PRSA conducts search for anti-drug program heads

YORKTOWN, VA: The PRSA is adding the power of PR to the war against drugs, and is searching for seven pros to coordinate the effort.

YORKTOWN, VA: The PRSA is adding the power of PR to the war against drugs, and is searching for seven pros to coordinate the effort.

The association is planning to hire five regional directors and a research assistant to help run local chapters of a national community service project, Kids in a Drug-Free Society (KIDS). The organization will later tap a senior-level deputy director and a program manager to be based out of the group's new Yorktown, VA headquarters.

The KIDS program is designed to reduce drug use by encouraging better parent-child communication.

Regional directors will be based in five test cities (Dallas, Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Portland, OR), where groups have been working on PR strategies for KIDS over the past two years, according to the Dallas chapter's Sarah Farmer. Farmer added that applicants should have at least five years' worth of PR experience.

The regional directors will recruit businesses interested in offering a 10-hour series of workshops to employees with children aged between nine and 13. Magellan Health Services, a national employee assistance provider, is expected to furnish instructors to teach the 'Preparing for the Drug-Free Years' course, which was developed at the University of Washington. After a two-year pilot in the test cities, PRSA will roll out the program nationally if grant funding continues as expected.

Since the program's success will be measured in reducing drug use rather than column inches, research will be a key component of all local efforts.

The PRSA plans to publicize the program's early results to build more support. 'The goal would be to show the power of PR to change behaviors,' said Farmer.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and PRSA gave birth to KIDS more than two years ago. PRSA was searching for ways to prove the value of PR in the community arena, while the Partnership sought to expand its communication strategies. While the organization had historically communicated its message through advertising, changes in the availability of PSA time and space prompted the group to explore PR options, according to Ron Sconyers, PRSA vice chairman and CEO of the KIDS effort.

Sconyers stressed that no PRSA money will go toward the grant-funded program. Primary support is expected to come from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a charitable group associated with Johnson & Johnson. 'The communication between parents and children is the most important thing that keeps them drug-free,' said Sconyers.

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