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Heinz Endowments' new messaging campaign to rethink veterans

PITTSBURGH Pa., June 1, 2017 -- A major public campaign was today launched in the Pittsburgh region in efforts to help create a true understanding of the challenges faced by veterans seeking to re-integrate into the community after returning from active military service.

Part of the campaign addresses widely held beliefs that the majority of returning veterans suffer from mental health issues, serious debilitating physical injury, or both – misperceptions that can prejudice efforts of former servicemen and women to kick-start their careers in civilian life.

And the campaign developed by The Heinz Endowments focuses on veterans’ comprehensive range of skills, qualifications and strong leadership qualities in urging local businesses to consider hiring more individuals who have served in the military.

“The idea that most returning veterans are in some way incapacitated or vulnerable is a myth that tends to permeate our communities locally and nationally,” said Grant Oliphant, President of The Heinz Endowments. “Certainly this can influence public charitable giving, but it does not help veterans and their families as they work to reestablish their lives.

“The truth is that veterans have an enormous amount to offer our community. They represent tremendous assets, socially, professionally and economically and we hope that our campaign can help to increase understanding and appreciation of that in refocusing the conversation. We hope it will inspire more action and less lip service in addressing the real needs of veterans.”

A two-part creative messaging campaign begins today (June 1) with varied ‘teaser’ versions of display signage and digital banners in Downtown Pittsburgh and on-line depicting an ex-serviceman or woman with a statement designed to inspire public curiosity, such as “Don’t just thank a veteran,” or “Veterans don’t just deserve respect,” or “Don’t just call veterans heroes,” or “Don’t just honor a veteran’s past.”

One week later, on June 8, the second part of the messaging will be added to the signage and digital banners to complete the statements: “Don’t just thank a veteran. Hire one.” “Veterans don’t just deserve respect. They deserve opportunities.” “Don’t just call veterans heroes. Call them for an interview.” And “Don’t just honor a veteran’s past. Help them build a future.”

The messaging refers individuals to a special website created to provide further information at which offers resources for veterans, their families, potential employers and the public. The site introduces users with the message: “Veterans don’t come back the same. They’re stronger, smarter and better leaders,” and features profiles of veterans and local organizations providing support services together with information addressing veterans’ needs and how these can be misunderstood.

The campaign messaging, developed by the Endowments with local advertising agency, Garrison Hughes, will use interior and exterior signage on buses, transit shelters and the North Side T Station together with digital banners on media websites. Before launching the initiative, the campaign was reviewed and endorsed by separate focus groups comprising veterans and members of the public.

More than four years ago, the Endowments began significant funding to programs that support veterans, under the leadership of Program Officer Megan Andros, a veteran of the United States Army who served in the Iraq War. Since then the foundation has awarded total grants of over $4 million, including funding for detailed research and surveys investigating the needs of returning veterans and the creation in 2015 of PAServes, a coalition of 46 nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh region providing support services for former servicemen and women.

PAServes, the first program of its kind in the Pittsburgh region, is designed as a single-point service to connect returning veterans and their families in Allegheny, Butler and Westmoreland counties with employment contacts and social, health and wellness services. Currently the local region is home to more than 235,000 veterans, and southwestern Pennsylvania is a major destination for the ex-military with 5,000-plus arriving annually.

“Misperceptions around returning veterans is a significant issue which in turn creates a big problem of under-employment, represented by large numbers of veterans failing to secure work in civilian life that is commensurate with their skills and qualifications,” said Megan Andros. “The fact is that less than one percent of veterans return with debilitating injury, physical or mental, and our messaging campaign is designed to help change the narrative, which we believe is key.”

"The Veterans Breakfast Club is excited to support The Heinz Endowments' new campaign to recast our conversation about veterans’ re-integration,” said Nick Grimes, Post-9/11 Program Director of the Pittsburgh nonprofit. “With the percentage of men and women serving in our armed forces at an historic low, most people are only dimly aware of the veterans’ experience and harbor many misconceptions about it.

“We hope that through this campaign, people will gain a better understanding of veterans' unique qualifications and skills and will see our veterans for what they are: invaluable assets to local businesses and the community at large.”

**People can join the conversation on social media using #rethinkvets**


For information contact:
John Ellis
The Heinz Endowments
412 338 2657