Outreach & Awareness

Smart Tip: It is necessary to manage the public interest and create parameters of involvement to help ensure that interested community members are not engaging in dangerous behaviors by attempting to conduct their own investigations or victim rescues.

Vetting of outreach and awareness partners, trainers, and train-the-trainer events can be very helpful to ensure that people do not engage in unsafe activities.

Increased public awareness of the existence of human trafficking within communities often generates the interest and the benevolence of nontraditional supporters of law enforcement and service provider partnerships. Members can increase human trafficking case referrals from, and improve public awareness within, local faith-based groups, homelessness organizations, migrant farm worker groups, pro bono and immigration attorneys, sexual assault and domestic violence advocates, civic and cultural groups, restaurant and hotel employees, school and medical officials, as well as regulatory inspectors, routine patrol officers, truck drivers, and utility workers, among others. By providing outreach specifically tailored to the needs and circumstances of each group, the stakeholders learn how to contact the task force for help.

Visit Faces of Human Trafficking to view related materials. View the Transcript.

The primary goals of outreach and awareness-raising should be to increase victim identification, identify new resources, and generate political will and support for the issue.

Within many communities, there are networks, coalitions, and groups that can be approached to share information, create new partnerships, and identify resources, skills, and good practices for enhancing a community response to human trafficking. Task forces can collaborate with such groups to create effective communitywide strategies to combat human trafficking. Participation in a network of supporting partners does not necessitate participation in the primary task force group. Consistent with the necessary vetting of all task force partnerships, these relationships should be evaluated for conformance to the task force's core mission and purpose. For example, ensure that partners are supporting one or more of the core task force functions in a victim-centered manner and are not engaged in practices that may put a victim in harm's way, like underground rescue missions or any rescue missions that are not coordinated with law enforcement.

Public Service Announcement (PSA) Examples:

PSAs are one tool that task forces and their partners use to raise awareness in their local community. Examples include:

Between traditional, grassroots, in-person outreach and online and social media marketing, there are limitless possibilities and combinations of techniques you can use toward outreach and awareness for your task force. It is important to select outreach and awareness strategies that align with your mission, vision, goals, and target audience. Being clear about these things will ensure that any effort you put into outreach will be as productive as possible.

A task force may find it beneficial to develop or design a logo to symbolize its efforts. Creating a brand or logo creates a representation of the group’s existence, strengthens recognition of the group’s efforts, and provides an easy way for people to connect with the group’s mission. See the San Jose Police Human Trafficking Task Force Logo as an example.

Web Presence

Today, it is very common to see innovative uses of the Internet and social media to promote a task force. The first step to building an online presence is to create a task force Web site. Creative use of a task force Web site can range from being a source of information to offering a reporting mechanism for members of the community who are suspicious of certain activities they observe but are hesitant to contact authorities.

Be sure to include a list and links to all task force member agencies and organizations. Creating a diagram of how your task force works, and the scope of the work will also help your audience understand the role you play in the community. If your task force is open to additional membership and has an application procedure in place, include that on your Web site. Once your site is launched, share it with colleagues and friends, and put it in your e-mail signature so it’s readily available to anyone you write to.

An easy way to establish a Web site is to develop a blog using a service such as Wordpress or Blogger. These services allow you to set up a free Web site and include easy-to-use publishing software. Social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, also offer free and easy-to-use accounts that can assist task forces to publicize and disseminate information to a wide audience. Use hashtags—for example, #humantrafficking or #city—so that your posts and tweets are picked up by search engines and others who follow social media on those topics. If you decide to integrate social media into your outreach and awareness strategy, make sure you have a dedicated task force member or volunteer regularly posting content and responding to inquiries. The general public may come to learn about you via your social media and report useful information to you via those profiles (in private message functions). Please note these are just some of the tools you can use. Each of these products has potential risks, and best practices should be used.

Link to other resources on your Web site such as MyNeighborhoodUpdate. You can embed a city- or state-based version of crime reports on your own Web site to share with your target audiences. Alternatively, if you would like to create one of your own, you can easily use Google Maps or Ushahidi, which are free mapping platforms that allow you to categorize and visualize data. Something to keep in mind is that human trafficking is still an under-identified and under-reported crime, and using these maps may lead some viewers to think that trafficking is not occurring if it is not on these maps. Task Forces should review if these are helpful to your particular jurisdiction. You can also create a page on your site that lists links to news articles or videos that are useful to the public. They can be vetted by task force members to ensure an accurate portrayal of human trafficking that the task force wants to be associated with.

If one of the key goals of your task force Web site is to be a source of information, you can also consider creating an e-mail or text message (SMS)-based listserv. An e-mail listserv can be set up easily through Google Groups, and sign-ups can be taken via your Web site. For a text message-based listserv, you can use online gateways such as Clickatell, Twilio or FrontlineSMS to send and receive blast messages at minimal cost. You can set up a phone number and a key word (e.g., SignUp). If a community member texts “SignUp” to your number, they will be automatically enrolled to receive text alerts from you (e.g., upcoming meetings, local events, resources, and other information) and can also text back with questions. Both e-mail and text-based listservs are a useful and cost-effective way to conduct outreach and awareness activities and engage your audience in a unique way that keeps all your members and supporters on the same page.

Awareness Handouts & Materials

Case Study: Lessons Learned From Task Force Outreach Efforts

One task force worked with 75 county transit buses to place anti-trafficking awareness ads, which equaled approximately 38 million impressions. Though the campaign reached many people, it was very costly and not as effective as they hoped. In addition, the outreach campaign took place during the early stages of their efforts, when people did not understand the term “human trafficking.” They also used their own hotline number at the time, which was not monitored 24/7. Task force members recommend that the National Hotline be used in such campaigns. Plus, the amount of money saved could go toward targeted training of other stakeholders, such as nurses, emergency room staff, or law enforcement, resulting in a greater return on investment. Through the raised awareness, the task force did obtain referrals and initiate cases through bus ads.

The task force also created posters in multiple languages, pocket information cards, and t-shirts. The task force explained that the best method was its moving billboard campaign that involved giving people well-made t-shirts and totes with awareness messaging; however, the people only received these items after they completed at least an hour of training or attended an hour-long presentation by the task force. As a result of the training, individuals can explain human trafficking and refer others to the task force.

Some of the more traditional forms of outreach, such as fliers, t-shirts, billboards, handouts, panel presentations, workshops, tabling at training and awareness events, film screenings, and run/walk events, remain effective means to reach a wide audience. Some organizations and task forces use volunteers and abandoned shop windows (with the proper permissions), public transportation ad space, such as bus shelters or taxi top signs, and billboards to create awareness displays about trafficking, which can be an effective way to do outreach.

Press Releases and Public Presentations

Press releases and public presentations should be used to promote the successes of involved agencies. They should include success stories and mention all of the agencies involved.

It is important when drafting press releases or public presentations (see Section 3.1 on committee activities) that commonly agreed upon terms and descriptions are used when discussing human trafficking in the community. PSAs can be played in movie theatres and on the local radio and TV stations.

Presentations should include the types of services provided and the collaborative engagement, but need not disclose any information regarding specific clients or cases. Drafting and distributing a press release during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month (currently each January) that outlines how many victims were served and by which task force member organizations, and the collaborative response, can help gather and sustain support for the task force.


For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 3.3 Other Task Force Activities.