Active Ottumwa Podcast Episode 5
Hannah Shultz: Welcome to a Community on the Move: The Story of Active Ottumwa. Active Ottumwa is a community-based research project that encourages all adults to be more active. Ottumwa community members and the University of Iowa use the latest research to design this project. The research project for Active Ottumwa has concluded with the Active Ottumwa program continues under the leadership of Hy-vee of Ottumwa and with the positive support of community organizations. In this series, we’re learning from people involved in the project about what worked well, what they learned along the way, and the impact Active Ottumwa had on the community. Over the next 10 episodes, we will talk about many aspects of the Active Ottumwa project. To learn about the successes, challenges, lessons learned, pride, and humility, that went into this project. My name is Hannah Shultz, and I am the host for this series, and I’m learning about this program along with you. I work at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, but I have not been affiliated with Active Ottumwa until we started planning this podcast series. Working on this series has been a joy. I’ve been impressed every step of the way by the passion, commitment, dedication and persistence of all involved in this project. And I am very excited to share this with you. One of the many reasons I’ve been impressed by this project and I’m so excited to share it with you is the active participation and inclusion of people representing many different communities, organizations, and interests in Ottumwa. The focus of Active Ottumwa was on physical activity which came out of a community survey highlighting that this was a need for the community. The project used community resources to promote and support active living and physical activity across the community.
Today we’re lucky to be joined by Becky Bucklin, Sandy Berto, Connie Hammersley-Wilson and Dr. Barbara Baquero for another episode. Becky works with the Prevention Research Center at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and she has been the Project Manager for Active Ottumwa for the past few years. Sandy was the Field Coordinator of activities of Active Ottumwa while on the ground. Connie is an Active Ottumwa Ambassador and the president of the Ottumwa Small Business Alliance, and past Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. She’s retired from the Ottumwa Community School District. Barbara was with the Prevention Research Center when the project began and was Director of the project for four and a half years. She’s now at the University of Washington School of Public Health. We are grateful for all of these guests joining us today to talk about how they spread the word about Active Ottumwa. So thank you all for being here. We’re going to start off today’s conversation talking about how Active Ottumwa got the word out when the program first started.
Barbara Baquero: So how do we let people know, I think of different groups of people that we sort of started telling and sort of think about, like, phases or layers of groups of people that that sort of heard about Active Ottumwa or start knowing about the Ottumwa. And I think that we started, you know, sort of from the partnership, we went out and start talking to other stakeholders in the community and having maybe more one on one and introducing yourself into different community meetings. For example, we did a lot of work at the beginning. And two, while trying to identify Physical Activity Leaders, we went to the brewery club lunch meetings, right, introduce ourselves and tell them who we were and what we were doing. Right. So they’re getting the word out about Active Ottumwa, a lot of one-on-one type of communication and introducing the partnership and the work that we were doing. I think one thing that helped a lot to let people know in the city, that who we were and that we were there for a long time was establishing our office in the Main Street at Ottumwa. Right with the logo and you know, sort of being part of that important sort of part of downtown area, as to know, okay, who they are and what they do. And we also work really closely at the beginning with local media, which was they were very generous and very helpful to us in terms of you know, sort of helping us to get the word out and doing articles about, you know, funding that we receive and what that meant for the community. So it was really broad in that sense. I guess I’ll tell you another strategy that we use that I enjoy very much and it was very successful. At the beginning, so we usually had annually and sometimes twice a year, open houses into in our offices, right. So we sort of decked out our Active Ottumwa office and we had people to come over and we talked about what we were doing and sort of all of us being there and introducing ourselves and that’s, you know, again, that was open to anybody that was in the community. So that was one way that we sort of tried to reach out. Um, no lonely organizations. You know, there’s stakeholders, but community members. From there, I mean, we just got better at it. And you know, sort of having others that will help us to identify even more community meetings or even community events, right. Like, I think it’s called, one of them was Ladies Night. And that was a very popular, right. So we participated in a lot of us own organization, participating in many of these events across the community for all the years. But at the beginning, I think was pretty critical to get the word out in terms of who we were. Maybe we’ll talk about that later. But I think that sort of the last layer that I see was an actual communication campaign that happened during a year and a half of the second year. Where we were, you know, doing radio and media and movies and things like that, to really then get people to, to know if they saw the green t shirt. So heard of Active Ottumwa, what is that meant, you know, that they knew exactly what it was. So that was one of the main strategies that we used for to communicate who we were to their community.
Hannah Shultz: As with a lot of success, relationships were key for Active Ottumwa. We repeatedly hear throughout this series that Sandy was a key part of the success of the program. But we haven’t yet heard how Sandy got connected with Active Ottumwa, I got a bit more information from her in this conversation.
Sandy Berto: The project started, I think, like two years prior to me coming on board, I started in December of 2016. Just the, probably three or four months, Becky, correct me if I’m wrong into the intervention aspect of the program. So part of the fun I had was being able to reach out to anybody and everybody. I am a social creature. So it’s easy for me to approach people. And just when I believe in something, wholeheartedly, it’s hard not to share that enthusiasm. I think that the more that people realized how much fun walking, doing physical activity together was, then they shared the word and it was, you know, there’s that saying that everything goes downhill. Well, that can also be good things that go downhill, you know, it doesn’t always have to be bad things, it can very much be in this case, people just wanting to get together and, and invest in each other.
Hannah Shultz: I asked our guests to share more information about how the program was promoted more broadly.
Barbara Baquero: So I guess, you know, when you mean promotional to me, that sounds, you know, sort of the community engagement and that we did. Very different than the actual intervention, right, like the actual program that it was a little bit more structured, right. So I continue thinking about, you know, finding also those, as you know, and again, the Physical Activity Leaders and ambassadors. There’s a sort of very unique group of members of Active Ottumwa. And sort of they did the work, to spread the word and to get people engaged in their activities, at the community level, like I think about their neighbors and friends and networks. Right. And that was the point. And that was the heart of the program, if you think about it, right. But in terms of promotion, and getting the word out, I think also when one of the things that was sort of very important, and I think all these things came together, and it sort of add up over time, right. So one thing that I guess I would have comes to mind immediately is, again, the rich networks that Sandy had in house. She sort of started bridging right and telling more people. For example, we started a strong, I would say collaboration with the hospital for community there and and recruit through the to the hospital and using their facilities. And I think that was part of that relationship that was built sort of one on one, but over time as well. Right? So if you think about what you asked me about promotions to me, so that we were showing up in many of these events, and sometimes things like nothing to do with physical activity, but we know that the community is there, right? So we’re going to go and we’re going to be there in many cases, many of us show up right. I think it wasn’t just that Sandy was there, or that the Ambassador, so the other Physical Activity Leaders, but maybe Becky was there. or I came from Iowa City, and we were there right. So I think if being part or trying you know, to meet the community was important. I remember one time too when there some day, I think was that that event that happened once a year in the state where everybody works together, you know, different parts of the state and you sign up for so we you know participating that made a lot of sense, right? That’s the work that we do. So I think is sort of trying to, establishing those connections in those relationships at the beginning. But maintaining those relationships also were important. We did a lot of work with through the faith network, particularly, we were trying to reach other, you know, groups in the community, like, for example, Latinos and other groups. So we also introduce ourselves, and has one on one meetings with, with different church leaders, and particularly, it’s a marriage, church and so on, right. So we, again, we’ve been a lot of time creating those relationships that were unique, in a way some Ottumwa was, is unique in many ways. And one of those is like, it feels like a city. And there’s a lot of different parts in a lot of moving organizations, but it sometimes feels like you can manage, you know, to have those relationships and you know each other, so sort of you leverage into that. Right, like, oh, I already met this person, you should talk to somebody else here, right. So I think that that was also important.
Hannah Shultz: If relationships were key to Active Ottumwa’s success, then I was eager to hear how they started building those relationships and finding new people to help build those relationships and be messengers for Active Ottumwa.
Sandy Berto: Anybody that would listen to me talk and share the information about Active Ottumwa, I would talk. I think that I was able to reach people. And I presented information about Active Ottumwa at our local diversity meeting at our healthy community meetings, which were attended by anybody, or by from anywhere from 15 to 30 people at any given time. So there were a lot of local organizations present. And then they would share that information with their staff. And I think that was one of the very best ways to get the information out. And then as soon as that information was in the community, I was contacted by the Kiwanis, the Lions, the Cardiac Rehab, women’s groups, the retired teachers. So anytime anybody invited me to come and talk about Active Ottumwa, and hand out flyers and bookmarks and table tents, and sign-up sheets, if they wanted to join right then, if they were interested in becoming a Physical Activity Leader, I would invite them to come to the office to do training. I think it’s one of those instances where the opportunity to teach and share, you just have to be open and flexible to do that.
Hannah Shultz: Connie is joining us because she is an Active Ottumwa ambassador. She shared some more information with us about what the ambassadors did and who they were. But first, we’ll hear more about the Ambassadors Program from Becky.
Becky Bucklin: Back in Ottumwa Ambassadors started off as we, when we first recruited Physical Activity Leaders, we went through the like a social network analysis of local workplaces and sites and organizations that we had identified as being influential in Ottumwa. We, Dr. Baquero had worked really hard with other team members to establish relationships with each one of these organizations. And then we have that social network analysis where people in those organizations would identify their leaders. And so those were the people that we first reached out to be Physical Activity Leaders. And many of them did become Physical Activity Leaders. But as we were getting more and more into the program, we found that those physical, those people who were the leaders of their organizations, some of them did such a great job being PALs, but a lot of them were overbooked. And so they just didn’t have the time to commit to the program because they were so tapped out and so involved in the community in general. Which is an amazing thing to have them as someone we want a part of our program, but they may not be able to lead an activity consistently. And so because of that, we started going more toward the self-nominating model for Physical Activity Leaders. And then we went and reached out to a lot of those individuals who had previously been nominated and said, hey, would you actually want to be an Active Ottumwa Ambassador, basically someone who just promotes Active Ottumwa through these great channels that you have in the community? But you don’t have to lead an activity unless you wanted to, then you could. But they, we just basically wanted to tap into the big social networks they had. And then Sandy also would part of that also evolved. So that was the initial group of ambassadors and they would be trained in how to be an Ambassador. We had an online webinar training that they could go through and advance through, through a software called Qualtrics. But then, Sandy actually also recruited additional Ambassadors through the networks that she had created who didn’t come or come from that initial social network analysis. But Connie, I think was on that second end where Sandy knew and recognized the huge role that Connie plays in the community and the reach big reach that she has in the community. Actually, Connie was an aha moment, like why wouldn’t we get the Chamber of Commerce involved. And Sandy and Connie, I think have a previous relationship before this program began, they’ve had a long-standing friendship. So that was an aha moment. For me. I was like, why wouldn’t we get her involved, but also, she came on as one of our Ambassadors. So that’s a little bit of history about how the Ambassadors came about.
Barbara Baquero: If I may add, I want to give acknowledge, that our advisory board was really critical to sort of identify that, that role in the community that the Ambassadors, again, as a researcher sometimes you are now very innovative and creative. And so, we had that conversation with our advisory board saying, Hey, we have this great group of natural leaders in the community, but because they’re already doing a lot of work naturally, because who they are, they’re busy, they don’t have time for the training, they don’t have time to actually lead in a one activity, right. So, we had these conversations with them. And we realized, so we still need them, because we want to, at that point, we really needed to get the word out about the program and get more people to participate and try Active Ottumwa. So we identified if I recall correctly, I’m actually I think the name also came from our conversations. And by then, Sandy was with us already, but sort of, I think they also came up with a name in terms of their Ambassadors. They are representing our program, they’re getting the word out, are they telling people yes, go, I don’t time, I’ll be there maybe walking, but I’m not leading the group, right,because we have some, some expectations, I guess, for the Physical Activity Leaders in order to stay engaged, right. So, we develop the training, and we’ll seek out ways to get sort of the Ambassadors sort of onboard, and having the information that they needed to, to support the program. And that worked out really work overtime, right. So, something that also evolved. So in terms of, you know, thinking about adaptation, and thinking about, okay, how do you take something that the CDC told us to do, in terms of like, or tell us no but sort of the evidence tells us that it’s a good strategy, like a natural leader, in terms of what we found is, we have functions for these natural leaders in different spaces, right, and different, different opportunities, right, some were willing and interesting to lead a group. And they were so I think, evolving into a natural leader in a way too learning how to do that. And then we have our Ambassadors, which is sort of more like, you know, some people that already have a lot of networks, and were leveraging those networks for the purpose of activity.
Hannah Shultz: I asked Connie to share her story, how she became an Ambassador, what her experience was as an Ambassador. And you’ll notice that she mentions Blue Zones, which we heard about in earlier episodes of this series, as well. As reminder, Blue Zones is a program that designates make certain communities as meeting some requirements for healthy living and active living among other things. Blue Zones communities sometimes have like bike lanes, trails throughout their communities, there are a lot of different criteria for being a Blue Zone community.
Connie Hammersley-Wilson: Like I said, Sandy, I’ve known each other we worked on several projects and different organizations in the community together for you know, a few years. She approached me I was a PAL, you know, and did that and then I was approached about being an Ambassador. And I just I said, so intrigued you know by the Active Ottumwa process, you know, we had done the that tried to do the Iowa program. We’ve put all those hours you know into it and put all those committees together and then find out that we would’ve lose. And that was it was like I said, a lot of hours you get into that. And you know, just to not get Blue Zone and I just felt like Active Ottumwa is so much better than that program ever even imagined itself to be. Active Ottumwa is is so motivated toward the individual for the group. I just, you know, and it was so easy, you know, I’m thinking this Blue Zone thing. I had a file like this, and you know, and then we had all these hoops we had to jump through to do this and that. And then we had an office space that was gonna, you know, cost thousands of dollars and who’s gonna pay for this? It was just crazy, and Active Ottumwa came along. And Sandy and I sat down probably over lunch or something, and she actually shared, you know, what this vision was, and I, you know, had talked to, you know, some of the other U of I people that had come to town and, and just was like, this is so much better, this just makes sense people. And so, it’s like I said, it was easy to follow, it was a great way to network with people, was a wonderful way to feel better about yourself, you know, getting out doing this. You know, Tai Chi, we have water swimming, it’s just whatever interests you. I’d like to get a horse-riding group together and going up near Ridge and you know getting some of my horse-riding friends together and have that be a part of it, you know, at some point in time. But now Active Ottumwa is down to earth, easy to follow, it’s not mired in administrative this and that and you know you got to do this, you got to do this, you got this checkpoint, you’ve got to be accountable, you know, to the I mean you guys have things you have to be accountable for. But for those of us who are actively doing Active Ottumwa we just get to be a part of activity. Ah, I mean, that’s cool. You know, we don’t have you know it, I don’t know. I just love it, I’m so happy that Ottumwa was chosen for this opportunity. I am so pleased that I was able to be a part of this opportunity. And I like it, it does make sense. It’s easy. It’s user friendly. It’s inclusive. It doesn’t matter, you’re happy, I’m happy too you know. You don’t have to have this, that, the other, to be able to do the things. Get a pair of good walking shoes. I have one she walks in flip flops. I don’t know how she does. So you know that, it wouldn’t be me. But yeah, I just you know, everybody’s there, if you need them. I want to you know have Active Ottumwa involved in our Alzheimer’s walk because you know I feel, you know, that is so important. You know, with the Alzheimer’s organization doing what Active Ottumwa does, and having the nutrition part into it you know, and whatever you need the resources are there. I can call Sandy for anything and say, Sandy you know, somebody asked me about this, or I need to know do we have, you know this available? You know, could we find a place to, somebody wants to do this, could we find a place for that, and boom she’s on it. I mean, you couldn’t have asked for more power in this community to make Active Ottumwa work then you got with Sandy, she’s been phenomenal. And I mean anything I’ve wanted, or anybody else has wanted or needed, she’s on top of it, she’s gonna make it happen. And it’s not going to be a week down the road, it’s going to be within 24 hours for the most part, it might take her 48 and some things, but she’s on it. And I like that kind of people, you know so that’s my kind of people, you know and somebody asked me some, I want somebody that’s gonna do it. And Sandy does it. So thank you Sandy for all of this, you’ve made changes in my life I never dreamt up. So for me, it’s a way Active Ottumwa is an important extension of my health, my well-being both emotionally and physically interacting, you know with others, it’s just, it’s helped me round myself as a person. So Active Ottumwa for me as a person, you know, has helped me with relationships, to help me stay physically active, has helped me emotionally stay grounded. And give me outlets, you know, for like I said, for the holistic part of who I am as a person, and just the relationships alone. You know, that’s just there’s not even a word you can put into what that part of it is, you know, that relationship building, you know, that’s what life’s all about. And Active Ottumwa has broadened that for me, in such a way that people would be blessed to be a part of this program. You know, it is life changing. And when I started this, I would have thought that that sentence would be something that I would put, I mean, I thought it was a great program. But oh, this is wonderful. This is cool. I’ll do this. But you know, the years I’ve been into this, it’s life changing in a good way. So that’s for me as a person. That’s what it’s been.
Barbara Baquero: I’m just grateful. Thank you for sharing that. That’s powerful.
Connie Hammersley-Wilson: Thank you for letting me share my story. So and giving me this story, you guys have given me a chapter in my life that I never would have dreamt would have been there. So I appreciate that very, very much. This has been a great chapter. I just can’t say enough good things about what Active Ottumwa has brought to our community. And I’d love to see this go all over this state. And people be able to have the same experiences that we have enjoyed these years that we’ve been doing this. And nothing has been overwhelming, nothing has been exhausting. It’s been laughing as we go along learning and making it all work. But it takes a good leader in your community to make this happen. And Sandy, she was spot on the right person to be in this position to make Active Ottumwa, ah, you know what it is.
Hannah Shultz: In previous episodes, we learned about the Physical Activity Leader training, so is curious what sort of training or upfront support the Ambassadors got.
Becky Bucklin: It’s a two-hour training over two days. So actually, I mean, sorry, it’s a four-hour training over two days, two hours each day and it’s in person. But the Ambassador training is kind of a pared down version. And it’s more focused on these informational strategies of how to get the word out about Active Ottumwa. And really focusing on those social network pieces. But it was done online. So it was it had, I think. nine different parts, and each part probably lasted, you know, 15 minutes and it was a recorded training that and then there were some questions at the end that the person would answer. And Connie has also been through it. So she might see my be remembering differently or have more to add to this. But basically, they would go through at their own pace, like they could listen to this eight minute to 15-minute video, and then answer the questions at the end, just to like, as a recap of oh, these are the things that were important that we covered. And then they could go on to the next one. And it could be cancelled at any point. And so it was also because it was done online. It really, hopefully, I’m hoping, Connie you can also disagree with me, I’m hoping it works better with these very busy schedules that our Ambassadors did have.
Hannah Shultz: Connie became an Ambassador early on in the program and was helpful in identifying glitches in the trainings to smooth things out for future Ambassadors.
Connie Hammersley-Wilson: I have been a part of wellness programs in the community for a number of years. And with these programs what we’ll know that we have this opportunity here. That it is modified for the individual person, that we’re looking for your input, your leadership, we’re not telling you what to do, or how to exercise, you know, what meetings you have to go to those types of things. It’s very individualized. But a great way to connect and network with people. And I think that was one of the coolest things that I loved is I got to be with people I wouldn’t normally get to be with. Because when you’re working this much, you’re you know, with the people you work with, and you don’t get to, to be with other people. So like the walking group that I’m currently with, I’ve been with him for many years. Some of them I do volunteer work with, so I see them that way. Some of them I had never met until we started this group and, and there’s about nine of us on here. And I think of them as his dear friends now you know that we only get together, you know, for this hour a day, every day. But we’re there for one another. We’ve built relationships if somebody’s sick, or has it, we’ve we’ve had a couple of spouses die, you know, in this group and some children, and we’ve had some bursts of grandchildren. So, you know, it’s not only been the physical part, it’s been the emotional part, the camaraderie I would say it’s one of my most satisfying things that I’ve been involved in. I mean, it’s I’ve seen things because it’s it’s so profound in so many ways. It covers so many parts of my life and what I do and I think it’s enhanced me as a person. So I I feel very blessed that I Sandy brought me on to this and that I’ve been able to be a part of of this program. I think it’s been life changing, you know, and in a lot of ways but it’s it brings me tears to my eyes. It’s brought people to my life that I never would have had the opportunity to be friends with and it’s gratifying. It’s wonderful and it’s heartwarming. So, gee, I didn’t think I get that emotional but wow guys.
Hannah Shultz: We hear a lot of nostalgia throughout these episodes and gratitude for the program, which is just really, really wonderful to hear. But it’s been important to acknowledge that a lot of work went into this program. And there were rough days and lessons learned. But the effort and struggle has been worth it for those involved. As Barbara told me, it wasn’t always rosy. But one of the reasons we’re doing these podcasts is to share those lessons. So others can learn from these experiences as they plan similar programs in their communities. We talked some more about the role of the Ambassadors in the program,
Sandy Berto: I think for me was just actively communicating with everyone, sending out emails, acknowledging what their organization is doing, participating in their organization’s activities. It’s not we’re just not singular forces, it takes all of us to create the good in our own community. And while the active, while the Ambassadors were so active with Active Ottumwa, there was also that flipside where Active Ottumwa was involved in the other organization’s activities. Like Barbara spoke to earlier, the Latino festival. And I think Connie, when she was the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, had the Home and Garden Show. So we had a table there participating with cardiac rehab and having a table there, because the physical activity, of course, leads right into the cardiac rehab. So it and I don’t mean it to sound like it was a quid pro quo at all. But it’s just acknowledging that everyone’s very much a part of your own community and accepting that ownership, which I think Active Ottumwa did. That good, just good things come from it.
Hannah Shultz: Connie and Sandy put their heart and soul into this work and have been profoundly impacted by it. I want to make sure that we are clear that they have both put a ton of work into this. And while it’s rewarding and meaningful work, it was still work.
Sandy Berto: Well, there was a lot of work involved, and sometimes disjointed hours if somebody needed me to come to an evening meeting I did, or if it was a Saturday, you just have to be flexible. But then what you give you get twice back in return. And I had so much fun with Active Ottumwa. Just just so much fun. I think I actually even told Barbara a couple times that I felt guilty that she was paying me to do this because I was having so much. And well it is work and being able, it’s also a very creative outlet, because working with people is never stagnant. And you always have to come up with another idea to make something work. And another side was that I was so grateful to have the team of the PRC. If I wasn’t sure, I knew that they always had my back. And we could talk about things and how to approach different things. Right, there were a couple of little bumps in the road. But I always knew that even if I was in Ottumwa, and the team was in Iowa City that I was still part of that team and I was sitting in they were part of my team here.
Hannah Shultz: In the last episode, we talked with a few PALs about how they promoted their classes and the program more broadly. I asked today’s guests how the ambassadors and PALs worked together.
Sandy Berto: For the most part, several of the PALs were Ambassadors and vice versa. I think the biggest takeaway is just to share the information to talk about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing and to invite people to ask people. If you never ask anybody or approach them, the answer’s no. And if somebody said and we had several people that would when I would ask them out at the mall walking if they’d like to participate in Active Ottumwa. No, that wasn’t their thing. They were out there walk alone. That’s okay. You’re out here walking. You don’t have to be. This is something we’d like you to be part of. I think also, one thing that I always said especially because of the research aspect was that look how brief this is going to be when we can have Ottumwa put on the map to have the data and the research. To be able to show how important physical activity is. So there were a couple times, I would just say, just think you can be part of this research program. Because they think for the most part, when you say research, people think about lab rats and experiments. So it was just easier and less complex, to just say, you know, look Ottumwa’s going to be recognized for something positive. And Ottumwa has been.
Barbara Baquero: I think so, too. I think that was really important. I think, like motivation right, to get Ottumwa being an example, across the state of or, or something unique. Right. And I think also, that came from our advisory board and Physical Activity Leaders and Ambassadors. So I have to sort of come in fit hopefully, fit somewhere. Right. One is, you know, to answer your question, I think that the Physical Activity Leaders are, you know, those community members that, you know, are interested in and being physically active. And have networks, but also were interesting on developing skills right, like they wanted to sort of give back to their community in sort of having this group, right. So, they became really important, that was part of the goals to of Active Ottumwa with a sort of discovered these natural leaders in the community, identify them, and then give them support and build capacity, right. And many of them I know, and these stories that we see across, you know, states, and in projects like this. Where you know these natural leaders you know, find itself in this work and feel more confident and they change jobs, or they go back to school, they start a business, or write, or keep doing activities. Right. And I think we saw some of that as well in the Physical Activity Leaders. But to your question, I think the Physical Activity Leaders just were able to reach one on one people in the community, right. And I think because they were members of the community, others can see themselves in them, right. They didn’t look like you know, a trainer or anything like that. They were like moms and dads and grandparents, and you know. And in men that worked in but decided to, you know, ride a bicycle at the end of the day, walk into you know, the cemetery with dogs. So I think that that, you know, people can see themselves into these leaders and through the Ambassadors in a way, and they already trust Ambassadors. So I think that that is, so that connection that they created, right, into the Ambassadors and the Physical Activity Leaders. I think they sort of so, showed the Ambassador says, role models for them, right. Like, I could be like Connie right, I could be you know leading and building that trust. And I think over time that that was the case for many other Physical Activity Leaders. The other piece, I guess, I want to mention, because I think about, you know, we, we, you know, we’re having this conversation is to hopefully inspire other cities in the state to take on Ottumwa. I mean, on Active Iowa is too this takes time, right. And I think we have a lot of resources and a lot of people working on this. But I think you have the talent in your community to do this. Right. So I think the first thing I would say is, like, just have patience and trust that this can work because we are talking about the stories that we are telling and it’s one that took seven years, right. And I think that was one of the first commitments that I think we all made is like, this is a marathon, this is a long haul and it paid off, right. So we wouldn’t give up in a year. We didn’t sort of say, okay this is not working, because not everybody’s showing up at the first meeting, right. We knew that maybe nobody is going to show up in the first meeting to the first invitation that we have, right. So I think that, but also that takes resources. So think about us, you are sort of an advocate of your community and want to bring Active Iowa to your city. You know, think about the first thing that we suggest is build that you know, your own advisory board, right? Think about who are the champions, who is the people that can will be as committed as you to make this happen. And you know, showing them the example of Ottumwa right, in terms like it can be done, they did it right, because they will have some of the support of the university. But sort of committing that to the long-term goal in in finding those natural resources, you know the Sandy’s and the Connie’s and the Physical Activity Leaders in your community also will be critical to the success of the program of course.
Hannah Shultz: I wanted to dig into the marketing piece of it more. The relationships are clearly super important to this program, and it’s clear that they were key to sustaining the program and the many people involved, but I knew they used other ways to reach people as well.
Sandy Berto: I would say from my perspective, Facebook, the number of people who started to follow Facebook was a smaller amount, and it’s now over 1,800 people. I think, also, we put posters in the mall, we had gone out mapped the mall on how many trips around the mall equals the miles so that you could keep track of your own progress. We put several posters out there. We also, I also knocked on doors of different businesses just, “Hello I’m Sandy, I’d like to share some information would you share this with your customers.” And we had table tents that we put at restaurants, even a couple of bars. Put our table 10 along their tables. I think the very active part of Facebook was probably where I saw the most benefit. Also, I was on several listservs from the Diversity Meetings, the Healthy Community Meetings, the city council, anybody and everybody’s email that I could send the monthly calendar out to any updates, our participation in different community of them just good old advertisement. Early on we did radios, or maybe spots at the theaters. Any time we were going to have an event I reached out to all of the local TV stations and the newspaper, and it got so that I think sometimes when they needed a little bit of positive good news that they would come back and say, “how’s Active Ottumwa doing? what’s going on in your community?” And, of course, you do what I mean, that was another fun part of the program. And I think any, any opportunity that I saw to get the word out, I did, but I think regular Facebook posting. I’m sure that there were a lot of people who got tired of seeing Active Ottumwa in their newsfeed. But I think there was a big reach. I also posted on several different Active Ottumwa Facebook pages that have anywhere from 5,000 to 18,000 people on there. Now, granted, not all of them live in Ottumwa, but I did hear from somebody in northwest Iowa, who had family here in Ottumwa who made that connection with me to get them involved in one of the activities so you just never know where that opportunities going to be or who you’re going to reach and how.
Hannah Shultz: So I’m curious Sandy with the Facebook. Thinking about how other communities may replicate your success with Facebook, what sorts of things did you post? Was it invites to the walking groups? Or a general healthy living tips? Or what kinds of things were you regularly putting on Facebook?
Sandy Berto: I experimented with that in the beginning I would post the day of for the activities, and then I get to thinking back to my years of raising children, and how much I need a couple days to plan between dance recitals and music lessons and baseball games. So, I started posting the evening before and it seemed to have a bigger reach, particularly to the families. Well, let’s face it is usually the moms who organize the social calendars, and by giving them a day’s notice, then they would be able to hopefully include some time for themselves. That was kind of my own personal I just kind of played with it, but I think I received a higher reach when I did it, the evening before, and I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but you can go in and set a time when a post can be posted, so that you don’t have to actually be doing it at that time I honestly didn’t mind because I wanted that participation reach for everyone. I also posted our monthly calendars. I also quoted the CDC, in regards to physical activity, the healthiest state initiative walk I advertise that anytime that Active Ottumwa was going to be at an event like the Home and Garden Show or Ladies Night Out. I also posted that. And even if there weren’t those quote likes. People still saw that information. When you don’t think they do. So, I think Facebook was a really huge advertising tool. The other way for the people that didn’t have internet or Facebook. I think it was the reach with the community organizations, the Executive Director of the Ottumwa Housing Authority was part of the diversity meeting, and I don’t know how many hundreds live in the three or four housing towers we have here, but she would take flyers and hand them out in the monthly. I think they, I’m not sure that the social director within the housing, then that information would be shared with those people because they think you really have to be aware that just because Facebook something easy for me to use it’s not always going to be for everybody else. And then I think also one thing. It’s never good to assume that somebody always knows about Active Ottumwa in this specific searches, hopefully have come from their point of view, with no knowledge of anything at all and just be patient and explain things.
Connie Hammersley-Wilson: Sandy, I want to add that you also would go out and take pictures, you know she’d find the walkers and the people doing Tai Chi and so forth. And she would go there, and she’d snap some pictures and then post them on Facebook and people. Oh, you’re doing an active in so that would get conversation started because they would recognize, you know, the people in it, their friends would see it, you know, and they’d be tagged. And so that was another great piece that she did was putting faces to what Active Ottumwa I,s who’s participating who’s in there, and especially if she knew somebody was knew she would jump in, you know, get some pictures of them and get those posted so I just wanted to add that part because I think that’s really important.
Sandy Berto: I also posted the calendars in Spanish. And I also utilize the, the interpretation tool on Facebook to Spanish and I realized that there’s different variations of the Spanish language, but at least I could get kind of the basics out to include also. That’s very special population.
Hannah Shultz: Active Ottumwa did a more traditional media campaign at the beginning of the program, so we’ll learn a bit more about that now.
Becky Bucklin: Yeah, so we did a whole like media campaign through like a professional marketing agency, and so but on the other end we, there was somebody in Ottumwa who I think he’s moved from Ottumwa since then but he’s very talented, and he kind of runs his own video service so basically he filmed in like we created a script for him and he filmed different images of the Ottumwa community and walking groups and things for like an advertisement like a thirty second ad. And so that was what was played at the movie theaters, and also, we have some commercial spots through that. All of these words that professionally paid like the Ottumwa media over. I can’t remember where their station, but they helped kind of work out all those contracts the same with radio spots. And they did like a little bit of a minor rehaul of our Facebook page just to make it more accessible to people and easier to flow. And we boosted some posts, through them as well to try to get more reach outside of connecting networks that were already kind of a part of.
Connie Hammersley-Wilson: Great. So, you did a combination of the like organic relationship non organic Facebook post
Becky Bucklin: And paid and we and we did that towards the beginning to really get like that initial boost and then afterwards we kind of amped up more of these print media we amped up our Facebook a little bit more Sandy posted at least almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day so when she’s talking about the commitment she had to Facebook and was success was because Sandy put so much attention into it. And a nice thing about Facebook was that it was a way that people could see if classes were cancelled because people get sick the weather changes bad things like things can happen that I cost us sometimes cancel and that can be really hard and damaging for people who do show up as the Physical Activity Leaders not there, but it gave away for people who would be worried about that to find out if the class is cancelled or not. Some other ways that I think are interesting that we marketed whereas we did use yard signs. So, we have yard signs and Sandy, I mean Sandy worked really hard to get a lot of people throughout the community to adopt these yard signs and put them in their yard. But we did have yard signs that we distributed, and we actually used a supplier in the Ottumwa community as much as possible. We also tried to use resources within the Ottumwa community and higher, anything that we could have done the people from the Ottumwa community actually doing those services for us. Including the t-shirts which Connie I know the podcasters can’t see it but she is proudly wearing her lime green t-shirt. And that was a huge marketing thing for us as well and a participant came to their first class they got a free t-shirt, and they were these bright line green t-shirts that said Active Ottumwa symbol of anybody in the community who had participated in one of our classes, and they were just such a great way to continue to promote the program as well as really kind of get some camaraderie among the people who had been the classes, and to just, I think was a source of pride and I think, Connie and Sandy, you should speak to that more than I can but I also very proud to wear my Active Ottumwa t-shirt outside of Ottumwa. So when I’m in Iowa city, I’ll wear it and I’ll meet people in Iowa City who are from Ottumwa “Oh, do you know of, you’ve been to Ottumwa” and I’m like “yeah there’s this amazing program happening in Ottumwa where the community is coming together.” So just a really cool marketing pieces that really, I think just kept growing and evolving and shaping, how we reach out to the community members.
Barbara Baquero: Just to add the, you know, sort of bring it back to, to that that’s implementation right but you know we’re guided by the evidence, so we knew that a marketing campaign in awareness campaign was important to get the program going. At least we knew that from from the evidence right. So, we brought the strategies to our advisory board into the city right which attendee participant in the advisory board meetings, like any other member of the team right in. In some cases, will still have some Physical Activity Leaders, when they feel comfortable coming or or Ambassadors to come to the meetings. But anyways, that the short story is that, you know, we figured out that that Facebook was a social media platform because we talked to our participants, but we also heard from my advisory board member saying that that that is the one that everybody uses Sandy also confirmed that we could, you know, that is the media that people use in the city right, so we went with that because everybody’s like, Oh, do we use Twitter. I there I come with my Twitter handle you know from my Iowa City and everybody’s like, “What are you talking about that doesn’t work here you know and it’s like okay, let me, let me not talk anymore.” Right. And so we really found we clicked right in and we asked people in the community and we said okay, you know, they said that we need to do a media campaign, what does that look like here and so the lesson learned again it’s like having those, you know, having a clear vision like in terms of like we knew we need to do this media campaign or social marketing campaign, but it needs to look any, it needs to, to have the flavor of the community. Right. So Facebook was the medium and the theater, the movie theaters have never done anything like that but that is where most people go winter, summer whatever right stick okay that sounds awesome, right. So we really, you know, sort of, again, translating that that did those sort of evidence based strategies to whether it was meaningful and selling to the community and I think again that was a success right sort of, it changed based on sort of the opportunities that we have in the community. One thing that I find so interesting right in this time of, sort of electronic and virtual, even before covered their communications is like how we actually continue over the two-year mark, period. We were printing calendars right because for some people having a copy of the column there was helpful right and so, Sandy will every month is like hey we need to have her calendar, even though it might change people knew that they needed to go to Facebook to confirm that their classes were going to be available, but it was something important to people right they wanted to have it in the refrigerator or something right. And I bet some people still have discount or somewhere in their houses right so that you know that’s something that we have planned for. But it was something important and instead of we went with that and that was meaningful right, so I think again so that is another thing, when a city decides to take on this on a sort of keep, keep in mind, like the vision but also make sure that they seem to with what the community is doing or the resources that community has to make sense for them.
Sandy Berto: We also distributed like Barbara had said, the calendars to the local church that had the Spanish population. And so, I just shared any calendar there that was possible and in a very intent way to include all populations and all people.
Hannah Shultz: We wrapped up our conversation by asking how they got to some of those harder to reach communities in Ottumwa, Sandy talks specifically about the meatpacking plant in town.
Sandy Berto: We have a local meatpacking plant, and there are so many different cultures and nationalities, who work there, that to be able to share the information about activity someone was almost impossible. That was probably the very, I knew that these people were there, but I really didn’t have that connection. within those populations and again. It’s for me, it’s not always knowing somebody but knowing somebody who knows somebody who can connect you. And that was a barrier for me, I always knew that there was a whole other population here in Ottumwa that I wasn’t able to reach. I don’t think, and then I think to just felt the lack of internet reliable internet. And we also have an older population here in Ottumwa so sometimes they think there’s a little bit more person to person, while not now in the time of covert. But, but to have that personal reach to get the word out.
Hannah Shultz: Thank you for tuning in. Thanks to the Midwestern Public Health Training Center for production support, the team at the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, the Ottumwa community, and the many guests and contributors we talk with throughout these 10 episodes. See the podcast notes for more information about Active Ottumwa, and to connect with our team. This podcast is a product of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center, supported by cooperative agreement number U84DP006389 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this podcast are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.