COVID-19 halted our society for months, and with its origins tied to China, Asian hate incidents and crimes were on the rise in the US. Many people unfairly tied the virus to the Asian Community, holding them responsible for the pandemic.
In California, it became difficult to turn on the news or scroll through social media without hearing another story of AAPI hate. Soon, kids started to model what they heard at home, and many Asian children became victims of race-based bullying because of their backgrounds.
They were not alone. Too many young people in California face discrimination, violence, and abuse, due to their race, ethnicity, language, culture, and country of origin.
So, in 2022, The State of California decided to do something about it. The State’s Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) partnered with Media Cause to create a campaign to combat the rise in race-based bullying amongst school-age children in California (K-12).
MHSOAC had three goals for the campaign:
Raise awareness around race-based bullying for 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 a Youth Advisory Committee throughout the discovery, strategy, and execution phases of the campaign.
Through extensive first-party research with the people most impacted, we outlined 5 key insights that informed our strategy and execution:
Bullying has become normalized behavior, and many youth see it as acceptable behavior.
Social media is driving that normalization, with easy access to content that amplifies these behaviors as acceptable, funny, or cool.
Youth feel powerless to change it. This, along with snitch culture, are deterrents.
Educators have too much on their plate already and acknowledge that they need support from parents / counselors.
Anti-bullying campaigns today are largely futile.
You can't address bullying unless you're willing to talk about it, which is why the campaign's focus became all about the language and the community.
Strategy & Execution
To shift the narrative about race-based bullying, we focused on
Using inclusive language to define bullying and remove labels
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.
We named the campaign Right Our Story because everyone has played a role in bullying, whether as a bystander, a bully, or a victim. It’s only by talking openly about the how and the why behind these experiences and roles that we can start changing the narrative.
To denormalize bullying, we had to help youth break the silence, loneliness, and lack of support that has thus far characterized experiences of race-based bullying.
To bring Right Our Story to life, we built a microsite, a private community dedicated to youth, hosted a week of action, and launched an anonymous bullying reporting tool.
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, to understand their role in the bullying story.
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.
During the Week of Action, we elevated the issue of bullying by hosting two online events and a social content series featuring youth activists.
To wrap up the Week of Action, we launched the Bullied Button, a reporting tool, to lower the barrier of entry and make it easier for youth to share a bullying incident.
All of the above was supported by:
A cross-channel media campaign advertised on social (Instagram, TikTok, Snap, YouTube), in OOH placements (Baseball games, youth community centers), and with programmatic vendors.
An influencer campaign with both youth and parents creators to raise awareness, and drive story submissions and reporting of bullying incidents.
The creation of organic Instagram and TikTok accounts.
Partnerships with organizations representing diverse communities, mental health organizations, and youth leadership organizations.
The campaign launched in mid-February 2023, with paid media going live at the end of March, and as of July 31, 2023, the campaign has generated:
We understand that this campaign won’t eradicate race-based bullying or bullying altogether, but we're extremely hopeful from the momentum we were able to create amongst our youth target audience.
As we’ve been reminded by both youth and partners, our approach in leading this campaign with Youth at the forefront is unique in this issue area. It gives Youth a safe space to discuss bullying and organize to create an impact for themselves and their community. And young people have stepped up to the challenge.
This campaign is ongoing, and we are currently in talks with the State of California to expand the campaign into 2024 to include schools, school districts, and hopefully gaming partnerships with Roblox or other similar games.