In 2005, NYAC, the nation’s only GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning) youth advocacy organization, received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and implement a social marketing pilot campaign to increase HIV testing and test retrieval among African American GLBTQ youth ages 13–24. NYAC engaged Metropolitan Group to develop the brand for this initiative and to plan and implement the campaign.
The goal of the campaign was to increase rates of HIV testing and test retrieval by 100 percent among African American GLBTQ youth ages 13-24. More than 30 community organizations in south Florida, Washington, D.C., and the Bronx, New York, came together to form partnerships to implement both the testing and the accompanying social marketing campaign in these three locations. MG developed the “You Know Different” campaign in collaboration with community organizations from all three locations, utilizing our distinct public will building model.
Core challenges revealed in our early research (surveys, interviews and focus groups with target audiences and organizations) included a lack of perceived authenticity in current messages about HIV/AIDS testing and prevention; low level of trust in celebrity and other “external” spokespersons in many HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns; inability to identify personally with the campaigns; and not seeing “people like me” in campaigns. In addition, target audiences in all three communities noted that mainstream media had little or no influence with or appeal to them. Instead, they indicated a strong desire to see themselves reflected authentically in the campaign, to hear campaign messages from their peers and to have them delivered in social contexts they create themselves or regularly frequent. In addition, a large percentage of African American males in the target audiences did not identify as “gay” (but rather as men on the “down low” and/or men seeking men for sex), thus the campaign needed to focus on disease prevention, not sexual identity.
Results achieved: MG focused the campaign on low-cost strategies that included direct outreach and interactive approaches that youth told us had the highest credibility and authenticity for them. Messages were tested with and shaped by target audiences as was the campaign creative, which focused on the hip, urban vibe that young people described as most reflective of themselves. The campaign relied heavily upon low-cost strategies that included direct outreach and interactive strategies. Specific outreach included peer education networks, social networks, club scenes and other gathering places, palm cards, posters and stickers (as simple collateral tools), and public service announcement scripts that campaign partners used in their own community media channels. Online and social media outreach included a simple website with youth facing: downloadable buttons created for MySpace, Facebook and personal blogs, plus a campaign Facebook page “yknowd” including tools to personalize the campaign materials with your own picture—partner facing: campaign toolkits, training and support materials) that youth told us had the highest level of credibility and authenticity for them.
Partners were trained to conduct outreach, seek promotional partners in their communities and utilize print and online tools developed by MG. Peer educators were also mobilized, taking palm cards to clubs, balls and other social gathering places frequented by the target population.
Pilot campaign results were extraordinary. The campaign goal of a 100 percent increase in testing and test retrieval was exceeded by 20 percent. There was also a 300 percent increase in the number of young people contacting testing organizations, a 220 percent increase in the number of HIV tests scheduled and a 5 percent increase in the number of walk-in tests requested. The campaign included a two-week lead period (when materials were distributed), a two-week testing period, and a minimum of two weeks’ follow-up. Eighteen community partners participated in the pilot.
Data show that campaign materials motivated more than 80 percent of young adults tested during the campaign “somewhat” or “a lot”; more than 50 percent of participants who completed a spot interview reported seeing the campaign materials prior to testing; and 72 percent of organizations reported successfully using peer outreach during the campaign. Campaign rollout continued in 2006 with phase-two campaigns rolled out in Memphis, St. Louis, Fort Worth, and Jacksonville. As was found in previous campaign years, calls to agencies grew 175 percent; calls to schedule testing 144 percent; walk-in visits for testing 214 percent; and actual HIV tests done, 153percent. Participation in the campaign also generated innovation among the participating organizations to the benefit of the youth they serve.
In 2007-08 the campaign was continued with consistent results, and the campaign was expanded to include Latino and transgender audiences, creating new social media tools and continuing the outreach that effectively changes behavior and social norms.
Overall, the campaign pilot results are extraordinary, showing increases in testing of 150 percent in the first year, 165 percent in the second year. The campaign is the most successful CDC-funded HIV intervention campaign and has been funded for another five years. In June 2006, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) awarded Metropolitan Group its highest honor, a Silver Anvil Award, in multicultural public relations for its work with NYAC on the campaign.
“Working with the Metropolitan Group team has been a great pleasure for NYAC. I have found the Metropolitan Group team to be strategic, innovative and committed to working with hard-to-reach audiences, and creating healthier and stronger individuals and communities. They have a unique, sustainable and results-oriented approach to public relations and outreach; and they are truly passionate about public health and social change, as well as being great to work with.”
former Director of Health Program, NYAC
current Regional Mission Delivery Director,
national Capital Area, American Cancer Society