Crusading for kids insurance
Client: Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Systems (AHCCCS)
PR Team: Reister-Robb Public Relations (Phoenix)
Campaign: KidsCare. Because kids will be kids
Time Frame: May 18, 1999
Budget: dollars 800,000
Free, but hardly easy - that’s the way Frank Lopez, director of public
information for Arizona’s Medicaid program, might have described the
communications challenge facing his agency last November.
Part of a US-wide program for working families that don’t qualify for
welfare and can’t afford private insurance, the KidsCare program from
the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) promised to
cover everything from physician visits and prescriptions to vision and
dental care for children under 19.
While the program was free to qualified residents and signing on was
simple, the targeted population wasn’t clamoring for health
’People at this economic level with healthy children generally aren’t
concerned about insurance coverage unless a child gets hurt,’ Lopez
The AHCCCS wanted to insure 63,100 by the year 2001. That meant it would
have to educate its audience and elicit a response in short order. It
was an ambitious goal for a state-run health insurance program with only
dollars 800,000 budgeted to promote the plan.
The AHCCCS decided to turn the job over to Reister-Robb - a social
marketing firm that has created multicultural campaigns for a diverse
roster of clients ranging from Arizona’s Native American tribes to the
According to Robert Johnson, director of PR for Reister-Robb, the major
obstacle was figuring out how to talk to an audience that wasn’t
Many Hispanic people in the target, for whom English is their second
language, do not have phones and often do not respond to mail. The
message would have to be delivered in two languages.
There were two objectives: to create awareness and secure
In addition to using an integrated promotional mix, the agency called on
a network of community organizations and businesses to spread the
In May 1999 the campaign ’KidsCare. Because kids will be kids’ hit the
streets - literally. The agency created an effective communications
vehicle, the KidsCare-avan. The traveling insurance road show had a
bilingual crew and a ’Moonwalk,’ a huge, air-filled playpen that
attracted kids at shopping centers and distracted them long enough for
the PR crew to talk to their parents and sign them up. During the first
six weeks alone, the crew made 42 stops, spoke with about 1,500 parents
and handed out 763 applications.
It also picked up considerable attention in the media.
A bilingual media blitz paved the way for the KidsCare-avan. The effort
included a kit packed with a news release, fact sheets, sample
applications in English and Spanish and TV ad stills.
As a result of Reister-Robb’s networking efforts, 86 Bashas’
Supermarkets, 26 Osco/Savon drug stores and 41 Video Update stores lent
Many agreed to display counter cards with tear-off information
Delicias de Michoacan placed the KidsCare logo on frozen dessert push
carts in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
By August, the number of calls to the hotline were significantly up to
4,107 from 1,170 in April. Also, the volume of applications had
increased to 2,753 from 1,147. ’The numbers don’t reflect the true
success of the campaign,’ Lopez maintains. ’Many applicants -
practically half - turned out to be eligible for Medicaid and couldn’t
be applied to the KidsCare account,’ he said.
Creativity proved the best policy for getting the insurance plan covered
by the media. The KidsCare-avan’s crew held 60 interviews, received more
than three hours of TV and radio airtime and also garnered over 200
column inches of print coverage en route.
The KidsCare-avan will continue its state tour through the end of this
year. It hasn’t been an easy road to travel - but in a very short time,
the emphasis on strategic planning and follow-through has taken the
KidsCare insurance plan a surprisingly long way.
Rover makeover as retail boost Client: PETsMART (Phoenix)
PR Team: Publicis Dialog (Seattle)
Campaign: Rover Makeover store-opening promotion
Time Frame: Early 1998
Budget: Low six figures per store for 10 stores
With more than 500 stores already catering to animal lovers, PETsMART
needed some new tricks to draw attention to its grand openings. In its
earlier days, the chain heavily pushed its then-distinctive pet-supply
superstore concept. But as competition increased and PETsMART focused
more on filling out markets rather than moving into new ones, a
different approach became necessary.
Publicis Dialog looked for ways to make the grand opening events newsier
and less commercial. The goal was to help bring traffic into new stores
and bolster the brand. The firm also strove to promote in-store grooming
services and to build a perception of PETsMART as a good community
Publicis didn’t conduct any formal research but investigated the
challenges that pet-adoption groups face at animal shelters. The PR team
recognized an opportunity to tout PETsMART’s Luv-A-Pet adoption centers.
Although the chain doesn’t offer animals, each store sets aside an area
to showcase pets, in partnership with local shelters.
PETsMART targets adults with above-average incomes who consider their
pets family members. To show off the store environment and build an
emotional bond with the public, Publicis targeted TV news departments.
Crews were given a chance to videotape stray pooches being groomed.
’The grooming makes for really great TV visuals,’ says Steve Bryant,
whose Publicis team targeted stores in 10 key markets near major media
outlets. It chose locations with high-quality groomers and in which
PETsMART had already established relationships with nonprofit
Publicis sent announcements to mainstream media outlets, along with
oversized combs and toothbrushes and before-and-after photos of madeover
dogs. Press releases focused on the charitable aspects of grooming
homeless dogs to make them more attractive for adoption. Fifteen-second
radio PSAs, recorded in partnership with animal shelters, touted
adoption and PETsMART’s Luv-A-Pet centers. The PSAs were distributed to
the ad reps handling PETsMART’s paid spots. Team members also provided
store directors with media-relations tip sheets to prepare them for
interviews. Publicis staged the events on Fridays so the featured
canines would be available for adoption on Saturday mornings.
The Rover Makeover program was used for 10 store openings and generated
a total of 45 TV placements, including some live shots and talk show
Publicis also counted 22 print photos or articles and 27 radio PSA
Store traffic generated solely by PR could not be measured since
advertising and other promotional tactics were also employed.
’We were extremely impressed with the media results that we received,’
says Sara Stredney, manager of special events for PETsMART.
At a Minneapolis store, 60 people called wanting a featured dog, and in
another market, a TV reporter covering the event adopted a spiffed-up
Encouraged by initial results, PETsMART used the Rover Makeover twice in
1998 and six times so far this year. Although the campaign was used
twice in Austin and the second one was more successful, Bryant doubts
the effectiveness of using it more than once in the same city.
Rover Makeover has become one of PETsMART’s most successful
store-opening PR campaigns. The chain will continue to use the model
along with other common strategies, such as bringing in celebrity pets
or teaming with local groups that rehabilitate injured birds of
Sherri Deatherage Green
Alerting HR field to leader issue
Client: Development Dimensions International (Pittsburgh)
PR Team: Jack Horner Communications (Pittsburgh)
Campaign: The Millennium Elephant
Time Frame: February to March 1999
Budget: Under dollars 30,000
Don’t fret over the Y2K bug - avoid the charging elephant. Within the
next five years, businesses will face a critical shortage of top-level
leaders, due in part to executive turnover. This trend was dubbed ’The
Millennium Elephant’ by Development Dimensions International (DDI), a
global human resource consulting company.
’This lack of leadership could be disastrous,’ says Barrie Athol, VP of
marketing for DDI. ’People are reaching retirement age with no one
identified to succeed them. The 1980s downsizing resulted in middle
management cuts - exactly those positions which were considered the
’farm league’ for upper management.’
Through Jack Horner Communications, DDI wanted to be positioned as the
’thought leader’ in succession management. DDI also wanted to strengthen
relationships with national and trade media and add value to the sales
force’s marketing efforts.
’We needed to overcome assumptions in the human resources industry,’
Athol says. ’They wondered how this problem could exist if they couldn’t
see it. We didn’t have to convince them they needed a better mousetrap,
we just had to convince them that they have the mice already.’
Jack Horner Communications and DDI decided to get people looking for
mice by pitching to the human resources industry’s leading publication,
HR Magazine. Results were a bylined feature by DDI CEO William Byham as
well as a cover story.
’We thought if we could get HR Magazine to take notice, the business
publications might follow,’ Athol explains. ’Our industry normally isn’t
top of mind to general business magazines.’
’We had originally been pitching a position paper by Dr. Byham,’ says
Paige Pertz, account executive for Jack Horner Communications. ’But when
the editor took a good look at the issue, he decided to take it step
In February 1999, the magazine posed the Millennium Elephant question in
a six-page cover story entitled ’Heirs Unapparent.’ It was directly
followed by Dr. Byham’s article describing the solution to the
Prior to the publication date, DDI mailed press releases announcing the
cover story and offering details about the ’Year 2000 Leadership
Crisis.’ Copies of the magazine and a chart illustrating the crisis
accompanied the press release. These materials were distributed to
workforce editors at business and trade media. Over 1,700 media outlets
were pitched the opportunity to interview Dr. Byham.
Direct mail was used to generate sales opportunities. A copy of HR
Magazine, with a belly band featuring a charging elephant, was sent to
1,346 key clients. DDI also distributed a small circus car, the inside
of which was decorated like an office. The headline on the car read, ’Is
there an elephant in your office?’ Behind the cage’s bars was a stuffed,
plush pachyderm accompanied by a letter from Dr. Byham, which included
instructions for contacting DDI.
Over 70 regional and national media placements were made and more than
30 million people were reached. Key outlets included The New York Times,
Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Management Review, Orange County
Register and CNNfn, as well as trade publications such as US Industry
Today and Health Forum Journal.
’We had no idea that it would go this far,’ Athol says. ’I wish the
sales force had taken more of an advantage of the campaign. They don’t
always realize the value of coverage like this.’
Fifteen sales opportunities were generated from the combination of media
relations and direct mail campaigns.
Although the campaign ended in March, the media are still requesting
interviews with Dr. Byham and results continue to accrue.
’I am thrilled that the information sent out in February continues to
generate calls,’ says Pertz. ’This is really encouraging. Reporters
often say they will hold onto the press materials that we send, but we
are never sure. This proves that our efforts are truly more than a