A few summers ago, I volunteered at my local district attorney’s office. While there they assigned me to a new campaign called “Staten Islanders Against Drug Abuse.” For some background, my hometown of Staten Island, New York was dealing with a growing drug-use epidemic. The staff of the district attorney’s office knew that something had to change. The community was losing too many young members and families were suffering.
The campaign took an approach similar to one that a politician may take. They were going to use lawn signs and put them all up around the area. These bright yellow signs with large, black fonts were eye-catching. These signs read “Staten Islanders Against Drug Abuse.” At the bottom of these signs, the website “SIHOPE.org” was listed. On this website you can find every resource needed to help either a family member of a drug addict or someone who may be struggling themselves.
While I worked on this campaign, we would knock on the doors to see if they were willing to put up signs in front of their house to help spread awareness about this campaign. Additionally, volunteers would ask local businesses to put up these signs in their windows. The campaign started to gain popularity after only a few weeks of this process. We began to receive calls from people requesting “those yellow posters” they had seen around town. Everyone was willing to put up a sign for a cause that would help the community.
During my time with this campaign, I learned about how much public relations could be used to help others. As I was putting up these signs and talking to Staten Island residents, I began hearing life-changing stories. Many individuals shared their personal stories about drugs and how it may have affected them mentally or affected some of their family members. It was moving to hear how appreciative people were of this campaign.
The power of PR is that an idea as simple as lawn signs can save hundreds of lives. The issue at hand may seem too big to take on, but we should never stray away from trying to help others. Putting this simple idea into action and being able to see it take off should be inspiring for others to want to do the same. It’s surprisingly easy to use public relations to make a customized plan for an issue in one’s community. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling knowing that you are helping others while doing something that you love.
Rowan Fossella, a member of the PRSSA 2022-2023 Publications Committee, is a sophomore at Villanova University majoring in communications with a public relations concentration. In high school, Rowan interned at the Staten Island District Attorney’s office, where she began to explore the field of public relations. Here, she realized the importance of PR and its ability to help others. Rowan has also gained public relations experience through her time at the Villanova Student-run Firm. If you are interested in contacting Rowan, you may reach her via LinkedIn.