From 1999-2000, the juvenile gun-violence rate in a ten-census tract of Syracuse, NY, increased by over 150 percent. To help combat this problem, federal funding seeded the Syracuse Partnership to Reduce Juvenile Gun Violence (The Partnership). While well intended, The Partnership had great difficulty delivering a measurable impact—the gun problem grew and people knew little of what The Partnership was doing to stop it. Without a greater level of impact in 2001, The Partnership risked losing its funding.
MRA was retained to develop an outreach program that engaged citizens in the public debate over the gun problem, while providing The Partnership opportunities to better define its role and value to the community.
To achieve this, MRA created “STOP Zone Awareness Week,” a platform from which to launch the integrated communications campaign to increase awareness of the issue. The initiative generated both a spirited community-wide dialogue about gun violence and an overwhelming response from the local media.
Research & Planning
MRA interacted directly with key audience members, including victims, parents, youth and advocates, to gain insight and develop messaging. To define the public’s perception of The Partnership and the issue of juvenile gun violence in Syracuse, several research mechanisms were executed:
  • Focus groups with local youth, volunteers and clergy helped define outreach messaging and seeded grassroots involvement
  • Meetings with community leaders from the police force, fire department and City Hall forged key public partnerships
  • A study conducted by Zogby International validated the lack of public awareness and aided in program development
  • Comprehensive research lent insight to potential causes, effects and audiences of juvenile gun violence on a local and national level
  • Increase public awareness about the issue of juvenile gun violence and of The Partnership
  • Define ways for the public to participate in the public discussion of gun violence
  • Create grassroots materials simple in message and design to raise awareness about the issue and provide a mechanism to support the campaign
Compress media and community activities into a one-week event to create a sense of urgency and generate maximum impact
Create campaign materials that read “The Violence STOPS Here”, to define the single message of the campaign
Encourage people to display the signs in their homes and businesses as a simple way to participate in the campaign
Tap into a variety of mediums (outdoor, print and radio) to further disseminate messages
Engage community groups in grassroots efforts
Define a lead role in the campaign for Julius Edwards, Director of the Partnership
Syracuse citizens and business owners were inundated Monday through Friday by initiatives designed to incite their support in the fight against gun violence.
Campaign Kick-off
The week got off to a dramatic start when Syracuse Mayor Roy Bernard proclaimed “STOP Zone Awareness Week” before a rallying crowd at a press conference outside City Hall. The event, staged at lunchtime to give citizens and media greater access, included:
  • Leaders from the public and private sectors joining to urge residents and business owners to display “The Violence STOPS Here” signs in their windows and yards
  • Two fathers of fallen youth making emotional appeals to end juvenile gun-violence
  • The introduction of the print and electronic public-service campaign
Grassroots Outreach
Critical to the success of the effort was the community-wide support of businesses, church groups and community organizations:
  • Church groups and volunteers went door-to-door passing out “STOP Zone” signs and soliciting petition signatures
  • Letters were sent to downtown businesses asking them to display the window signage
  • Local retailers agreed to sell “STOP Zone” buttons
  • Area churches were asked to display signage and ring their bells every two hours to signify the death of a youth in the U.S. due to gun violence
  • Volunteers attended a variety of community events to distribute signs and gather signatures
Public Service Announcements
PSAs were created for airing the week of the event, including:
  • Focus group insight led to the need for a “street credible” icon. A radio PSA starring international recording artist Wyclef Jean was created
  • A print campaign appeared in the local daily paper, which featured the work of Chip East, renowned NYC documentary photojournalist
  • An outdoor campaign applied the print PSA into posters for businesses and bus-shelter signs
Media Relations
Activities commenced with the kick-off event and later focused on news, special programming and talk-show formats to create a sustained level of coverage throughout the week, including:
  • Developing a three-part radio interview series
  • Facilitating a major print feature on the campaign
  • Coordinating five TV feature segments each day focusing on the need for community involvement
  • Creation of a 30-minute Friday night special chronicling “STOP Zone Awareness Week”
For five days, the City’s attention was captured by the onslaught of initiatives designed to bring gun violence to the forefronts of citizens’ minds. The following results were generated in those five days:
  • More than 150 people attended the kick-off event, including the Mayor, County Executive Nicholas Pirro, Police Chief, mayoral candidates, the entire City Common Council, local clergy leaders and school-district administrators
  • All major media outlets covered the kick-off event, including live broadcasts from four radio stations and two television stations
  • “STOP Zone Awareness Week” was profiled on television more than 50 times during the week
  • The major print daily, The Syracuse Newspapers, featured prominent stories about the campaign for three days
  • WSYR-AM, the market’s leading news radio station, conducted a three-part series. Each report ran at least three times per day over three days
  • Partnership Director Julius Edwards hosted a one-hour radio call-in show targeting teens
  • In addition to daily segments (five per day) on “STOP Zone Awareness Week,” WTVH-TV pre-empted the last half-hour of its Friday evening news to air a 30 minute special on the week-long initiative
  • Media coverage (not including PSA airings) yielded an approximated ad equivalency value of more than $125,000
  • The radio PSAs aired 240 times delivering compelling messages to target audiences
  • The “Target” print PSA appeared (in one-half page format) three times in The Syracuse Newspapers
  • Bus-shelter signs depicting the print PSAs were placed at more than 20 locations citywide
  • Over 150 businesses posted signs
  • Nearly 10,000 window/lawn signs were passed out to city residents
  • Participating retailers distributed more than 2,000 buttons
  • In total, more than 12,000 “The Violence STOPS Here” materials were distributed during the week
  • Calls to The Partnership’s hotline increased by more than 100 percent during the week and continued at that rate for almost a month
  • Julius Edwards, director of The Partnership, was clearly positioned as the community leader of the project, appearing in more than 20 different news segments (not including call-in shows or specials)