Planned Parenthood: It’s Okay to Ask Someone

Spreading Word About a Safe, Judgement-Free Way for Teens to get Advice about Sexual Health


The education department of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania has helped teens learn about sexual health for over twenty years. But with so much information available internet, they realized that fewer and fewer people were making use of their peer education program. It was important for Planned Parenthood to have a way to reach these students, especially with all of the information (and misinformation) on the internet. So they developed a text line called It’s Okay to Ask Someone, or IOTAS for short. Trained peers on the other end of the text lines would send personalized responses to the questions while allowing the teens with the questions to remain anonymous.

When they came to Shift for help, they had already set up the infrastructure for the text line, but now they needed a way to let the tweens, teens, and young adults of Allegheny County know that this quick, anonymous, and non-judgmental resource was available to them.



Our solution for reaching the teens Western Pennsylvania was three-fold:

  • We needed to begin with an approachable, brand that would clearly convey the friendliness, inclusion and welcoming nature of IOTAS
  • Then we would need to develop a set of social media guidelines to help the teen volunteers know how to post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in a way that would help create growth and send the right messages to their audiences
  • The final step was planning the correct advertising channels and tactics for spreading the world throughout Allegheny County


After some research and a few rounds of design concepts, we ultimately selected a design that was youthful and eye-catching without seeming overly playful. We also incorporated the familiar text message-style speech bubble to convey the fact that the “asking” would be taking place using cell phones. The colors we chose were gender neutral to help reach people of all genders and sexual orientations.

When segmenting out the social media channels, we determined that each must have its own unique personality to help engage the different types of audiences on each channel. We recommended that Facebook be focused on teen sexual health and sexual education trends, while Twitter would offer direct advice tidbits for teen sexuality and dating. Instagram, the third channel, would be totally unique from the other two, giving the teen peer advocators a place to share their personalities.

With the logo and the social channels in place, the final step was determining how to get the message out. The client needed a cost-effective advertising plan to reach teens and young adults of all demographics who may have questions about sexual health. We ultimately recommended three channels. The affordable and regionally prolific solution of advertisements on buses met the needs of IOTAS because instead of being static like a billboard, it would be moving throughout the county and reaching teens of every locale and family income bracket. Facebook and Twitter were the other two channels we settled on, which allowed for customized targeting within the age demographics and locales, and also allowed ads to be focused on the times of day when teens are most active on social media.

Last we heard, IOTAS was still in the process of phasing in the plans, so check back right here for more details on the outcomes of these strategies.