Sarah Shank, M.S., is director of media relations for Truth Initiative, a national public health organization that leads the proven-effective and nationally recognized truth® public education campaign. She’s been a member of PRSA and the Association/Nonprofit Section for more than seven years.
Q: The truth campaign has been recognized with several awards including Silver and Bronze Anvils from PRSA. How do you measure its success?
Awards help to validate our efforts, but our ultimate measure of success is declines in smoking rates and thus lives saved. When we first launched the campaign back in 2000, the smoking rate for teens ages 12 to 17 was roughly 23 percent. Today the teen smoking rate is at a historic low of 6 percent. Even with such a low rate, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Q: What was an unexpected result of the initiative?
#CATmageddon provided a unique message that engaged our teen audience to end tobacco use. The video garnered 16 million views in the first three days and became the most-watched video in the history of truth. #CATmageddon generated nearly 900 million earned impressions including stories in USA Today, People.com and Mashable. While we were excited to get so much attention for the campaign, the most important result is that post-campaign research found that youth who watched the video on YouTube were twice as likely to search “quit smoking” on Google or YouTube. What’s more, these #CATmageddon-exposed viewers were 16.44 percent more likely to respond that they would not smoke, compared with a control group of similar users who did not watch the video.
Q: What’s next?
Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. While the youth smoking rate is at a historic low of 6 percent, where you live, who you love and how much you make still have a big impact on if and how much you smoke. Recently, truth shined a spotlight on how different population groups are disproportionately impacted by tobacco, particularly individuals who already face adversity and inequality.
Teens across the country have joined the movement to be the generation that ends smoking for good by acting both nationally and locally through social media and on-the-ground community efforts. We hope to keep calling out tobacco industry exploitation and drawing attention the number one cause of preventable death, tobacco. For more information on truth or to enlist as a “Finisher,” visit thetruth.com. To learn more about its broader efforts, visit TruthInitiative.org.