Scrolling through my Facebook feed, a post caught my eye. As a senior Strategic and Corporate Communication student, I had kept my eyes open for a fall internship opportunity when I came across a seemingly perfect fit via one of Chapman’s affiliated pages: Marketing Intern for REAL Prevention. I read the description and immediately applied. A week later, the wheels were in motion on the internship that I had been dreaming about.

As a student who has been interested in health messaging with a special passion for message design, the position with REAL Prevention lent me the opportunity to put my strengths to work, as well as a platform to develop new skills in the arena of digital marketing and analytics driven messaging. I set off to learn all I could about REAL Prevention, their mission, values, and brand identity.

REAL Prevention is a company that develops evidence-based prevention programs for youth ranging in age from middle school to high school. On the heels of D.A.R.E’s “Just Say No”-educated-youth, and following the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” egg campaign, the REAL Prevention founders saw the need for a new approach to educating young people about the risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, and drug use and abuse. With the explosion of the opioid epidemic and the normalization of recreational drug use in popular culture, REAL Prevention’s programs are specifically tailored to their participant’s values, culture, and beliefs.

An image I created in honor of National Recovery Month for REAL Prevention

Being an older student, I remember going through a D.A.R.E. program in school and being encouraged to “Just Say No” to drugs. The information that I learned in the initial D.A.R.E. program didn’t stick with me, so when I learned that REAL Prevention’s keepin’ it REAL curriculum (kiR) had been adapted for use by D.A.R.E. America as a newer prevention education tool, I was intrigued.

Using my knowledge about persuasive messaging, message design, and important aspects of health messaging, I learned a great deal about the evidence-based programs and strategies that REAL Prevention puts into practice in their programs. These curricula are backed by prevention science and their effectiveness has been scientifically tested. Their keepin’ it REAL program has been rated as “effective” by the U.S. Surgeon General, with cost effectiveness showing great returns on investments by those who invest in purchasing and administering the program to young people.

I have personally witnessed the havoc alcohol and drug addiction can wreak on the lives of those addicted, their loved ones, and family and friends. Knowing I would be aligning with a company focused on mitigating the harms of addiction by way of early prevention education was an absolute honor.

While I interned at REAL Prevention, I was in charge of working closely to curate posts for their Facebook page, among other tasks. I was encouraged to draft and revise images and wording, concentrating on who our audience was and how best to encourage them to interact with our page, and using my message design skills I learned at Chapman, to attract potential clients. We also developed an inaugural email campaign, researching potential contacts that may be interested in REAL Prevention’s programs and then reaching out to them digitally, all while implementing analytics that would ultimately measure our reach, response, and the overall effectiveness of our first targeted email marketing campaign. The information we gathered from the initial email blast has set us up for future directives and testing so that our next campaign will be even more successful.

During my internship, I had the pleasure of working under a great marketing expert who suggested I take a Google Analytics course to learn to interpret website analytics. He stressed the importance of having evidence, just as REAL Prevention’s programs do, as a basis for action in marketing. I took the course and, with his guidance, prepared an end of term analytics report to present to the company, as well as draft a future directive presentation to lay out a strategy for marketing and messaging moving forward for REAL Prevention.

In this internship, I was challenged to think critically, pushed outside of my comfort zone, and took advantage of modern technology in networking and professional communication. The internship was remote, so I was able to execute my duties wherever I had an Internet connection. We had virtual meetings where my colleagues and I video-conferenced in. These instances were excellent scenarios for me to engage the business communication skills that I developed while taking business communication last spring.

Being an intern for REAL Prevention allowed me to join together my enthusiasm for health messaging, interest in message design, and passion for addiction education. I was able to learn so much about the latest efforts in prevention education and evidence-based messaging to positively influence the futures of today’s youth. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get a taste of this type of educational industry and I plan to pursue similar prospects in the future.