A Rebrandingcannabis.com Exclusive: An Interview with the Public Health Brains Behind Colorado’s Revolutionary Marijuana Education Campaign, “Good to Know”

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January 27, 2015 | By Claire Kaufmann | Rebrandingcannabis.com

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Earlier this week I was lucky enough to interview Ali Maffey, one of the many remarkable minds behind Colorado’s noted public health campaign,”Good to Know.”   Ali Maffey is a seasoned public health expert, having worked in tobacco prevention, suicide prevention, mental health and prescription drug overdose issues.  Ali explains the public health needs behind “Good to Know” and shares how the campaign has performed to date.

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Q: Nice to meet you Ali.  For those that are new to this arena, can you explain the role of public health as it pertains to marijuana legalization?

A: Public Health has a long history of addressing substance use and injury prevention and finding ways to prevent the misuse of various substances. The public health approach is really to mitigate some of those negative consequences and find ways to protect, at a broad level, the health of everyone.  We work to address what is safe, what is legal and what is responsible, no matter what the issue. With marijuana it’s a story of how do we find the right way to maintain safe and responsible use, and appropriate use, now that marijuana is legalized for recreational purposes.

Q: What inspired the creation of this campaign? How did it come about?

It’s a few different factors that all converged together. A lot of the work that has been done in Colorado is based off of successes we’ve seen with other substances, like alcohol and tobacco.  Youth prevention, meaning underage recreational use, is a major concern for a lot of partners. In this case, a public education effort was actually written into the state statute. When the legistlature outlined how the marijuana tax dollars could be spent, educating the public on the laws and health effects was a top priority.

People have a lot of misconceptions and need a better understanding of what this means for Colorado.  We’ve had funny stories with celebrities trying to host “use” events in public and that is not allowed under our law, so there is a need to educate the public.

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Q: What I loved the most about your campaign was its friendly and approachable tone. You could have gone a lot of different ways. How did you arrive at that brand positioning?

A: We have a really broad group of stakeholders including industry representatives, concerned parents and community organizations. We aggregated several thousand surveys, asking “what is important to you?,” “what do you think the messaging should include?” From there, we identified the key goals of the campaign.

As far as the specific tone, that was done via message testing with our media agency, Cactus. Cactus has proven to be a great partner. Selecting our media agency was a very rigorous process, and Cactus was the unanimous choice. They came up with a few different concepts, and we tested those messages with over 450 people from around the state from a broad array of different groups. We asked if the messages were memorable, if they motivated them to take action, and if they encouraged them to follow up on the website.

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Q: How has the campaign performed to date?

A: The general feedback has been positive from the public.  We have a few tactics in the field now, we have radio, we’ve had a few print and digital take-overs of major newspapers…so, we’ve had about 13 million impressions through our paid media so far, and about 35,000 visits to the website. (As of 1/24/2015.) We have a strong presence on social media as well. We were mentioned on Jimmy Kimmel. People are really excited to see what comes next. We have TV and out-of-home (i.e. billboards) launching in about a month.

Q: I wanted to ask you about Latino community outreach. In your press release you spoke about doing specific message testing in the Latino market. Can you tell me a little more about that?

We are still in the development process. We are currently testing what we developed in English with the Latino community, both monolingual and bi-lingual. We know you can’t just take a campaign in English and expect it to work the same way in Spanish. We will also be testing the visuals to see if there need to be adjustments made.

Q: What is the overall arc of the campaign? How long will it go on?

A: We’re funded through June and then we will evaluate and monitor all of our campaign KPIs, and go from there.

Q: As a public health expert, how do you think legalization is going so far in Colorado?

A: I think our role as a state government is to put the right processes and information to the public to implement the will of the people.

Q: But as someone working in public health, is legalizing marijuana something that has been an overall positive net change?  What advice would you give to other states as to what could be done better?

A: I think the advice I would give to other states is to really identify ways to collect public health data upfront. I think we are still waiting to see how it is going here in Colorado. It is difficult, on the public health side, to monitor our data.  We are just getting hospitalization data, we are just getting some of those reports back. So, we are hesitant to make any declarations as to how it is going.  And so my encouragement to other states is to start working on the data early so that they have those processes in place.  The quicker states can evaluate impact, the quicker we can address any public health concerns.  Campaigns like “Good to Know” are a good start, but we have a lot of learning to do going forward.

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