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Teen Spirit and How to Influence it


Teen sat against railings hunched over with hands cupped around cigarette and lighter.
Photo by Clément Bélus on Unsplash

The very nature of teens experimenting, rebelling and exploring their boundaries, means that when it comes to health campaigns, you need to understand their context before trying to improve behaviour.


As Hear It Podcast guest Penny Norman, Director of Strategy at Rescue Agency puts it;

"We stopped looking at teens as this homogenous group and started to really understand that there's tribes within teens and they all define themselves differently"


This approach was what Rescue was founded on, and by understanding and empathising with the different influences on and drivers of behaviour, a very different type of youth engagement could begin.



If you’re looking at a youth audience, how do you breakdown which specific group you’re targeting and does that strategy have a spectrum it’s working within? Rather than catch-all teen campaigns, creating messaging and content strategies to target specific group proves far more effective. As Penny goes into detail, understanding the context that 'Rural Teens' have versus 'Alt Teens' would completely impact the type of messaging that is most likely to connect and influence a target audience. By trying to be catch-all you risk catching no-one.


But when it comes to measuring, while the longer term measures of nicotine and drug use can be assessed, what other indicators of behaviour change can be evaluated? As well as the metrics of a digital campaign can help indicate the reach among a target audience, looking through different in-platform opportunities to engage an audience from polls to reactions, comments (even the bad ones) and any calls to action can help indicate a shift in understanding, awareness of an issue or even a driver of behaviour change.


Another route proven to engage drug users was through talking about friends’ usage, prompting a short quiz which served useful tips and advice, as well as providing live data, giving a clear sense of current and emerging drug issues within a certain area.


A common issue within youth campaigns, particularly around health, is that there's a lot of 'telling'. Fundamentally this falls short as it assumes that there's an audience there listening. To avoid talking into the void, understanding the right level of information for the right target is key.


Information is often part of a harm-reduction strategy, Penny explains, particuarly where the rise in teen deaths due to fentynol are concerned.


"The reality is that 20% of students in high schools in the US have been offered pills in the school environment. And with 2 in 5 pills having a deadly dosage of fentynol it's a really scary fact. So even talking to teens about that moment of being offered and giving them some information, there's a big knowledge gap in that moment."


You can listen to the Hear It Podcast on the website, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and most places where you can get your podcasts from.



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