You may have seen the billboard, heard an ad on the radio or your favorite podcast, watched an ad on television or caught the ad on the pages of The Community Voice. With the branded message Facts Not Fear, Black brothers and sisters like you, even some you might know personally, have been delivering culturally specific message designed to speak specifically to you: directly to you with a very clear message: mask up, socially distance and when you’re in a small community business, mask up. It’s a step that protects you, other customers and the small business owner.

It was an important message brought to you by someone who cares and because of that the messaging catches your attention and makes its point loud and clear.

The group behind the Facts Not Fear campaign is the Wichita Black Alliance it’s a loosely formed group of African American business owners, individuals, ministers, professional groups, non-profits, educators, civil rights organizations, and elected officials. They’re people who have been working in the community for decades. They saw the disproportionate impact COVID-19 was having on the African American community and came together to see what they could do. The month-long local media campaign was part of their answer. They needed to get a message across to the community in a manner that they could relate to and understand.

Instead of a message here or there on social media, just an ad in The Community Voice, or on a local television station, the goal of the group was to reach Black people of all ages and interests, in all of the unique formats and places they receive messages. More than just the traditional media, this unique campaign included community podcasts, low powered radio and even billboards in night clubs.

“It worked,” says Tijuana Hardwell, the Facts Not Fears campaign manager. “We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback.”

The organization was able to implement this extensive campaign thanks to a grant from Sedgwick County. The County accepted proposals for use of some of their CARES Act funding and asked people to submit proposals for programming that was different than things the county was already doing.

The African American Council of Elders – Wichita/Sedgwick County applied for the funding on behalf of the Alliance. The proposal was to launch a communication campaign that spoke specifically to the African- American community about minimizing their COVID risk. That was definitely something Sedgwick County wasn’t doing, so the grant was approved.

The funding took a while to come through and by federal rules, all CARES Act funding has to be used by the end of December, so the alliance only had a small window to run the campaign. Although the campaign will not air on some of the large, i.e. paid platforms, after the first of the year, the Alliance owns the media and will continue to use it on social media and even as flyers.

Plus, Hardwell says, a number of people were really impressed by the campaign, and there’s a possibility another funding source might open up to run the campaign again.

Among the many things Hardwell and members of the Alliance are proud of, was their ability to use a substantial number of Black-owned and small businesses in the development and dissemination of the campaign.

“It was overwhelming how much business we did with black-owned businesses and small businesses,” said Hardwell.

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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