PR BLAZES TRAIL FOR WEB SITE INTRO
PR BLAZES TRAIL FOR WEB SITE INTRO
Client: Soma.com (Seattle), a division of Soma Corp.
PR Team: Publicis Dialog (Seattle)
Campaign: Launch of first Internet pharmacy
Time Frame: January 1999 to present
As Internet companies race to launch online, they face the challenge of
building a brand image very quickly with limited funding. A campaign
undertaken by Soma.com, the world’s first full-service Internet
pharmacy, is a prime example of how PR can help startups gain an edge in
this competitive industry.
Soma.com asked Publicis Dialog to help position the site, which went
live on January 15, as the most reputable drugstore on the Internet.
The agency was also charged with assisting Soma.com in making analysts
aware of its existence, shielding it from unfair criticism by the
pharmaceutical industry, securing support from the medical community and
generating widespread media coverage.
The defined target audience comprised several consumer ’subsets,’
including women ages 25 to 54, senior citizens, business travelers and
’This project posed a true challenge,’ says Randy Hurlow, account
’People everywhere were already talking about drugstore.com and other
potential competitors,’ despite the fact that none of them had opened
for business. Additionally, the proliferation of ’unethical’ sites - for
instance, one whose associated physicians were willing to write
prescriptions for Viagra without examining patients - had become a focal
point of media coverage and consumer conversation.
Publicis Dialog first wrote a white paper entitled ’An Approach to
Identifying and Regulating the Internet Pharmacy.’ Intended to align
Soma. com with ethical providers of pharmaceuticals, the 14-page
document defined the phrase ’Internet pharmacy,’ discussed the various
issues associated with purchasing prescriptions online and offered
recommendations on how best to protect individuals buying prescribed
drugs in cyberspace while still providing them with the convenience and
privacy they seek from e-retailers.
The white paper and related information packets were sent to various
national medical and pharmacy associations, including the American
Medical Association, as well as to elected officials and members of
government healthcare and technology committees. Materials informed
recipients of Soma.com’s unfavorable view of ’unethical’ sites.
Media kits with a similar message and details pertaining to how Soma.com
would differ from other Internet pharmacies were sent to editors of
women’s health, women’s shelter and senior citizen-oriented
publications, as well as to TV and newspaper reporters covering the
health beat. Kit components were customized to suit each category; for
example, extra material on the benefits to be reaped by senior citizens
using Soma.com was sent to publications geared toward older adults.
Copies of a VNR produced by the agency and disseminated twice via
satellite on launch day were offered to all editors and writers as part
of the press materials. A separate video for potential investors
emphasized the unique one-on-one patient/pharmacist consultations
offered by Soma.com using ’patients’ in different situations to
emphasize the site’s universal appeal.
Additionally, Publicis Dialog held telephone briefings for analysts at
major firms like Gartner Group, Jupiter and Aberdeen.
Two two-day media tours, one for medical trade publications and one for
women’s consumer publications, kicked off about six weeks post-launch.
Brenda Corbett, Soma’s vice president of pharmacy operations, attended
the medical trade tour to enhance overall credibility. Also, a Soma
pharmacist accompanied the Publicis Dialog team on the consumer
publication tour. ’We made sure to choose a female to better relate to
the (attendees) and the audience,’ Hurlow notes.
Collectively, the campaign generated 101 million impressions (1,200
Print coverage appeared in 457 publications, including The New York
Times, Investor’s Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles
Times, Forbes and BusinessWeek.
The VNR got 106 placements, with national pickup by CNN Financial News
and CNBC. Radio placements totaled 400 in 50 states; TV placements
exclusive of the VNR, 236 in 42 states.
Following the launch, visitors to the site increased an average of 170%
every two weeks. Inquiries about acquisition proved numerous, ultimately
leading to Soma’s purchase by CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy
To raise the client’s profile another few notches, Publicis Dialog is
currently working toward establishing a role for Soma as a corporate
sponsor of associations that serve the chronically ill. It is also
attempting to reach out to medical professionals and consumers through
Soma’s presence at community events with a healthcare focus.
Julie Ritzer Ross
Krispy Kreme opens out West
Client: Great Circle Family Foods (Southern California franchisee of
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts)
PR Team: Hill & Knowlton (Los Angeles)
Campaign: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts - La Habra, CA store launch Time Frame:
December 1998 to February 1999
During its 64-year history, Krispy Kreme doughnuts has achieved a solid,
cult-like following throughout the South and Northeast. But the North
Carolina company was relatively unknown in the far West market and faced
a difficult situation when planning to open its first store in Southern
California late last year.
Besides the company’s lack of strong identity or brand awareness in that
market, the planned store location, in La Habra, presented another
Located on the border of Orange and Los Angeles counties, La Habra is
about 30 miles from the heart of Los Angeles and the majority of the
Nevertheless, Great Circle Family Foods, the Krispy Kreme Southern
California franchisee, planned to rely solely on PR for the launch.
Hill & Knowlton developed an aggressive media strategy to introduce the
brand to the market and promote the store opening. The team also hoped
to expand the product’s cult-like following into the region while
promoting its history and product appeal.
With careful consideration of Krispy Kreme’s desire to drive foot
traffic to the store on opening day, H&K created a four-pronged media
approach, targeting local broadcast, print, trade media and community
To generate excitement for the new store, the firm approached morning
show talent and producers via press kit and pitch letter, offering
doughnut deliveries and on-air spokesperson interviews. The agency
coordinated doughnut deliveries, interviews, promotions, live remotes
and product give-aways for local television and radio shows.
Food, lifestyle and business reporters at key print outlets were
contacted through a ’tag-team’ approach, reaching out to a variety of
media beats with different story angles as the campaign progressed.
Press kits and pitch letters, tailored to each reporter, were
distributed with extensive follow-up to obtain interviews.
H&K also targeted the western bureaus of food and real estate trade
publications to establish Great Circle Family Foods as the Southern
California franchisee for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Articles and
interviews were arranged via press kit and pitch letter distribution and
telephone follow up.
To ensure a good consumer turnout at the La Habra store opening and to
tap the local community, the team designed a Krispy Kreme ’Ambassador
Program.’ Coupons, promotional items and an announcement signaling the
opening were mailed to nonprofit and community organizations in the La
Habra area. Special emphasis was placed on reaching consumers who are
transplants from the South and who already had a relationship with the
Krispy Kreme brand. That included outreach to alumni associations of
Southern universities, community organizations and direct mail to
community and corporate leaders.
Starting about two weeks before the opening, coverage appeared in the
Orange County Register and The Los Angeles Times, radio interviews on
KROQ-FM and coverage on OCN-TV.
The bulk of the broadcast coverage occurred on the day of the opening
and as a result, the line of people waiting to get in wrapped around the
building. Mentions of the opening aired on nine local radio stations and
five TV stations, including the local ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates, in
addition to an in-studio interview on OCN-TV.
H&K assisted KIIS-FM in organizing a live remote and helicopter landing
at the store on the morning of the opening.
The successful launch of the Krispy Kreme brand resulted in numerous Los
Angeles Times articles, including a front-page story in the Orange
County edition of the paper. Following the opening, the PR firm received
media requests from publications such as Bon Appetit, InStyle, LA
Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine and Orange Coast Magazine. Total media
impressions to date: more than 55 million.
Most important, the successful opening campaign resulted in the La Habra
Krispy Kreme store reaching the number one status in the Krispy Kreme
system within three months.
In addition, the store has sold more than one million doughnuts in its
first six months of operation.
’We are continuing to keep momentum alive with grass roots and celebrity
seeding efforts in between store openings,’ says Bonnie Goodman, a
senior managing director for H&K. ’And that includes sampling of the
product, of course.’
Alvin M. Hattal
Reaching teens at high risk
Client: Illinois Department of Public Health (Springfield, IL)
PR Team: Golin/Harris (Chicago); Hernandez & Garcia (Chicago); Flowers
Campaign: Respect Your Mind, Protect Your Body
Time Frame: July to September 1998
Budget: dollars 1 million
Ever try to converse with a teenager - about sex? Consider teens’
typical reticence with adults, then compound this hurdle with the
challenge of reaching African-American and Hispanic teens, and you have
some idea of the obstacles facing Golin/Harris when it agreed to help
the Illinois Department of Public Health communicate with teenagers who
are at risk from sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy.
Spurred by alarming rates of STDs and pregnancies among teens, the
Illinois health department set two campaign objectives: to educate
youngsters about the dangers of unprotected sex and substance abuse, and
to drive phone calls to the department’s toll-free hotline.
’Our challenge was to create messages that would resonate with this
difficult-to-reach audience,’ says Beth Richman, senior account
executive at G/H.
’Also, African-American, Hispanic and Caucasian teens react differently,
and teens in Chicago don’t approach these issues the same way as teens
The agency had only three months to develop the campaign, so it quickly
mounted a four-fold research effort. First, it conducted mall-intercept
interviews with more than 200 teens to elicit reactions to campaign
concepts, themes, messages and techniques.
’We had to develop realistic messages that would capture teens’
attention and still be considered cool,’ Richman notes.
The agency decided to reach the target audience through radio ads, PSAs
and interviews, supplemented by brochures and media coverage. The
materials would depict ’sticky situations’ and suggest ways of dealing
’Research showed that teens wanted to hear about risky scenarios from
other teens, not hear lectures from adults,’ Richman says. G/H wrote and
produced the radio messages and collateral materials. Flowers
Communications provided insight into reaching black teens; Hernandez &
Garcia guided activities aimed at Hispanic youth.
In the second stage of research, a 33-member teen advisory panel was
asked to evaluate the creative. Next, focus groups representing the
three ethnicities reacted to the brochures and messages. Finally,
campaign materials were tested on more than 100 high-risk adolescents
through 41 state-funded organizations.
The campaign kicked off with a press conference featuring the state
public health director. A press kit helped produce coverage from major
Illinois dailies, as well as ethnic newspapers, broadcast TV and cable
Radio ads and PSAs in English and Spanish, aired on 31 stations in
Chicago and 15 smaller markets. Bilingual brochures were designed to
look like CD liner notes and dealt with sticky situations similar to
those dramatized on the radio. These were distributed through schools,
health centers and teen shelters.
Press coverage was extensive in Chicago and smaller-town newspapers, on
radio, broadcast and cable TV. Univision, the Hispanic channel, ran the
Adolescent calls to the health department hotline increased nearly 50%,
achieving the all-time highest call volume; about 30% referred to the
campaign. Post-campaign testing showed 90% of teens thought the
scenarios depicted were realistic; 69% thought the presentations taught
ways to handle risky situations.
The agency was commissioned to run another three-month campaign in 1999,
including creation of new radio ads and a Web site. G/H will oversee the
site on an ongoing basis.