Even though mental illness affects one in five adults in the United States, stigmas associated with mental illness often discourage those facing these challenges from seeking treatment. Attitudes, fears, and misunderstandings create barriers to treatment. GCI, charged with creating an event that would serve as a model for breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness, organized an event called The Habitat Hope House Kick-Off in April 2001. It was held in Fairfield, Alabama (a suburb of Birmingham) and publicized nationally. The Habitat Hope House Kick-Off reinforced the perception of Forest, the manufacturer of a leading antidepressant, as a mental health community advocate.
Volunteers from across the nation came together in Alabama, to build the first Habitat Hope House, a Habitat for Humanity home constructed exclusively by volunteers with mental health challenges, their families and mental health caregivers. The Habitat Hope House Project became a reality when the non-profit organization Compeer, which matches volunteers with adults and children who are receiving treatment for mental or emotional problems, joined forces with Forest Laboratories and the Greater Birmingham Habitat for Humanity (GBHFH).
- Generate a national story from a local grassroots event in a location in a small metropolitan area.
- Communicate messages from all three of the event’s major sponsors (Forest, Compeer and Habitat For Humanity) during satellite media tour (SMT) and media interviews.
- Maintain the momentum of the SMT in the face of breaking news: midway through the SMT, wire services reported the release of 24 American military men who had been detained in China after a collision of a U.S. Navy spy plane with a Chinese fighter. Although many media outlets turned their attention to this breaking news development, GCI was able to move forward with several more Hope House Kick-Off interviews.
- Confirmed that such a “Hope House” had never been constructed before.
- Determined experts in the field who would speak on behalf of Forest and about the significance of the event.
- Identified opportunities to enlist organizations/leaders who could support the event’s key messages.
- Analyzed past news coverage of Habitat for Humanity events.
- Generate national publicity and secure media coverage surrounding the Alabama event.
- Position Forest as a leader in mental health.
- Drive Celexa sales and increase brand mentions.
- Create a visually compelling “Kick-Off” to serve as a model for breaking down the stigma associated with mental. illness and attract the attention of national and local media.
- Engage third parties to enhance credibility and newsworthiness of the event.
The Habitat for Hope campaign was executed using several tactics:
- To further build awareness and name recognition of Forest as leader in the fight against mental illness, GCI developed banners, hats and t-shirts that featured the logos of Forest and their third-party partners.
- To lend credibility and news value to the campaign, GCI enlisted the support of local and national organizations and leaders, including mental health advocate Tipper Gore, the Alabama Department of Mental Health & Mental Retardation, and the mayor of Fairfield.
- Used physician expert to deliver key messages about depression and treatment via an on-site SMT
- Secured local newspaper photographer to chronicle event.
- Created a “yearbook” for GBHFH and Compeer to share with members of the community and for Forest sales force members to share with local doctors.
EVALUATION OF SUCCESS/RESULTS
Through live, on-site satellite media tour interviews, depression expert Dr. Andrew Farah and GBHFH Executive Director Jan Bell communicated messages of help, hope and treatment to an audience of at least 7.7 million nationwide. Highlights included television broadcast coverage in Dallas, Las Vegas, San Jose, Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, Sacramento, Nashville and Birmingham as well as exclusive interviews with USA, ABC and CBS Radio Networks. Coverage also included placements in the Birmingham Post-Herald, Alabama Associated Press Daybook and Builder Online. Endorsements of the event were solicited and received from Tipper Gore, Fairfield mayor Larry Langford and the Alabama Department of Mental Health & Mental Retardation. Several members of the community spoke during the official Kick-Off ceremony, including Darryl Taylor and members of his family, recipients of the Habitat Hope House. Additionally, local awareness of Forest and Celexa was generated among local physicians and consumers.