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The National Opioid Action Coalition (NOAC) Launches “#TalkToMe” Initiative

In response to the nation’s opioid epidemic, the National Opioid Action Coalition (NOAC), formed by Fors Marsh Group (FMG), iHeartMedia, and WPP, today announced the launch of #TalkToMe – a science-based public awareness initiative that unites the public and private sectors with pop culture influencers to reduce stigma as a barrier to opioid use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery.

#TalkToMe is an extension of NOAC, which works to help federal, state and private sector programs extend their reach and impact in communities affected by the opioid crisis.

While corporate initiatives, community efforts, federal and state spending and resources to combat the opioid epidemic have been on the rise, the stigma of opioid addiction remains one of the biggest obstacles to true progress in combating it. Pervasive stereotypes – words like “addict,” “abuse,” and “drug abuser” – not only perpetuate the stigma around opioid use disorder, but can affect the type of care a person receives from their provider. Recent studies have found that stigma was among the most commonly cited barriers to substance abuse treatment.

Launched during National Recovery Month, #TalkToMe is an invitation for people to initiate a conversation with a friend or loved one about opioid misuse; for people in recovery to share their stories; and for everyone to learn how to talk about opioid use disorder. The goal is to make it easier for families, communities and workplaces to have the kind of honest, compassionate conversations that will help reduce the stigma that prevents effective treatment and lasting recovery.

The #TalkToMe platform, created by WPP agency VMLY&R, features experiential multi-media activations, including:

  • A #TalkToMe social media campaign encouraging people to share their stories to help eliminate the stigma around opioid use disorder. 
  • iHeartMedia will air a series of #TalkToMe vignettes across its 850+ radio stations for the entire month of September, focused on the opportunity to change the narrative and tone around opioid use disorder, encouraging conversation, and inviting listeners to join the movement to break the stigma in America. The radio spots will feature on-air personalities and musicians across a variety of genres including Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, Macklemore, Camila Cabello, Dan + Shay, Papa Roach, The Band Perry, Jason Wahler, and Wells Adams. 
  • Along with information and support resources, the initiative features a #TalkToMe activation toolkit that individuals, advocacy groups and corporations can use to help fight the stigma in their communities. Learn more at www.noac.org
  • Later this Fall, iHeartMedia will launch an original #TalkToMe podcast series that will feature insightful and inspiring discussions with diverse celebrity guests and subject matter experts. 
  • A #TalkToMe panel at Advertising Week NY (Tuesday, September 24 – 3:30pm) that will be moderated by Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. The dialogue will center around the critical need for brands to support governmental efforts that combat the opioid epidemic. New data about Americans’ comfort in talking about opioid misuse will be shared.

“As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, reaching deep into many of the communities iHeartMedia serves, we are committed to using our diverse platforms and broad reach to elevate this issue – generating real action by outlining simple things our listeners and advertisers can do to begin to eliminate the stigma around this disorder,” said Alex Cameron, VP Strategic Partnerships & Government Initiatives, iHeartMedia. “As a founding member of NOAC, we believe that information, discussion and ultimately education will reduce generalized stigma, which will lead to more effective prevention, treatment and recovery efforts for people within these communities.

Through the #TalkToMe initiative, NOAC invites leading companies across all industries to bring the weight of their brands and assets to bear in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Sean Howard, Global Managing Director, WPP Government and Public Sector Practice, said: “The scale of the opioid epidemic is alarming, with 130 people dying from opioid overdose every day in the U.S., every company is connected to this crisis through their customers, employees, and communities they serve. We have the opportunity to make a difference in this fight, and every brand has a role to play. #TalkToMe is an invitation for companies to step up and join the fight.”

Carolyn Cawley, President of the U.S. Chamber Foundation said: “Addressing a crisis of this magnitude requires everyone who has a stake to be part of the solution – especially the business community. The people who are impacted by America’s opioid epidemic are our employees, our colleagues, and our peers. Initiatives like #TalkToMe are critical to reducing stigma and fighting this unprecedented public health crisis."

#TalkToMe is a science-based initiative guided by behavioral research and social marketing best practices. Dr. Sean Marsh, CEO, FMG said: “It’s critical that we assess these kinds of efforts against what people tell us they might actually do. We find out through research what is efficacious and realistic. FMG’s work on #TalkToMe, as well as previous research we’ve conducted, indicates that on sensitive topics such as these, people will talk to friends and family members, but they need help knowing what to say, and how to say it.”

In addition to NOAC founders, iHeartMedia, WPP and FMG, current #TalkToMe advisors, partners, and supporters include:

The Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation (GRIF), a non-profit community foundation dedicated to addressing the unmet need of those in early recovery of all ages from substance use disorders. GRIF is responsible for helping craft #TalkToMe messaging and working to build the state-based infrastructure of support services for people in early recovery, in all 50 states.

Pam Cytron, GRIF’s Board Chair said: “We are thrilled to partner with NOAC on this initiative. Addiction thrives in darkness and #TalkToMe will help pull opioid use disorder out of the shadows and into the public discourse. This platform will give family and friends new ways to break the stigma, and illustrate that people can and do recover.”

Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national recovery advocacy organization, is partnering with NOAC to help mobilize the millions of Americans living in recovery to share their stories as a way to break the stigma surrounding opioid use disorder.

Jan Brown, Board Chair, Faces and Voices of Recovery and founder and Executive Director of Spirit Works Foundation said: “Stigma and shame are major barriers in the fight to curb the opioid epidemic in America. #TalkToMe encourages conversations between family members, friends and co-workers. If we all join in and speak up, we can begin to break down stigma and save lives.”

For more information, visit: https://www.noac.org #TALKTOME

About iHeartMedia
iHeartMedia is the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month – and with its quarter of a billion monthly listeners, has a greater reach than any other media company in the U.S. The company’s leadership position in audio extends across multiple platforms including more than 850 live broadcast stations; streaming music, radio and on demand via its iHeartRadio digital service available across more than 250 platforms and 2,000 devices including smart speakers, digital auto dashes, tablets, wearables, smartphones, virtual assistants, TVs and gaming consoles; through its influencers; social; branded iconic live music events; and podcasts as the #1 commercial podcast publisher globally. iHeartMedia also leads the audio industry in analytics and attribution technology for its marketing partners, using data from its massive consumer base. iHeartMedia is a division of iHeartMedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: IHRT). Visit iHeartMedia.com for more company information.

About WPP
WPP is a creative transformation company. We build better futures for our clients through an integrated offer of communications, experience, commerce and technology. For more information, visit www.wpp.com.

About Fors Marsh Group
Fors Marsh Group (FMG) uses research and strategy to understand, influence, and measure the way people and organizations think and make decisions. As an American Marketing Association Gold Top 50 firm, the emphasis of our work has always centered on the idea of being better. One way we’re creating a positive impact on the world is through our work in public health. Our team of health and risk communication researchers and strategists design and execute rigorous studies and innovative activities to develop strategies that drive action and improve outcomes. As a certified B Corporation, FMG’s business practices create positive impact beyond our client portfolio, extending into the community through pro bono service to nonprofits that are aligned with FMG’s corporate values. www.forsmarshgroup.com

About the author

Matt Escoubas

Matt Escoubas

Matt Escoubas serves as Director of Special Initiatives at Fors Marsh Group (FMG) where he oversees FMG efforts focused on social good efforts, including growing the B Corp movement by increasing awareness of and driving a greater number of companies to become B Corp certified, working to reduce the stigma associated with opioid misuse prevention, treatment and recovery, and supporting singular community engagement projects championed by FMG employees through volunteer hours. Matt’s experience spans a range of topics, including opioid misuse prevention, treatment and recovery, high blood pressure and stroke prevention, tobacco prevention and control, asthma awareness, nursing research, and palliative care. His efforts have received multiple industry awards, including a PR News Platinum Award, Bronze Anvil Award, two National Health Information Awards, and two Thoth Awards.

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