The Junior League of Tampa made a big impression on the Tampa Bay community this year with an aggressive, multi-media awareness campaign called with the theme Abolish Child Sex Slavery. Here’s what Lee Lowry, former JLT President and recent gubernatorial appointee to the newly created Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, thinks other Leagues can do to make their human trafficking initiatives powerful and, in the process, raise their own community awareness and impact.

How did JLT become involved in the human trafficking fight?
The ball really started rolling three years ago, when we did a member training seminar on human trafficking. Members found that the problem was much bigger than they thought – and that it was happening right here in the Tampa Bay area. The next year we did a much larger panel for the community. We expected attendance of 300 and close to 500 people showed up. Not only was our membership interested, but the community was as well. So we applied on behalf of a community coalition for a grant from the local chapter of Ad 2 (a national organization of young advertising, marketing and communication professionals that partners with local nonprofits on public service campaigns) and we won! It was a straight shot from there.

What made your campaign so successful?
I think because it was a multi-media, guerilla marketing campaign that reached people where they live and work, across social media, traditional media, online and in the streets. For example, one attention-grabber that really worked was to print the logo on brightly colored bandanas and put the bandanas on public statues all around the Tampa Bay area, including the University of South Florida’s three campuses, with their nearly 48,000 students. We also partnered with our local PBS affiliate, WEDU, on a powerful and gritty documentary on sex trafficking in the Tampa Bay Area called Too Close to Home. And we had some very successful community events with our campaign partners.

What can other Leagues learn from
We looked at what other Leagues were doing in human trafficking advocacy but ultimately wanted something that was unique. For example, Ad 2’s research showed us that it was more powerful to use “child sex slavery” instead of human trafficking. In addition to Ad 2, we had the support of a wide range of community partners, more than 100 in all, and our membership was behind us, including many Sustainers who had remained involved in JLT for decades.

What was pleasantly surprising to all of us is how much the impact of the campaign enhanced JLT’s reputation and “brand” within the community. I think we have long had a reputation as being an organization of “movers and shakers” here in the Tampa Bay area, but really upped our game in terms of community recognition, including the media and the political establishment.

We are currently looking at how can be pushed out as a model for other Leagues, starting in Florida through other member Leagues in the Junior Leagues of Florida State Public Affairs Committee as well as to groups outside of The Junior League.