CAMPAIGNS: Community Relations - PRSA uses KIDS to fight drug abuse

Client: Kids in a Drug-Free Society (KIDS)

Client: Kids in a Drug-Free Society (KIDS)

Client: Kids in a Drug-Free Society (KIDS)

(Yorktown, VA)

PR Team: In-house staff and Meridian Group

(Virginia Beach, VA)

Campaign: Parents, Kids

and Drugs

Time Frame: 1998 - Ongoing

Budget: dollars 2.6 million, a two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Talking to kids about drugs is never easy. So PRSA and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America joined forces nearly three years ago to help parents realize the importance of doing so.

The partnership wanted to develop a grassroots public-education program since PSA time was becoming increasingly scarce, and PRSA was looking for a project to demonstrate the power of PR and provide a venue for pro bono energies nationally. So the two organizations created KIDS (Kids in a Drug-Free Society), a nonprofit subsidiary of PRSA that would allow both to achieve their goals, while educating parents.


KIDS used a two-step strategy to motivate parents. The first phase aimed to raise their awareness of the impact they could have on their children's decisions about drug use, while the second strove to change parents' behavior by personalizing the issue and by conducting workplace training courses in partnership with major employers.

KIDS selected five pilot cities with diverse demographics and strong PRSA chapters already involved in projects related to preventing drug use - Dallas, Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Portland, OR.

KIDS president and CEO Ron Sconyers hopes the project will help lay the groundwork for an industry-backed organization for cause-related PR volunteerism.


In the initial phase, organizers in test cities used public and media events to reach parents using collateral materials developed by the Meridian Group. In Cleveland, for example, Ohio's first lady appeared at an event with dozens of corporate executives. And in Richmond, volunteers set up a booth at a parenting fair and demonstrated fatal-vision goggles, which simulate various degrees of inebriation.

In the second phase, KIDS partnered with corporations to offer a 10-hour training course to employees during work hours.

At Parker Hannifin in Cleveland, HR information services manager Marien Kaifesh said she spent some time answering employees' questions about how KIDS training differed from the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program their children participated in at school. 'Everybody tells you to talk to your kids about drugs, but nobody tells you how to,' Kaifesh says. 'That's what I think is so outstanding about this program.'

Emphasis is being placed on research, and companies in New York, New Hampshire and Washington state are measuring the program's effectiveness.

A series of parent surveys are conducted before and after the training courses.


Research efforts are just beginning to produce meaningful data, Sconyers says. One major focus of the program is encouraging parents to hold family meetings, and surveys have shown twice as many parents did so after training.

The program may expand to the Web, faith-based organizations and other venues targeting parents. Community awareness campaigns are now being launched in additional cities.

The campaign has garnered a good deal of positive news coverage, including a favorable editorial in Cleveland's The Plain Dealer and an unsolicited op-ed in The Dallas Morning News. A leading trade journal for manufacturers, Industry Week, also ran a feature on the program.


Using research findings about the campaign's success, KIDS is reapplying for its grant and seeking other funding sources. Sconyers says an annual budget of about dollars 5 million ultimately will be necessary to fund an ongoing national program.

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