Jeff Jordan is President and Executive Creative Director of Rescue: The Behavior Change Agency. Rescue offers a broad range of marketing services for government agencies (public health departments, state and federal agencies) and non-profits seeking to promote positive changes in public health related behaviors.
Jeff started his agency when, as a high school student, he volunteered for his local health department’s youth-targeted anti-tobacco program. He transitioned from volunteer to contractor, tweaked the anti-tobacco program to approach teens in an innovative way, and grew the agency through “a lot of referrals.” He opened his first office while he was in college and continued his focus on behavioral change for social good.
In this interview, Jeff tells us that marketing tactics that are used to sell products don’t necessarily work in changing “fundamental behavior.” His team has to be expert, not just in marketing, but also in behavior change theory, psychology, and sociology . . . and know how to appeal to different subsets within targeted cohort groups. Jeff says that it can take years for a consistent message to bring measurable change, and although there is nothing equivalent to “sales data” to gauge message impact in “real time,” he has found there are some measurable interim “markers” on the path to behavior change. Tracking and measuring specific behavior-related attitudes or beliefs or pieces of knowledge over time can predict subsequent behavior changes.
About 7 years ago, Rescue won a $150 million FDA youth tobacco prevention contract. These funds allowed the agency to increase in size from 50 to 150 employees in 3 years. Today, Rescue’s 175 employees work out of 6 offices around the country. They serve government agencies and nonprofits in 30 states. Rescue creates programs for these organizations, but also has a library of campaigns that can be licensed.
Over the years, Jeff has learned to say “no” to opportunities that are not right for his agency. Budgets that are too small can limit a campaign’s success . . . . and blame for poor results will invariably fall on the agency . . . not on the tight budget. The smaller a client is, the more they tend to demand. Jeff has observed that agencies end up over-servicing smaller accounts to keep them, tie up senior personnel in servicing these smaller clients, and underservice their larger accounts. Jeff warns that really small accounts can hold an agency down.
Jeff applauds the move away from condemning people who choose unhealthy behaviors and the increasingly broad awareness of underlying lifestyle situations that contribute to these behaviors. Jeff’s agency attracts employees who want to do something good in their careers. He describes the agency as “responsibly rebellious,” and explains that is manifested in the way the agency encourages clients to take risks in a responsible way.