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

United Way.


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

their support.

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.

Gloria Smith


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

three-ring circus.’

Kelley Crowley.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in