Hi followers in Cle and beyond!
If you’re interested, below are segments from our final LTP report. Check it out and learn more about our project, the process, our talent, and our team!
As many of you are aware, part of our AIDS United-AmeriCorps responsibilities was to complete a high-impact long-term project (LTP) in Cleveland. This year, Team Cleveland partnered with AmeriCorps AIDS United Host Agency Recovery Resources to design, develop, and implement a marketing campaign focused on populations facing the highest risk of HIV infection. The populations in our scope include African-American MSM (men who have sex with men), high-risk heterosexual men, and transgender women of color between the ages of 13-29. The team’s goal was to serve as capacity-builders to get this initiative off the ground. The mission of the LTP was to raise awareness about testing and PrEP (The use of Truvada as prevention), normalize HIV testing, normalize condom use, normalize discussions around sex, and meet people where they are at.
We chose to market in a few different ways for our project: a social media campaign, a print material campaign, and a video campaign. These platforms were encouraged by our partnership with Recovery Resources and their targeted HIV-reduction campaign called Safe on the Scene. Through the social media campaign, we monitored and posted on the Safe on Scene Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. For the print material campaign, we designed and contracted out the printing of two billboards (one on the east side of Cleveland and one on the west side) and designed palm cards featuring local Cleveland talent in the African-American LGBT community or allied with that community. With the video campaign, called the T-Talk Videos, we constructed interview questions, visualized a location for the shoot, and coordinated a photoshoot with the local African-American talent during the video shoot. The variety of marketing avenues was essential to this project because we wanted to reach the target population where they are at, whether that be online or on the streets.
History of the Project
Need for project in community. Why did we decide to do it, and why/how does the community benefit?
In Cleveland, as well as other major or growing metropolitan areas, the highest growing demographic of individuals at risk of contracting HIV are young black men who have sex with men, or MSM, from the ages of 13-29. This has occurred for a myriad of reasons, stemming from institutional and structural racism to access to resources and education within a community. Team Cleveland and our partners developed strategies to enhance and create marketing, community outreach, and social media promotions to these high risk groups in the effort of raising awareness and reducing the stigma of HIV education and HIV positive individuals.
In the videos and photos coordinated by our team, we featured members of the black community who are relevant to the highest risk groups for contracting HIV; more specifically, we featured three African-American MSM, two African-American transgender women, and one straight black man. By featuring them and their life stories, we aim to provide a context of their experiences with stigma and sexuality to create an active response in the high risk community to promote safe sex and HIV awareness. The photoshoots and filming of those featured will be posted on various social media platforms and distributed to these communities most at risk.
Outline your team’s service learning goals (what you hoped to learn in implementing the project) and what new skills and experiences members developed in implementing the LTP.
A few of the service learning goals Team Cleveland hoped to obtain throughout this project were:
- Understanding the needs of the target community in regards to HIV testing, PrEP awareness, and smarter sex practices
- Connecting with the target community through the various marketing outlets
- Creating culturally relevant marketing materials to encourage curiosity about the Safe on the Scene project amongst the marketing audience
As our team coursed through the deadlines of our Long Term Project, we were able to learn some valuable lessons and skills along the way. We learned from the Safe on the Scene team (headed by Stacy Soria and Shavar Johnson), we learned from the community members we worked with, and we learned from each other.
As we discussed, observed, and conversed with each other and with the community, we did begin to understand what needs are and are not being met with respect to community sexual health in Cleveland. We found that there was a severe lack of awareness about PrEP, and partnered with that is the reality of the matter that condoms are not used often enough to prevent the steady rate of new HIV infections in Cleveland. We learned more about the stigma in the black community, specifically the black male community, against not only getting tested for HIV, but even against going to the doctor for a regular check-up. We understood that the health care system in Cleveland needs to create an environment of trust for the marginalized populations, meaning LGBT people of color, who are experiencing the epidemic the most.
We had the opportunity to connect with a group of individuals to be the faces of the print and video campaigns by hearing their stories as it relates to their health and their identities. Our team was able to come together and learn about these amazing people as we helped put together the video and the print materials. We learned what kind of language to use and what kind of messaging would appeal most to our target population.
How did our team engage the community in planning and implementing our project?
Through the various roles required by this project, three different planning teams were created for thorough completion of all aspects of the project. One team was responsible for scripting the questions for the individuals participating in the project’s promotional videos as advocates, to guide, frame, and naturally align their stories to that of Safe on the Scene’s messaging. Another team took the lead on social media posts specifically on sites that reached the target audience, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Backpage. The posts were scripted in order to raise awareness of Safe on the Scene’s presence in the community as it relates to testing locations and to reduce HIV stigma amongst the community. Another team collaborated with companies in Cleveland to negotiate sites for the campaign billboards with strategic placement in neighborhoods with increasing HIV infection rates. We also analyzed what populations were more concentrated on each side of Cleveland within the African-American community, for example many of the sex workers work and live on the west side and many youth live on the east.
As a team, we are fortunate to be a part of the graphic design process through a member (John Licatatiso, featured above) with previous experience who took an independent lead on the production of the palm cards featuring the participants in the campaign.
The implementation of the LTP: what went well, what would you change/do differently, and other lessons learned.
Team Cleveland went through an array of ideas for our Long Term Project ranging from producing an educational yet entertaining music video on sexual health to trying to hire LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player, to get HIV tested in a video to encourage testing. After going through a slew of ideas and attempting to map them out, the team decided that we should hear what the community actually needs rather than we were guessing the community needed. Thus, we developed a Request for Proposals we delivered to the Greater Cleveland HIV care and prevention community through Regional Advisory Group (RAG) and Ryan White Planning Council meetings. Out of the core ideas that we had as a team, we were lucky to find that Stacy Soria from Recovery Resources and Safe on the Scene had a project in mind that would basically bring all of our ideas to fruition. All besides hiring LeBron James.
We met with Stacy and Shavar as a team quite a few times starting in late February and early March to just get a grasp of what the objectives, goals, and deliverables of the project were. As a team, we had to figure out how best to work with them and meet their needs while still realizing what the project meant to us. After we figured out what the team needed to produce to successfully complete this LTP, we developed a timeline.
As we planned out our three main areas of focus for the LTP, the team came up with a calendar with deadlines for ourselves to make sure we delivered the marketing materials in a timely fashion. We also split up the three areas amongst our eight team members. We then went over those deadlines and mini teams with Stacy and Shavar, who then approved and tweaked what we presented to them. We learned that sometimes the deadlines would change depending on the billboard company that we worked with (Lamar Advertising Company) and the videographer for the video shoot. As a team, we were flexible when it came to producing something within a week. A good amount of our project depended on one member, John Licatatiso, because he has 10+ years of graphic design experience, so he produced the final billboard and palm card materials. We were very grateful to have that kind of talent present on our team!
When we started delving into each portion of the project, we met with Stacy and Shavar almost weekly to check-in and ask questions on how to proceed. The team discussed where to place the billboards based on the locations the company offered us and we also looked at the rates of incidence of HIV in the zip codes those billboards were located. We realized the West Side of Cleveland would be where most of the sex workers are located and the East Side location would catch the young, African-American population. The billboards looked great, but there were some partial obstructions that made them not be as prominent as we wanted. We learned that we probably had to spend more money to get the prime locations.
Flexibility, we learned, was essential in terms of outcomes and how our materials turned out. One of the materials that turned out very well was the palm cards. John took some beautiful pictures of the local talent and the rest of the team interviewed them thoroughly to capture some broad yet meaningful quotes for each person. The other big deliverable, the video, was something that we had less control over. The first draft that the videographer sent us was not at all what we or Stacy and Shavar wanted. We then went through all of the footage to pick out the quotes that would really focus on the messaging all of us had in mind as far as HIV testing and smart sex goes. If the video was our sole portion of the project, we probably would have done the whole production ourselves since that would have been easier to develop the correct messaging. We could not have taken on that whole project by ourselves with everything else though, so we are thankful for the videographer.
(Palm Cards, created by John Licatatiso and Team Cleveland)
Each of these individual deliverables could have easily been their own LTPs, so we could have chosen just one to focus on and, in that case, each team member may have been able to learn more skills for a specialized project. Since we chose to do all of them, we all reflected on our own strengths and chose to take on portions of the project that would help us meet our deadlines and help produce the highest quality result. We did this all while processing impact the project had on us and the community.
As we sought out the most effective and meaningful plan to proposals for our long term project, I felt that we came up short as we talked amongst ourselves to find the best HIV Prevention project for the communities we serve. For me, pieces were missing. Who are we targeting? How do we ensure that we research thoroughly and reach the right group of people? How do we equally delegate tasks that also provide equal opportunities for us to grow and learn? When the opportunity presented itself to partner with the targeted testing and high impact program of Safe on the Scene through the CDC and Recovery Resources, those missing pieces resolved themselves. Personally, I am overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our work was so effortlessly guided, meaningful, and impactful. Through these community stakeholders with whom we merged symbiotic efforts to achieve a singular mission, the community will be impacted through the realistic messaging and outreach of this project; one that will be continued after our presence is absent through countless ground workers in Cleveland’s HIV community. Effectiveness and longevity were the pieces of this project that my heart couldn’t leave out, and through our partnership those vital aspects of this project will not be neglected, but are carried out as we evolve to the next stage of our lives, ensuring that the high risk communities in Cleveland will be Safe on the Scene.
This LTP project has been an honor to be a part of for the past several months. As we were struggling as a team to find something that fit our interests, it seemed as if this project came out of nowhere, and I am glad that it did. Stacy Soria (Recovery Resources supervisor) has been a great mentor and guide throughout the work process. I believe that we have all learned so much from both her and Shavar (from Recovery Resources), professionally and personally. It has been such a meaningful experience for me, learning about the LGBT and HIV-positive community here in Cleveland on a more intimate level. On the day of our video shoot, I was a part of the interviewing team, which wrote down the stories of people we were highlighting in the video. It was amazing to see the correlations and differences between their intersecting lives. The Safe on the Scene project will definitely make a lasting impact on the community with the various tools and outreach we have accomplished (such as the video). My hope is that this project has continued to break down stigma within the target community and that more and more youth and young adults will be tested for HIV.
Helping to launch Safe on the Scene and bring this meaningful HIV prevention project to the Greater Cleveland community has been incredibly rewarding. I firmly believe in the project, our team, and the community leaders who have bravely answered our call to champion its message of smarter, safer sex. I find it fitting that we ended up settling on a project which basically incorporated all of our previous long term project ideas. Leave it to Team Cleveland to successfully pull off the equivalent of three long term projects in one. I’m proud of everyone involved and will always cherish the memories made and skills I’ve developed over the course of our project.
Our team spent several months brainstorming ideas for the perfect LTP. We came up with many great ideas, but struggled to find a way to fundraise and implement our ambitious ideas. We didn’t want to compromise our vision but felt we needed to scale back. Then, after a meeting with several HIV community leaders, we became aware of a new group (Safe on the Scene) that was trying to get itself up and running with the hefty goal of raising awareness and educating Cleveland’s highest risk population on the importance of HIV prevention and stigma free testing. We paired up with Safe on the Scene to create the social media and print marketing that is needed to properly promote and support their mission and goals. We have been busy creating Facebook and Twitter posts as well as seven different billboards and six different palm cards. We also helped organize and plan a video and photo shoot to promote the personal stories of community members and how they are affected by and affect change in HIV prevention. My part has been primarily in art direction and graphic design of the billboards, palm cards and photo shoot. I am happy to utilize my design skills on this project and am looking forward to continued involvement with Safe on the Scene’s marketing after our LTP had ended.
Our team jumped right in with brainstorming for our year-long project in the earliest days of our AmeriCorps service year. We were eager to ‘go big or go home’ so to speak, and we knew we wanted to focus on HIV prevention. The Safe on the Scene project collaboration between Recovery Resources and Team Cleveland fell into place almost seamlessly after some initial trials and tribulations in the earliest phases of our LTP. Initially, I thought this project would be too big for us to handle on our own since it had so many different components. We were lucky to have so much support from the Safe on the Scene team and from the Greater Cleveland community. The meaning of this project fully came together as we were able to use our talents, including John’s incredible graphic design skills, to showcase local Cleveland folks advocating for the LGBT community. I learned that each individual person we have met through this project has so much to offer in the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Cleveland because they have such great networks within the communities most affected. Their voices must be heard, not just once, but from now on.
As we contemplated how to create a project that would be both fulfilling for each team member and effectively address the needs of the Cleveland community, I realized how many opportunities there are to create change if you take the time to look for them. Many of our initial ideas were great ones- a prevention bus campaign, a video project with jingles about STDs and safer sex, a mural- but they all were lacking the one thing that I see as an integral aspect for change in the Cleveland community, collaboration. Our team was given the opportunity to assist with the marketing aspects of a five million dollar, five year CDC prevention campaign, Safe on the Scene. The project was already in the works through many members of Planned Parenthood, Care Alliance and Recovery Resources. The ability to come together with the Safe on the Scene team to work on this project was incredibly rewarding and in my opinion, the way that projects such as this should be implemented. Not only were we able to create visually beautiful and emotionally impactful media, we were also able learn from the Safe on the Scene team and the people that will serve as the face of the campaign. We learned tangible skills related to the immense size and scope of a project such as this. We also were part of a much bigger (and incredibly needed) conversation about who is affected by HIV and how they are affected by it. One of the actors in the video reminded us all to “talk about it, because somebody is always listening”. This project gave our team the opportunity to talk about and also the space to listen. Going forward, I know that each of us will take what we have learned from this project and continue to create meaningful change with and for those around us.
Originally going into our brainstorming process back in September, our team had thrown multiple ideas into the mix for a possible LTP. The ideas ranged from advertisements, making music videos, or to possible testing events. Across all of our ideas, the common thread of what we really all wanted was to raise awareness about HIV and HIV Prevention. Our team decided to reach out to the Cleveland HIV community and ask what they needed in their community. In response to our requests, we received a great response from Stacy Soria of Recovery Resources to help her Safe on the Scene team with marketing. Our project with Safe on the Scene evolved into a reflection of our earlier brainstorming ideas. Through our partnership with Safe on the Scene, our team helped to create promotional materials, a video, and social media marketing to spread the word of HIV prevention and HIV testing. It was amazing working with diverse personalities through Safe on the Scene to create an amazing public health campaign to reach the most at-risk populations in Cleveland.
Going into the long-term project there were so many ideas all at once. As time passed we figured out a plan which includes; video, bus campaign, palm cards. However, funding and time caught up with us and we had to figure out a plan. The plan turned into us sending out a request for proposals from possible partners. We ended up getting a proposal that not only aligned with our goals but had the funding to be able to fulfill the goal. The project turned out better than my expectations for it. I believe the T-talk videos were impactful because of all the stories we heard. One of my favorite quotes for the T-talk was “When you are caged, you will eventually create an exit to be free.” Overall, with the quote, it sums up the project: we were once confused about the plan ahead for us to accomplish, but somehow we figured out a way and made it happen.
CDC Images: http://www.HIVTest.org/stronger
Safe on the Scene Website: http://www.safeonthescene.com
Cleveland Department of Public Health (provided statistics for the T-Talk video)
Links and screenshots to posts on social media.
Safe on the Scene Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/safeonthescene/?fref=ts
Safe on the Scene Twitter: https://twitter.com/safeonthescene
Safe on the Scene Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/safeonthescene/
Team Cleveland Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AFCAIDSUnited/
Team Cleveland Twitter: https://twitter.com/AIDSUnited_Clev/
Team Cleveland Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/AFCAIDSUNITED/