Strengthening the Heartland
Empower strong, vibrant, and healthy rural communities across the Dakotas.
Build visibility for a new organization offering accessible tools and trainings for mental health and holistic wellness.
Over the course of four years, built an award winning collective with national recognition.
On a Mission
The leading cause of accidental death in the United States is drug overdose, and opioids are the most common drug.
To combat the crisis, Strengthening the Heartland offered in-person and virtual opioid education programs in rural communities, with particular emphasis on those in the farming/ranching industry.
Building Thriving Communities
Over the course of the project, we knew that the project would grow beyond to a more holistic scope, offering tools to address the barriers underlying addiction: public stigma, access to mental health resources, and healthy community support systems.
- Position the organization as a resource for rural communities.
- Educate and equip rather than preach, treating the audience as the expert, and positioning the organization as a collective.
- Provide hands-on tools for addressing addiction and substance misuse.
- Give open access resources for holistic wellness.
Crafting the Brand Identity.
At its heart, the brand needed to represent the thriving, healthy, and resilient communities we sought to build.
Identifying the appropriate voice and tone is essential to any branding project. The branding system I designed included a logo system, color standards, typography, and messaging. Our goals was to create a scalable brand system that would emphasize the following attributes.
- Extension professionals
- Mental health professionals
- Guidance counselors
- Health service providers
Branding in action.
After we established the foundation for the brand identity, we get to the fun part: tactics. Together with the team we created a wide range of tools, presentations, and resources extending the brand into a wide range of formats.
My role included: designing collateral materials and educational pieces; designing promotional campaigns for events and live webinars; planning, developing, and maintaining the Strengthening the Heartland website; and providing recording and video editing services for the digital events.
Print educational resources were an important component in relationship building with communities through out the state. Simple yet effective print resources serve as an easy way to educate and offer training.
Pictured: Quarterfold map detailing the different Community Mental Health Agencies.
For professionals in rural settings, it can be logistically challenging to attend in person trainings. We offered an ongoing webinar series to allow more flexible access. These online trainings also proved to be a valuable resource amid the pandemic, when in-person meetings weren’t an option.
Showcase Speaker Series
This series of live, virtual events featured nationally acclaimed speakers like New York Times best-selling authors Anne Lamott and David Sheff.
The Intersection of Diversity and Addiction is a week-long event that aims to arm human service professionals who work with the addiction and mental health population with meaningful tools and knowledge for empowering their clients. Each day brings together dynamic speakers from across the country to talk about addictions from various perspectives.
Perspectives is a set of discussion cards designed to unpack attitudes, feelings, and beliefs on addiction. The cards could be used as reflection prompt or for group discussions, encouraging the view to challenge themselves and consider their perspective.
With the strong brand, we were able to build relationships with community agencies, future healthcare professionals, Extension professionals, farmers, and community members with substance using family.
Over 6,000 adolescents and adults in rural communities across the Dakotas are better prepared to prevent opioid misuse, thanks to program. Together with the team, we are making a difference in everyday lives.
Participants in Programming
A total of 6,387 youth/adults participated in the evidence emerging program This is (Not) About Drugs (for youth), or the Opioid Public Health Crisis (for adults).
Over the course of the project, we were able to organically grew their email list to over 2,000 subscribers.
Face to face presentations were held in a total of 63 communities across North Dakota and South Dakota.
“As we began building our multi-state collaborative, Strengthening the Heartland, we knew we needed a way to tie all of our materials together. Caitlin lead us through a branding session, and then produced such amazing options we had difficulty settling on just one! What stood out the most during our initial meeting was that Caitlin truly listened to our goals, and then created such thoughtful designs that really conveyed our message. I cannot count the number of times that others have seen her creations and had literal “wow” moments. Her designs are eye-catching, engaging, and always so clean, which is exactly what we wanted. From branding, to web design, to graphics, and so much more, Caitlin has so many skills. For us, she is not just a consultant, but a true member of our team.”
– Amber Letcher, Ph.D.
Associate Professor/SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Specialist
Pictured: Drs. Kristine Ramsay-Seaner and Amber Letcher receiving Award for Excellence in Outreach and Engagemnt