Report: The German Cancer Research Center’s Media Advocacy Training for EAT (Education Against Tobacco)

Eleven motivated medical students from seven medical schools in Germany, representing EAT are getting the opportunity to take part in a course called “Media Advocacy Training” organized by the German Cancer Research Center. Workshop leaders as well as the department heads of tobacco control from The German Cancer Research Center (Dr. Martina Pötschke-Langer), journalist Dietmar Jjazbinsek from The German Federation of Journalists and others make up a team of experts. Travel costs and accommodation costs were paid for by Deutschen Herzstiftung e.V.

In preparation for the workshop students discussed the term “media lobby” as defined in a book written by Jazninsek. However, the expectations of the students regarding this topic turned out to be unrelated to the course they would be attending. This resulted in the students attending the course “Training for Media Awareness and General Media Training” being presented with a completely different approach. This approach is aimed at addressing the issue of sustainability in EAT’s primary prevention program for young people and creating a different mentality. According to Jazbinsek this would eliminate “the imbalance of power associated with reeducating people” and would be replaced by a global interest in promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Following this, key concepts associated with the topic of “Media Advocacy” will be discussed and demonstrated through the use of real life examples. An important aspect of this is to define a clear objective and to follow a specific strategy to achieve it. The timing also has to be right. This being the case one of the first questions to be answered before launching a campaign is: “How does my objective fit into the political agenda?”

This point is expanded upon in a segment of the discussion entitled “Originality of the campaign”. It is often necessary, due to a lack of funding, to be creative in gaining access to the media. Whatever you do must be newsworthy. In addition, it is important to influence the intended effect of the story. Just because your campaign is reported by the media does not make it a success, it is how it is reported which makes it a success. To that end participants are constantly reminded that it is not about marketing, but rather about having a clear objective, just having a media presence alone is not enough to achieve this. It is also important to clearly present your campaign so that it can be clearly understood and can be, in turn, endorsed by journalists.

In addition, the changing landscape and diversity of social media will be put in the spotlight. These changes make it possible to reach a large number of people and raise awareness of your campaign, but by the same token, these changes can also be detrimental. For example, an ill-conceived statement in a press release could negatively impact the perception of a campaign. There are three vital elements needed to avoid scenarios such as the one mentioned above. Conscientiousness, fact-checking and keeping one’s feelings in check. In order to prevent any loss in quality, you must always remember that you are a service provider for the media.

Jazbinsek concludes by saying “I can guarantee you one thing. It works” and with that he creates a motivational atmosphere for the simulation that takes place later in the course.

Following this, Susanne Schunk, from The German Cancer Research Center, will give a lecture on the effects of tobacco advertising on children and young people. Important aspects of tobacco advertising are: the legal gray area in advertising tobacco products, sponsoring, ambient media i.e. placing advertisements on unusual items, and online advertising. Corporate social responsibility, which has the aim of portraying the company and its products in a positive light, will also be discussed. The speaker reaches the conclusion that tobacco advertising is everywhere and is conducive to influencing smoking behavior. The legal gray area is frequently used, which makes it clear that the existing ban on advertising tobacco products is insufficient as it is unable to prevent children and minors from being exposed to the advertising of tobacco products.

During the following simulation the students are split into three groups to think of projects that can help educators upset the tobacco industry.

Some of the ideas included making a laughingstock of tobacco company mascots at music festivals, raise awareness among students on campus and to inform the public about mass advertising through an absurd reversal of ambient media.

All of the participating students in the EAT workshop learned a lot and are grateful to the organizers for organizing and conducting the workshop. Special thanks goes to the German Heart Foundation for making the event possible with their financial support

Participating Group leaders/ Medical Schools


Lena Jakob, Freiburg

Dominik Penka, Gießen

Felix Hofmann, Gießen

Fadi Abdella, Berlin

Karoline Kinkelin, Gießen

Fabian Buslaff, Erlangen

Sonja Wolff, Bochum

Carolin Rauter, Homburg

Hannah Maria, Freiburg

Caelán Haney, Heidelberg

Samuel Schaible, Heidelberg

Cami Nguyen, Gießen