Real Talk Vernon

What is Real Talk?

Real Talk Vernon was created by youth members of the Vernon ROCKS coalition to encourage young people in Vernon to have conversations with each other, and with their parents about underage drinking.  Youth members met on a weekly basis to brainstorm the campaign name, slogan, and logo. They also discussed the types of messaging needed and identified locations of high visibility around town. 

The youth felt it was important to recognize the negative consequences of underage drinking without using scare tactics to convey the message. They wanted messaging that would be unique, but something everyone could relate to. As a result, they developed two year-book style messages geared toward their peers. An additional six New Year’s resolution messages were created to match the release of the campaign: two for peers and four for parents. After working closely with the campaign, the youth group also became known as Real Talk.

The Launch 

The campaign launched with a youth-directed billboard located in town near the high school. After four weeks, it was followed by a parent-directed billboard, in the same location, during the holiday season. Immediately following the launch, Real Talk members presented the campaign at a Board of Education meeting, as well as, a Town Council meeting. Members also wore their Real Talk shirts to school to bring awareness about the campaign to their peers.

Spreading the Message

Real Talk members placed campaign posters throughout the school for students to see when they returned in the New Year.  In addition, posters were displayed throughout town in places that parents or teens (depending on the message) were likely to visit. 25 local restaurants and stores, town departments and other local organizations agreed to display the messages.  All messaging included a call to action to start a conversation, and to visit our website for suggestions. Two weeks later, Real Talk members placed window clings with the Real Talk logo throughout the school. The Hartford Courant also featured Real Talk in an article in the paper during January to help spread the reach of our message.

At the same time, Facebook and Instagram ads were created to target parents of teens in Vernon, while Instagram ads targeted Vernon youth. As a result, ads targeting parents received over 11,362 impressions, and ads targeting youth received over 7,643 impressions across four ads.

The Real Talk campaign is continuing to evolve as youth are beginning to produce and film monthly interviews with coalition members and key informants on Vernon’s local public access channel. Our next task is to create another prevention billboard geared toward students attending prom. 

Advice for implementing a similar campaign:

·      Make sure everyone is on the same page: All coalition members, youth, and stakeholders must agree on the type of messaging and understand the purpose of the campaign 

·      Engage youth: Youth have the best and most creative ideas, but their engagement shouldn’t stop there! Teach your youth members about every step of your campaign and allow them to make key decisions.

·      Customize: Create your campaign to be unique to your town and something community members are excited to stand behind.

·      Multiple platforms: Social media is one of the best ways to reach large groups of people, but find other ways to grab people’s attention. The more locations your messaging is distributed, the more likely your community is to see it.