Overview

The State of California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) was created to drive transformational change across the state’s mental health system, working to ensure that people get the care they need in a timely, comprehensive, effective, and culturally competent manner. 

 

MHSOAC partnered with Media Cause to create a campaign to combat the rise in race-based bullying among school-age children in California (K-12). 

 

MHSOAC had three goals for the campaign:

  • Raise awareness of race-based bullying with youth, parents, and educators to help denormalize it.
  • Help youth build resiliency and skills to cope with bullying situations they face.
  • Focus on youth as a key target audience and work hand-in-hand with the Youth Advisory Committee throughout the campaign.

Outcome

The Right Our Story campaign gave youth a safe space to discuss bullying and drive change in their community—all while generating millions of impressions and ad clicks, hundreds of thousands of site visitors and social discussions, and 1,804 Submissions of heartbreaking bullying experiences shared through the story submission form and bullying incident reporting tool.

232M+

impressions across California, both online and offline

8.4M+

clicks on paid social and programmatic ads

432K

unique visitors to the website
The Challenge

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth specifically experienced an alarming increase in bullying, hate crimes, and hate speech. MHSOAC wanted to develop a comprehensive statewide campaign, utilizing social media, to bring awareness to the issue and connect youth through peer-to-peer support.

Bullying affects youth directly, but parents and educators are often involved and aware of the problem. Media Cause discovered a few key challenges the campaign would have to confront in order to achieve its goals:

  • Bullying has become normalized and accepted behavior.
  • Social media is driving that normalization.
  • Youth feel powerless to change it.
  • Educators need support from parents and counselors.
  • Anti-bullying campaigns today are largely futile.
The Strategy

We chose Right Our Story as the campaign name to signify the pervasiveness of the issue and the need for collective action because everyone plays a role in bullying, whether as a bystander, a bully, or a victim. Bullying can’t be addressed unless people are willing to talk about it, which is why language and the community became the focus of our campaign. 

Our approach in leading this campaign with youth at the forefront was unique in this issue area. To shift the narrative and denormalize race-based bullying, we focused on: 

  • Using inclusive language to define bullying and remove labels.
  • Helping youth break through the silence, loneliness, and lack of support.
  • Leading with youth to empower them to be the change they want to see. 
  • Building trust and showing youth that this campaign was here to stay.
Implementation

Microsite / Video / Resources

We built a microsite and developed a private community dedicated to youth to bring the campaign to life. As the home of the campaign, the microsite helped our youth audiences take the first step, with the primary CTA for them to share a story.

 

They could also access resources and watch an animated video, produced in partnership with LA-based design studio The Little Labs, for youth to understand their role in the bullying story. The video landing page featured a “monster school” in which various “monster” characters face race-based bullying, paralleling real-life scenarios that students face in schools. Learning more about these monsters helped viewers to understand the issue and how they could help prevent it.

The private community was the heart of the campaign and created a safe space for youth to share their experience, support one another, and develop ideas to address bullying in their community.

Week of Action

In May 2023, we hosted a week of action and launched an anonymous bullying reporting tool to drive awareness and engagement with the material. During the Week of Action, we elevated the issue of bullying by hosting two online events and a social content series, including additional videos, featuring youth activists. 

We launched the Bullied Button, an online reporting tool allowing youth to share bullying incidents anonymously, to wrap up the Week of Action. This lowered the barrier of entry and helped us and the client understand where bullying happened in the State

Paid Media / Influencer Campaign

Each of the campaign initiatives was supported by a cross-channel media campaign advertised on social media (Instagram, TikTok, SnapChat, YouTube), out of home placements (baseball games, youth community centers), and programmatic vendors. Our blanket paid media approach used multiple touchpoints across these different channels to meet audiences where they were so that they could more readily relate to the material.

We used influencers with both youth and parent creators to raise awareness and drive story submissions and reporting of bullying incidents. The influencer strategy lent authenticity to the campaign message and strengthened the call to action.

Additionally, we created organic Instagram and TikTok accounts where the campaign message was shared. 

Partnerships with organizations representing diverse communities, mental health organizations, and youth leadership organizations widened the reach of the campaign and increased the discussion about the issue online.

Brand / Research

Through a multipronged research approach, including extensive first-party research with the people most impacted, we met with key stakeholders, conducted a cultural and competitive assessment, and did deep audience research. This culminated in the following:

  • Cultural + Competitive Landscape Analysis
  • 5 Stakeholder Interviews with community organizations 
  • Survey of 200+ youth who’ve experienced bullying 
  • 9 Focus Groups + 5 In-depth Interviews with Youth, Parents, and Educators
  • Ongoing Partnership with a Youth Advisory Committee for feedback and input

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