CAMPAIGNS: Graco's education push helps drive the TurboBooster

PR Team: Graco Children's Products (Exton, PA) and Coyne PR (Fairfield, NJ) Campaign: Graco TurboBooster child booster seats Time Frame: September - December 2002 Budget: Under $50,000

PR Team: Graco Children's Products (Exton, PA) and Coyne PR (Fairfield, NJ) Campaign: Graco TurboBooster child booster seats Time Frame: September - December 2002 Budget: Under $50,000

Graco Children's Products faced several challenges in getting media attention for its new TurboBooster car booster seat. Parenting magazines, the major media target for such news, normally cover new products after an industry trade show in May, but Graco wanted continued media focus on the TurboBooster in the fall and winter of last year. Graco also wanted to reach beyond parenting books to other publications - such as prenatal magazines - that might not normally write about caring for children in the four- to eight-year-old range. Another challenge was the mishmash of different state regulations governing when booster seats are required for young children. Plus, there was parent disinterest in forcing older children back into booster seats, and the booster-seat market was also becoming more competitive, with a variety of entrants competing against established player Graco. Strategy Coyne PR, Graco's agency of record, decided on an educational campaign that involved third-party spokespeople. It would also go after both national and local media, varying its message in specific markets as legislation was enacted mandating booster-seat usage in various states. Tactics Flaura Winston, a doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, was enlisted as an expert on safety and legislative issues. Carol Helminski, Graco's child-safety coordinator, would deliver the safety message. A press mailing went out to parenting- and prenatal-magazine editors. Included was an invitation to an editor's luncheon in Manhattan, where Winston discussed her research on car crashes, booster-seat usage, and recent legislation. Her speech was followed by booster-seat installation demonstrations done by Graco employees who had been certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roughly 20 editors attended that event, says Tricia Ryan, a VP at Coyne who worked on the campaign. Roughly 30 Graco employees took a 40-hour National Highway Transportation Safety Administration course on car-seat installation and safety so they could demonstrate proper installation at the media event and elsewhere. A second wave of PR included national media outreach to children's publications, and even magazines such as Popular Mechanics, as well as reporters at the nation's top 200 dailies. The releases outlined the need for booster seats and advice for parents to coax older children into using them. Tip sheets were developed for parents, telling them how to check on seat legislation in their states, how to determine if their children needed booster seats, and how to talk to children about the seats. "There are kids who have been out of car seats for a few years, and now that they're going to be back in booster seats, we tried to make it cool," explains Ryan. Information sent to youth-oriented magazines played on the coolness of using booster seats. Coyne monitored legislative developments across the country. As various states enacted new booster-seat usage laws, the agency would contact editors in a given state's major markets. Helminski was offered as a source who could do in-studio installation demonstrations for TV stations. Results Coverage included stories in the LA Daily News, Rocky Mountain News, and Dallas Morning News. Local television coverage included major markets in Maine, Washington, New Jersey, and California. More than 29 million media impressions resulted from the campaign, with even Popular Mechanics writing about the new seat. Parents magazine ran a story on checking car-seat safety, discussing the eight common mistakes made in installing a child seat. "Sales of the Graco TurboBooster tripled our initial estimated volume," says Gary Blanchette, car-seat product manager at Graco Children's Products. "The success of this launch is due to the fact that we communicated the booster seat's "kidcentric" style and design, as well as its safety features and ease of use to our target consumers." Future In mid-February, Coyne released a PSA discussing booster-seat safety, which featured NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, whose car is sponsored by Graco parent company Rubbermaid. Coyne also continues to monitor state developments and to target local media as state legislation on booster seats is enacted or changed.

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