WHITEHOUSE STATION, NJ: Merck has partnered with Her Campus, an online community for women in college, to launch a campaign encouraging women to take a strategic approach to planning their futures.
The effort, called Pledge to Plan It Forward, is urging young women to make decisions on topics like living situations, their majors, and whether they want to open their own businesses.
Marina Maher Communications is providing PR support for the effort.
This is the second year the two organizations have worked together on the initiative. The campaign differs from that of last year in that it encourages young women to make a formal pledge to plan to achieve their goals. There is also an increased focus on making women think about how an unplanned pregnancy could affect their lives.
Through a Plan It Forward questionnaire, Merck found that nearly half (49%) of women ages 18 to 25 want to achieve their personal goals before having children. However, federal data shows that the highest unintended pregnancy rate among women is for females age 20 to 24 at 107 per 1,000 women.
Further research found that 95% of unplanned pregnancies in the US occur because contraception is used incorrectly, inconsistently, or not at all, according to Merck.
“We hope to remind young women that contraception and family planning can be an important element of their healthy lifestyle and their plan,” said Amy Baumann, associate director of US marketing at Merck.
Marina Maher Communications, which has provided PR support for the pharma giant's contraceptives since 2010, suggested the partnership with Her Campus last year as an out-of-the-box method to promote its birth-control products.
“You have to be mindful that when you're reaching out about contraceptives, you're not talking to a patient; you're talking to a woman living her life,” said Michele Schimmel, MD of health and well-being at the agency.
Outreach components for the Plan It Forward campaign include events, grassroots word-of-mouth marketing, and traditional media outreach targeting online lifestyle and health outlets. There is also a heavy social media component, where women who take the pledges will be able to post their decisions on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
There is also a CSR element to the campaign, with Merck donating funds to She's the First. The group provides sponsorships to girls in the developing world to help them complete their education and be the first in their families to graduate. Last year, the company gave the nonprofit $25,000. It did not reveal what it plans to donate this year.