CAMPAIGNS: AOTM hits the road to further healthy-lifestyle initiative

PR Team: America on the Move (Boston) and PowerPact (Boston) Campaign: Launch of America on the Move Time Frame: April-July 2003 Budget: $80,000

PR Team: America on the Move (Boston) and PowerPact (Boston) Campaign: Launch of America on the Move Time Frame: April-July 2003 Budget: $80,000

The nonprofit Partnership to Promote Healthy Eating and Active Living was founded a couple of years ago by leading obesity specialists Dr. James O. Hill of the University of Colorado and Dr. John Peters, director of the Nutrition Science Institute within Procter & Gamble's food and beverage technology division. "The purpose of the organization is to inspire people to make healthy lifestyle choices," explains executive director Laura Simonds. The organization coordinated many conferences addressing the behavior and societal infrastructure changes needed to promote healthy weight maintenance. It needed to put theory into practice and explain it to consumers, Simonds says. Colorado on the Move began as a pilot program last year. The public-private partnership includes corporate sponsors and delivery partners, such as civic organizations and employers. The nonprofit began to take the campaign nationwide this past spring, calling it America on the Move (AOTM). Strategy "Our client came to us with more research than you could ever possibly imagine," says Risa Sherman, a strategist and principal at PowerPact, the organization's agency. Hill and Peters had published a paper showing that Americans could stop weight gain by walking an extra 2,000 steps a day (about a mile) or eating 100 fewer calories. The AOTM campaign thus focused on energy balance, or matching calories eaten with calories burned each day. A subsequent survey found Americans walking an average of 5,310 steps a day, far short of the 10,000 recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Organizers knew walking twice as much would overwhelm most people. "If you're someone who has been on the couch for 20 years, that's impossible," Sherman says. The campaign instead focused on encouraging people to increase by 2,000 the number of steps they take each day. Tactics PowerPact helped AOTM line up corporate sponsors such as PepsiCo and development partners such as AARP. The group also gained endorsements from key government officials including Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who continues to communicate key message points, and himself wears a step counter. AOTM didn't conduct a press conference on the July 14 launch date, but pulled out all the other media relations stops. Advance interviews with USA Today resulted in a lifestyle-section front-page story on that date, and the Associated Press distributed an article concurrent with the launch. Hill participated in satellite and radio media tours, and briefed Reader's Digest and Oprah magazine. Thompson was interviewed on CNN, and PowerPact prepared camera-ready articles. AOTM also upgraded its web- site, americaonthemove.org, in preparation for the launch. The site provides health advice, lets users log their progress, and sells step counters. Results More than 7,000 individuals and 200 organizations registered to participate in the program via the website. AOTM also received dozens of leads on possible sponsors and delivery partners. Dorcas Upke, a Houston dietician, was among those who contacted the organization after hearing and reading media reports. She is organizing a Texas affiliate. AOTM got so much interest from prospective affiliates that it had to establish a waiting list, Simonds says. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen indicates that Hill's stature and existing media relationships helped advance the story. Hill produced a package that illustrated how parking at the far end of the lot could increase daily walking. To date, PowerPact has measured more than 175 million media impressions (not using the usual 2.5 multiplier), Sherman says. Future PowerPact will continue working with AOTM as it establishes 20 affiliates by this spring. The group will likely reach out to the business media to encourage employer participation later next year, and the founders will publish an article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine providing an economic analysis of eating and physical-activity behaviors, says Simonds.

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