When looking for a helpline vendor there are many things to take into consideration. Here are 5 things you should consider when looking for a helpline vendor:
1. When should an organization decide it is best to outsource these services?
BrdsNBz clients have experienced situations when they feel it is best to outsource textline programs. Some of them have come to us with existing programs that are faltering and others recognize they must implement a textline offering as soon as possible if they are going to communicate successfully with adolescents.
For organizations with current programs:
- Current staff – health educators and marketers – can no longer support an existing service without negatively affecting their time spent on other services the organization offers
For organizations needing to provide a new service:
- Youth have limited access to services due to geography, demographics, etc.
- Youth express a need for communication about available services in a particular area
- Organizational capacity, including a need for a higher level of marketing strategy and planning with experience in youth-based textline services and an inability to implement services based on existing funding
- Lack of expertise in a wide range of adolescent-related topic-specific areas (sexual health, peer pressure, related topics, health relationships, etc.)
2. What questions should someone interested in a textline service ask potential vendors?
- How long have you been in business?
- Is your service a hot line or a warm line? On average, how quickly are incoming questions responded to?
- Describe the process for ‘conversations’ between teens and your staff.
- How is your staff trained? What are their credentials?
- What technology and processes do you use to facilitate a large influx of texts at one time?
- How are crisis texts handled?
- Do you make referrals? How is that process established with your client? How are referrals shared with adolescents?
- What marketing support, if any, do you provide your clients?
- Is quality improvement a part of the service you provide?
- What reporting, if any, do you provide? How frequently are reports provided and what information is included in those reports?
- Is your service validated through research – either primary or secondary?
- What types of organizations have you worked with? (For example, state health departments, regional adolescent-focused organizations, etc.)
- How do you support sustainability for your clients?
- How do you manage the project?
- How is your service priced?
- Are there other optional services available? If so, what are those?
3. Text messaging is obviously very popular among young adults. Should helplines be focused on any other channels or is text messaging a great start/add on?
If your outreach to young adults does not include text messaging, then you are missing a large part of your market. Here’s some of the primary research on the topic from The Pew Center.
Teens and Texting
- The volume of texting among teens has risen from 50 texts a day in 2009 to 60 texts for the median teen text user. Older teens, boys, and blacks are leading the increase. Texting is the dominant daily mode of communication between teens and all those with whom they communicate.
- Much of this increase occurred among older teens ages 14-17, who went from a median of 60 texts a day to a median of 100 two years later. Boys of all ages also increased their texting volume from a median of 30 texts daily in 2009 to 50 texts in 2011. Black teens showed an increase of a median of 60 texts per day to 80.
- Older girls remain the most enthusiastic texters, with a median of 100 texts a day in 2011, compared with 50 for boys the same age.
- 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives. This far surpasses the frequency with which they pick other forms of daily communication, including phone calling by cell phone (39% do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network site messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking on landlines (19%) and emailing (6%).
Teens and Phone Calls
- The frequency of teens’ phone chatter with friends – on cell phones and landlines – has fallen. But the heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers with their friends.
- Teens’ phone conversations with friends are slipping in frequency.
- 14% of all teens say they talk daily with friends on a landline, down from 30% who said so in 2009. Nearly a third (31%) of teens say they never talk on a landline with friends (or report that they cannot do so).
- 26% of all teens (including those with and without cell phones) say they talk daily with friends on their cell phone, down from 38% of teens in 2009.
- About one in four teens report owning a smartphone.
- Three quarters of teens – 77% – have cell phones.
4. What advice can you share for an organization looking to get started?
- Focus on sustainability from the beginning
- Identify appropriate marketing funding to reach your target population and support organizational capacity for marketing
- Set marketing benchmarks and monitor frequently against those benchmarks
- Engage community partners such as schools and other youth-based organizations
- Involve youth as peer mentors or leaders
- Find a vendor who has significant experience and can share best practices from other implementations across the country
5. How long does it typically take to get a program up and running?
BrdsNBz has implemented a new program from pre-launch to soft launch in as little as six weeks. If a client needs a service implemented sooner, we will work with them to meet their specific deadlines, if at all possible. A typical BrdsNBz implementation timeframe would be eight – ten weeks.
APPCNC and OneSeventeen Media Public-Private Partnership
Over the past five years, our public-private partnership has been a model for how for-profits and nonprofits can create sustainability. APPCNC’s BrdsNBz text messaging service launched in North Carolina in early 2009 to national accolades within a few short months. By taking BrdsNBz and “franchising” it across the country, we have validated our belief that BrdsNBz’s award winning success with this kind of collaboration produces on-going positive returns.
About The Authors
Beth Carls, Co-founder, CEO, OneSeventeen Media – Beth began her career as a healthcare marketer with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). In 1990 she decided to take her first entrepreneurial plunge by co-founding a marketing design firm, 7 Seventeen Group, with business partner Amy Looper. From 1996-1999, Beth helped found and grow a private Internet professional services firm – the fastest growing private company in Houston. In 1999, they IPO’d with a $158M valuation and over 1200 employees. Beth wanted to work as a social venture entrepreneur, so she and Looper teamed up once again and in 2000, Beth took the helm and served as CEO, Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder of a company that produced online interactive tools to help almost 500 schools and over 400,000 kids stay in school and develop their character skills. Her latest venture, OneSeventeen Media, is passionate about helping teens + tweens thrive through social networking. In her spare time over the past 14 years, Beth teaches online graduate and undergraduate courses in Marketing and Public Relations at The University of Phoenix. She earned her B.B.A. in Marketing from Sam Houston State and her M.B.A. in Marketing and Management from Abilene Christian University.
Kennon Jackson, Jr., MA, BrdsNBz National Director, APPCNC – Kennon has over 17 years of experience working in outcome-focused program management – specifically in areas of child- and family-health services. He has had both personal and professional opportunities to serve youth with several umbrella-style non-profits at the state level – like APPCNC. These experiences have given him the opportunity to provide training and technical assistance in evaluation capacity building, strategic planning, and program management for many non-profit agencies and other professionals in this area during his career. Kennon has substantial work experience with federal entities as well – serving as a Project Coordinator and an Evaluation Officer for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA] and the United States Department of State, respectively. He had the pleasure to work with some of the country’s leading experts in adolescent health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health – Center for Adolescent Health. In his volunteer time for his local community, Kennon serves as Board Chair for Communities in Schools (CIS) of Cumberland County, Board Development Committee for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina (PPCNC), and volunteers with the Cape Fear Regional Theater. Kennon earned his B.S. in Biology from Davidson College and an M.A. in Public Policy from the Duke University Graduate School.