Safe-sex campaigns get spotlight after Gloucester flap

WASHINGTON: Organizations working to prevent teenage pregnancy stepped up their PR and media outreach in the wake of recent teen pregnancy scandals, including the rumored pregnancy pact among a group of 17 girls in Gloucester, MA, and the June birth of a daughter by 17-year-old, former Nickelodeon star, Jamie Lynn Spears.

WASHINGTON: Organizations working to prevent teenage pregnancy stepped up their PR and media outreach in the wake of recent teen pregnancy scandals, including the rumored pregnancy pact among a group of 17 girls in Gloucester, MA, and the June birth of a daughter to 17-year-old, former Nickelodeon star, Jamie Lynn Spears.

One of those groups is the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Although it continually pushes its message to decrease teen pregnancy through education, the National Campaign made certain it was part of the current conversation as well. It's executives and communications officers were - and continue to be - quoted in numerous articles related to the Gloucester pregnancies.

"We always seem to be something of a go-to to a lot of press people, so it's very important when things like this break, that we get our opinion out there as much as possible," said Jessica Sheets, the manager of communications for the National Campaign.

A simple Google search shows Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign, and Bill Albert, chief program officer, in a variety of media, including on CBS's The Early Show and in articles for the AP and USA Today, discussing the issue of teenage pregnancy, especially as it relates to celebrity and Hollywood.

"Baby bumps get written about the same way designer handbags do," Brown told the AP. "It's just one more lifestyle choice, just another personal expression: these shoes, this bump, and that handbag. It's not surprising that teenage girls can get confused or even seduced by the allure of celebrity pregnancy."

The National Campaign released a statement when Spears announced her pregnancy in December and when daughter Maddie Briann was born on June 19. It prepared a page on its Web site with news and commentary on the situation in Gloucester. 

The organization already had in place a teen-focused Web site, StayTeen.org, an adult-focused blog, Pregnant Pause, as well as Facebook and MySpace pages, viral videos, and mashups. Last month it had ramped up PR for its May 7 National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and released downloadable widgets for teenagers' profile pages and an online quiz teaching teenagers about the reality of having a child.

Others have also leveraged the news to get more exposure in the media, like author Karen Holgate, who called the timing "kind of a gift." Holgate co-authored From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth about America's Public Schools with Steve Baldwin, which was published on June 17 by WND Books.

Holgate, who has done more than 50 interviews as of last week, already had a publicity plan in place before the news broke, and she told PRWeek that her publicist at M. Sliwa PR then sent out a special press release touting the authors as experts in the field.

NBC's The Baby Borrowers reality show, which coincidentally debuted June 25 - smack in the middle of the Gloucester controversy and about a week after the birth of the Spears baby -  was also swept up in the media storm, as reporters looked for ways to broaden the story. The show, which follows five teenage couples as they set up a home and job, and then take turns caring for babies, toddlers, pre-teens, pets, etc., was mentioned in several articles related to the youth pregnancy drama. New York Magazine's Vulture blog suggested the show might help "deglamorize parenthood" and undo the "Juno effect," in which some blamed Hollywood for making teen pregnancy look cool.

Representatives from NBC declined to comment for this article. 

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