Yes, Even Where You Live

Spreading Drug Awareness in Greater Minnesota

When we launched KnowTheDangers.com, the State of Minnesota’s premiere drug education website, in 2014, we envisioned a dynamic hub that would provide help, resources, and offer an understanding of Minnesota’s ever-changing drug landscape. Our hope was to create a model for similar websites in other states and municipalities. It’s been exciting to see this vision becoming a reality.

Earlier this year, Olmsted County reached out to Russell Herder with the request to create a drug awareness and education campaign. The county’s seat, Rochester, MN, and other communities in the Driftless Region have experienced a significant increase of overdose deaths in recent years, and something needed to be done.

An analysis of the latest substance use and drug overdose death statistics for Olmsted County reveals that Rochester and its surrounding communities experience the same problems as the Twin Cities metro area, just at a different scale. Meth remains an especially destructive drug of choice, but like nearly all other street drugs, it’s now commonly mixed with fentanyl.

Using our Know The Dangers assets as a blueprint, we brought a strategic, practical approach to expanding drug awareness and education in the community; the “Be In The Know” campaign was specifically created for Olmsted County. Continuing our tradition of co-creation, we also cooperated with students of Mayo High School in Rochester, whose keen, honest insights were used to develop valuable social media components for the campaign.

The team consisted of our own client service and brand planning specialists; a writer and a graphic designer; a social media strategist and a Twin Cities area community activist, Benny Roberts. We met with 16 high school students and their guidance counselor to discuss how teenagers in Minnesota’s Driftless Region navigate the drug landscape, peer pressure, academic success, and being a teenager in the age of fentanyl.

We brainstormed over the course of three work sessions, developing social media ideas and digital ads with the students, proving our view that co-creation is a powerful way to engage target audiences. The enthusiasm of our co-creators was infectious – work developed through co-creation ripples quickly through a community as its creators share their work and success with their friends, family, and the world.

Regardless of the social issue, Russell Herder has used co-creation as a powerful tool to create authentic work and amplify the voices of underserved communities. From problem gambling and internet safety to heart health, insulin access and substance use disorders, there’s simply no substitute for the power of respect, and collaborating with the people we need to reach.

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