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ASU Graduates Rally Tempe Community for Underage Drinking Campaign, Get Props from PR Industry

Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:08

As home to one of the largest universities in the country, Tempe has earned a certain reputation. Arizona State University is no stranger to lists that catalogue the best party schools, nightlife or college bars. Playboy magazine returns to Mill Avenue year after year to bestow the title upon our desert town. To some this is an achievement worth striving for, while others are beginning to feel as if Tempe is on the receiving end of a stale joke.

The drinking and partying isn’t exclusively carried out by ASU students and doesn’t end when you pass over Rural Road or leave campus. It begins much earlier than that with younger members of the community, which is what one group of ASU grads has worked to raise awareness of.

The Tempe Coalition, comprised of the Tempe Community Council and the City of Tempe, with support from the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and funding provided by Magellan Health Services of Arizona, is on a mission to reduce underage drinking and drug use.

“21 or Too Young” is the partnership’s knowledge-based initiative aimed at educating the community on the dangers of underage drinking led by ASU graduates Cassidy Olson, Samantha Womer and Rachel Steingard under the direction of Fran Matera.

The campaign was nominated as a public affairs finalist in the PR News Platinum PR Awards Competition, which celebrates and honors public relations initiatives by corporations, PR agencies and nonprofits all over the world.

The group of graduates produced a series of public service announcements that were shown in local Harkins Theatres and static versions of the message appeared on billboards or were distributed through various mediums.

“We wanted our public service announcements to be as inclusive of the Tempe community as possible,” Olson wrote in an email. “For this reason, our PSAs include real Tempe community members; among those being an ASU sorority member, a Tempe middle school teacher, a set of Tempe parents, the co-owner of Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe, a Tempe firefighter and a Tempe pediatrician.”

In April, the Tempe Police targeted underage consumption in the weeks leading up to local prom and commencement ceremonies via the Tempe Youth Alcohol Enforcement campaign, which resulted in over 270 alcohol-related arrests.

“We wanted to make sure that we stayed away from a fear-based campaign mostly because we wanted to stand out from the other PSAs that were in circulation,” Steingard wrote in an email. “It was important to create a message that would be appropriate for the entire Tempe community.”

The success of the “21 or Too Young”campaign shows the importance of realizing and utilizing one’s resources. The PR lab team developed a plan of action in order to cover more ground.

“Because the Tempe Coalition is a nonprofit governmental entity, we were able to leverage their relationships with organizations to gain public exposure,” wrote team member Samantha Womer in an email.

When asked about the effect of the campaign, Womer offers keen insight that could be applied to the larger fight to reduce underage drinking.

“This campaign may or may not change the behavior of young Tempeans — it’s too early to have that kind of measurable data — but the campaign has created a community response,” she wrote. “I have seen immeasurable impact.”

The winners of the contest will be announced in September at the PR News Platinum PR Awards luncheon in New York City.

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