followed by information on how to contact the local meeting, group, or phoneline. As an example, a bulletin, poster, or newspaper ad might read as follows:

  • Drug Problem?
  • Narcotics Anonymous can help!
  • [Your Contact Information]

Contact NA World Services for additional resources regarding bulletins, posters, etc.

C. Introductory Mailings — We can introduce the program to professionals in health organizations and social services, and to others who deal with addicts, by mailing them information about our fellowship. A mailing should consist of a letter to explain who you are, where you can be contacted, and some basic information about Narcotics Anonymous in your community, including the fact that we are a part of a worldwide fellowship. Normally we include a local meeting list and, if possible, some NA pamphlets. If appropriate, the cover letter might also mention that members are available to speak with professionals and/or their staff, if your local NA community is able to fulfill this type of request.

Pamphlets such as Information about NA; 2002 Membership Survey; NA: A Resource in Your Community; Who, What, How and Why; the NA White Booklet; and Welcome to Narcotics Anonymous are good choices to introduce others to our program. You may find that Am I an Addict?, For the Newcomer, and Sponsorship are also helpful. We acknowledge that not all of these pamphlets may be available in your language. Use what you have. If you don’t have any translated pamphlets available, you may be able to use pamphlets in another language for professionals.

Your local P.R committee can create a standard “packet” for mailings and for distribution during presentations. Be realistic regarding costs and choice of pamphlets, whether mailing them or just passing them out at a presentation.

D. Presentations — You may receive requests to give a presentation about Narcotics Anonymous to professionals at an institution or to an organization at a conference. You may also receive an invitation to set up booths or tables at a public event to provide some basic information about NA. If you agree that it is appropriate and you have the resources to do it, remember:

  • Do presentations with others.
  • To help establish a good impression, start with a good appearance.
  • Avoid using obscenities.
  • Be aware of the composition of your audience. If you are addressing non-addicts, as is usually the case, remember that some NA language commonly used and understood by members of the fellowship in our meetings is not typical outside those meetings. Too much “program talk” or emphasis on the finer details of our recovery program is simply a foreign language to non-addicts and therefore should be avoided.
  • While some personal disclosure is encouraged, the focus must remain on a clear NA message.
  • What is important is not who we are as individuals but how we became clean addicts through the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of NA.
  • Avoid telling “drug stories.” We are there to speak about how we found a new way to live free from active addiction through NA, not how it was when we were using.
  • Our attractions are: it works, it’s free, and we are available to the addict that still suffers.

E. Public Service Announcements (PSAs) — PSAs are notices that reach the public by way of press, radio, and television. Public service announcements are commonly posted or broadcast by various media in areas where members of the public are allowed to announce items of interest to the community, free of charge. This is an accepted method of informing the public about NA and is not viewed as a direct contribution by an outside source. However, announcements that must contain a sponsoring organization’s name (“this ad presented by the ABC Company”) are unacceptable in light of our traditions.

Printed PSAs can be created by the local P.R committee, but we caution local committees against creating their own videos. The cost and process involved in creating a video PSA can greatly distract a P.R committee from carrying the message, as well as strain the resources of the local fellowship. NA World Services has conference-approved scripts for radio and television PSAs which can be adapted for use in your community. The scripts are contained in the Guide to Public Information, and the tapes are available through NA World Services.

F. Phonelines — A telephone number may be established in your community as a contact for addicts seeking recovery and for receiving inquiries about our fellowship from the public. You should establish a phoneline service only when you are physically and financially able to support it. A lot of hard work and responsibilities are involved with a phoneline, and the decision to start one should be taken seriously. Think of the consequences if an addict seeking recovery or a professional called and the telephone number was disconnected: an addict would continue to suffer, and a poor impression would be given to the professional. Information on starting and maintaining a phoneline is covered in a separate guide available from NA World Services.

G. Learning Days and Workshops — These are an internal service offered to the members of our fellowship. Usually a few dedicated members will set aside time to share their experience with other interested members and NA groups on how to do some of the basic work of P.R committees. One of the responsibilities of a P.R committee is to inform the fellowship at large about the committee’s function in service and how to get in touch with the committee if anyone is contacted by the public and the media. More information on this topic is contained in the Guide to Public Information.

The Twelve Traditions and Public Relations

Public Relations is done by service committees or groups created by, and directly responsible to, those they serve. We try to do the best we can with what we have while upholding our Twelve Traditions. Our experience has taught us that an understanding of the Twelve Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous as they apply to public information is helpful. With that in mind, it may be beneficial to spend time studying and discussing the traditions. The knowledge gained may help us to be more confident in our presentation of NA. This confidence can be apparent to our audience and may assist in developing a positive image of our fellowship. The following traditions can play an important role in P.R work and may have direct applications to P.R service we conduct.

Our Sixth Tradition States:

An NA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property or prestige divert us from our primary purpose. “This tradition is the basis for our policy of non-affiliation and is extremely important to the continuation and growth of Narcotics Anonymous.” (Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text) While it may be important to reach as many people as possible with our message of recovery, it is imperative that we not risk our independence by becoming reliant on any outside source. If NA becomes strongly identified with any “related facility or outside enterprise” (club houses, drug treatment centers, or other twelve-step fellowships, for example), our primary purpose and independence can become confused with the priorities of others.

Cooperation with those who come in contact with addicts is important when carrying the message of NA. Without this cooperation, many addicts may never have found our fellowship. We want to work with other organizations, but we do not want to be merged with them in the mind of the public. To give the impression that we are one and the same might threaten our independence. Our aim is simply to make it known that NA is available. It may require additional effort to make clear the distinction between NA and other organizations. However, we will be rewarded as more addicts find us through other sources and our fellowship continues to grow.

Our Tenth Tradition States:

Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy. “Our recovery speaks for itself. Our Tenth Tradition specifically helps protect our reputation.” (Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text) We have no recommendations for any outside organizations, nor do we participate in their politics. To do so might invite controversy, which may jeopardize our fellowship’s standing in the community. If we voice an opinion on any public issue, we may block the path for a new member to join or feel welcome in our fellowship. It is critical that we remember this aspect of keeping our fellowship open to any addict who has the desire to stop using.

Our Eleventh Tradition States:

Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films. “Our attraction is that we are successes in our own right. As groups, we offer recovery. We have found that the success of our program speaks for itself.” (Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text) This tradition tells us that we do not have to promote recovery; the changes in our lives will be apparent to those around us. The positive effect of our own personal recovery can be a powerful element of attraction to our program.

We may decide that we do need to inform the general public of our existence. Is this attraction or promotion? The difference between attraction and promotion is in the content of the message and its presentation. Providing basic information and informing the public who, what, and where we are is well within the definition of attraction. When we go beyond the act of simply informing the public that we exist, we can cross the borderline into promotion.

Participation by NA members in public information events typically is not a violation of anonymity. Those who serve may personally choose to give up some of their anonymity in this fashion. But to give our full names to the press, allow our faces to be photographed, or appear on television or film in association with or identified as a member of Narcotics Anonymous is plainly a violation of the Eleventh Tradition. This can threaten an individual member’s personal recovery and give a false impression to newcomers that they will have to reveal their identities to others.

Our Twelfth Tradition States:

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. “The spiritual foundation becomes more important than any one particular group or individual.” (Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text) This tradition reminds us that NA is a “WE” program, and that the sacrifice of personal recognition may be inherent to the spiritual principle of anonymity.

When we act on our own in public information we can lose the spirit of humility inherent in a “we” program. The damage that can be done to NA’s reputation by individuals acting on their own can take a long time to repair. Being of service in P.R we get a glimpse of humility every time a newcomer walks through the door of an NA meeting. We can then recognize the spiritual aim of the fellowship and our own place within it. We are grateful to be able to carry the message of recovery and can acknowledge the actions of a power greater than ourselves.

What We Do and What We Don’t Do in Public Information

We Do:

  • Follow our traditions, public relations plans, and guidelines.
  • Try to be consistent. We follow through on our plans of action.
  • Keep updated records of contacts, posted flyers, PSAs, etc.
  • Remember that quality is better than quantity.
  • Present a good image of recovery.
  • We are punctual, dress appropriately, and avoid using obscenities when we speak.
  • Consult with members experienced in P.R work before contacting the media.

We Don’t:

  • Do public information service alone.
  • Abuse our precious resources. When we don’t complete a project, we create a negative image of NA.
  • Present ourselves as the only spokesperson for NA.
  • Accept contributions from outside our fellowship.
  • State an opinion or take a stand on any non-NA or public issue.
  • Give out personal information about individual NA members.

Narcotics Anonymous Does Not

  • Operate hospitals or recovery houses for addicts.
  • Solicit or persuade others to join.
  • Engage in or sponsor scientific research on addiction.
  • Keep membership records or case histories of its members.
  • Make medical or psychological diagnoses.
  • Provide marriage, family, or vocational counseling.
  • Provide monetary or social assistance.
  • Provide or participate in primary drug prevention education.
  • Accept money for its services or funding from any public or private agencies.

Additional Resources

A more complete list of guidelines for beginning a P.R committee may be found in “A Guide to Public Information and A Guide to Phoneline Service”. More information may also be obtained from neighboring Public Relations committees. NA World Services may help in contacting others close to you with P.R experience. Sharing our experience, strength, and hope in this area of service can greatly enhance the ties that bind us together.

We recognize that there are legal restrictions in many countries prohibiting the congregation of addicts. Please contact NA World Services for additional information before moving forward with public relations efforts in areas where these restrictions exist.

Thank you for letting us serve by sharing with you our experience, strength, and hope on carrying the message of recovery to the world.

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