CAMPAIGNS: Best strategies and top tactics from the world of PR

NEW PRODUCT - Feeding moms bargain prices

NEW PRODUCT - Feeding moms bargain prices

NEW PRODUCT - Feeding moms bargain prices

Client: PBM Products (Gordonsville, VA)

PR Team: Siddall, Matus & Coughter (Richmond, VA)

Campaign: Babymill Infant Formula

Timeframe: March 1999 to present

Budget: dollars 100,000+

Labels have cache. And brands can command serious consumer loyalty, even

when it comes to infant formula. Cautious new mothers are reluctant to

try a cheaper alternative to the formula that comes recommended from

their pediatrician. Moreover, the large national brands, Enfamil and

Similac, work with hospitals to promote their products and get new moms

hooked right at the beginning.

A recent poll conducted by the National Family Opinion Poll asked 600

mothers to prioritize their top concerns for their newborn. For 85% of

respondents, the top concern is getting the best nutrition for their

baby, while nearly 50% said that they would like to save money. What

most mothers don’t realize is they can do both.

Infant formulas manufactured in the US are required by law to meet

rigorous FDA standards, making all of the brands nutritionally

equivalent. However, private label and store brands cost up to 30% less

than the market leaders Enfamil and Similac. Mothers can save dollars

400 a year by buying generic brands.

When PBM Products launched Babymill infant formula in March, they hired

Siddall, Matus & Coughter (SMC) to convince skeptical mothers that their

products were equal to the leading brands in terms of quality - and less



’Enfamil and Similac own the market, and we needed to break that

barrier,’ says Pam DiSalvo VP, director of public relations of SMC. With

a target audience that was mostly comprised of pediatricians and

mothers, the PR team realized that ’mass advertising was not the most

effective way to reach them - they like to see medical data.’ SMC needed

to reach moms and pediatricians in a way that not only made them aware

of Babymill, but also made it an established part of the culture.

The main goal was to treat it not as a consumer issue, but an

educational campaign, promoting Babymill as well as all other generic

and store brands.

’It was also very hard to pitch the story from a media standpoint,’ says

DiSalvo. ’There is no controversy, no sensation, no sense of emergency

in infant formula.’

The PR team also wanted to focus all of its efforts in the week of the

launch to make a big splash. ’Every day of that week we were doing

something big - visiting the media, launching the VNR, and sending out

medical spokespeople,’ says DiSalvo.


On March 22nd, the day of the launch, SMC ran a full-page educational

announcement describing the issues in USA Today and trade


Pediatricians were mailed a letter introducing Babymill and explaining

how the formula was equivalent to the leading brands.

Some markets had local events. In Richmond, VA, PBM sponsored a Healthy

Baby Nutrition Day in conjunction with Huggy’s Diapers at a local


To attract mothers with kids, the event featured clowns, games and a

local bank offering bank accounts for children. Babymill spokespeople

were present to describe the formula to mothers and convince them to try

it. ’We were able to have one-on-one talks with many mothers,’ says


Also, West Glen Communi-cations of New York was hired to produce a VNR,

B-Roll package, SMT and radio news release. The TV and radio news

packages defined the FDA regulations that monitor infant formulas and

compare leading brands to store brands.

Pediatricians and FDA regulatory officers were quoted as saying that all

brands are alike and safe.

The SMT featured 18 interviews with Dr. James DeMarco, a pediatric

expert, answering questions on infant formula in general and name brands

versus store brands.

’When we were pitching the stories the reaction was, ’wow, we didn’t

know that’,’ says Annette Minkalis, senior VP of broadcast services at

West Glen.


The campaign garnered 27.3 million impressions overall, landing a major

story in The Washington Post. ’The smart thing was treating the campaign

not from a packaged- goods point of view, but from an educational

viewpoint,’ says DiSalvo. ’It’s been a lot more than just promoting baby


The highest receptivity was from the broadcast media, with the VNR

garnering 12.5 million media impressions, in 23 top markets. Total

broadcast coverage reached 13.7 million in the top 50 markets. Babymill

was prominently featured on ABC and NBC in major markets such as

Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia.


SMC will be continuing the campaign into the fall. ’We are planning a

major push to more directly communicate with doctors and moms,’ says

DiSalvo. - Falguni Mehta

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS - Managing the Melissa virus

Client: Worldtalk (Santa Clara, CA)

PR Team: In-house and DWJ Television (Ridgewood, NJ)

Campaign: Taking advantage of a crisis

Time Frame: March 1999

Budget: Less than dollars 30,000

When the Melissa virus started clogging hundreds of thousands of

computers around the world - including those of high-profile companies

such as Intel, Charles Schwab and Lucent - with lists of pornographic

web sites, Internet security company Worldtalk knew they had the perfect

platform to launch a campaign.

The company had been left out of a number of Internet security news

stories and was eager to gain more visibility. It had already approached

DWJ Television to discuss producing a video news release and a satellite

media tour when the Melissa virus, one of the fastest replicating

viruses ever detected, launched its assault. ’We called Worldtalk and

asked them if they’d be willing to be experts on this story,’ says Dan

Johnson, president and founder of DWJ. ’There was a lot of confusion and

apparently no other big experts.’ The client decided to go for it.


Since Worldtalk and DWJ had discussed creating an SMT to take advantage

of a breaking news story and position Worldtalk as an expert to the

media, the PR team was able to react quickly. They decided the SMT

should cover how companies can remedy the situation and protect their

computers, and whether corporate America is taking adequate precautions

against e-mail and Internet security problems.

In addition, the SMT included information on a copycat - and potentially

more dangerous virus - known as ’Papa,’ which fired off numerous e-mails

with stolen hard drive files.


The challenge was how to implement the SMT and make it successful on

such a tight timeframe.

’Usually we have two weeks to book a satellite media tour, but I got the

call late the night before and started booking the next morning,’ says

DWJ senior producer Gerri Freid Kramer.

The next day, DWJ drafted a media alert for the TV stations and started

calling approximately 700 media targets. Meanwhile, the production crew

booked satellite time, and arranged for a studio in which Worldtalk’s VP

of marketing, Simon Khalaf, was to be interviewed. This was made even

more logistically difficult since Khalaf was on the West Coast and DWJ

was on the East Coast.

Finally, the transmission was made only 24 hours after the virus



Approximately 14 million viewers saw the SMT. Ten stations did

one-on-one interviews, including Reuters Financial TV (Washington, DC),

WLS (Chicago) and KGET (Bakersfield, CA). In addition, several stations

used the satellite feed, including Business News Network and WBFF


’The Internet security industry moves at such a rapid pace that it is

critical that we react quickly to events such as the Melissa outbreak,’

says Heather Clark, Worldtalk PR manager. ’Our SMT made us immediately

available to the press and the general public in order to address the

issues surrounding the virus attack.’


Worldtalk’s approach to the Melissa virus was so successful, according

to Clark, that the company would again use the same rapid methods to

computer-oriented crises. - Jan Jaben-Eilon

NEW PRODUCT - Devouring the Y2K Bug

Client: Knudsen’s Candy (Hayward, CA) and Silicon Valley Confection PR

Team: In-house and Attention Business Communications (Pleasanton,


Campaign: Y2K Chocolate ’Bug’ Debut

Time Frame: May 1999 to December 1999 Budget: dollars 5,000

Pitching a timely product that lends itself to eye-catching photography

- especially for the art-starved gray pages of the business press -

doesn’t necessarily take strategic planning or substantial funds.

In fact, sometimes all it takes for a low-profile mom-and-pop business

and a tiny upstart firm to generate major-league buzz is the right

mailing list and edible samples. That’s what Knudsen Candy Company and

Silicon Valley Confectioners learned when they launched a chocolate

novelty product called the Y2K Bug.


When Rich Yacco and Al Abrahams, founders of Silicon Valley

Confectioners, approached Knudsen Candy Company president Dave Knudsen

last March with the idea of mass-producing a chocolate beetle to play on

the Y2K hysteria of the approaching millennium, Knudsen says he believed

they had a hook that would sell.

’Usually I turn these kinds of things down, but these bugs looked so

cute, and the idea seemed so timely, we decided to go ahead and do it,’

recalls Knudsen, whose family-owned and operated business has been

producing candy for wholesale and retail sale for more than 25


To tie in with the product’s timely theme, Yacco and Abrahams crafted

the tagline: ’Eat it while there’s still time!’ Now it was simply a

matter getting the candy bugs in front of the press. For this, the two

companies pooled resources and enlisted the help of Barbara Lewis,

president of Attention Business Communications, who had worked with

Knudsen in the past.


Three press releases were crafted for the media relations effort. First,

Lewis drafted a general product intro release for the Y2K Bug, which was

accompanied by a photo of the product and distributed nationally via

Business Wire. The wire service sent the release to business print and

electronic media and distributed it (for an additional fee) over the

specialized Y2K wire, which carries news and features surrounding the


Approximately a week later, Lewis developed a second release for the

candy, food marketing and grocery trades that announced the new product

showing at the upcoming All Candy Expo in Chicago. A third release

targeted key tech journalists, business media and local TV, radio and

newspaper contacts identified by Yacco and Lewis. An ice-packaged

chocolate bug accompanied both releases. In all, approximately 100

chocolate bugs were sent out.


Within weeks of the mailings, newspapers in both companies’ backyards

ran highly visible profiles spotlighting one or the other company as

well as the bug itself. For example, the Contra Costa Tri-Valley

Business Times ran a story on the front page showing David Knudsen

holding a tray of the bugs, along with a full story inside.

Similarly, the June 24 San Jose Mercury News ran a photo and profile on

Yacco and Abrahams on the front cover of the ’Silicon Valley Life’

section. The Hayward Daily Review carried a captioned photo of the

product, and several candy industry trades ran items as well.

The biggest hit to date, however, stemmed from a story by a Reuters

reporter who sighted the bug at the All Candy Expo. Based on this wire

report, CBS This Morning showed the Y2K Bug during the first week of

July. CBS Radio also ran an item in an ’Eye on Y2K’ segment.

Sales have also been affected by the media coverage, with orders pouring

in from such places as the US Department of Energy, Fry’s Electronics

and 7-11 parent company the Southland Corporation.


Obviously, the lifespan of a campaign tied to the Y2K bug is


However, Lewis plans to prolong the publicity at least through


’We’ll probably send out a follow-up press release talking about the

orders received after the show and the overwhelming response to the

product,’ she says.

In addition, Lewis says a pre-holiday publicity push is in order. ’We

will do a press release aimed at the general consumer, telling them

where they can buy these bugs as presents,’ says Lewis, who also plans

to target food editors and reporters putting together holiday gift


And what about Silicon Valley’s Yacco and Abrahams? Fueled by the

success and attention generated by the Y2K Bug, the two plan to roll out

several new products with different themes as early as November. - Aimee


EVENT MARKETING - Reading is fundamental

Clients: Orange County (Santa Ana, CA)

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: A Reading City

Time Frame: January 1999 and ongoing

Budget: dollars 70,000

Dismal test scores last year convinced Santa Ana, CA city leaders and

educators of the need for a program to encourage reading and promote the

value of literacy. Although the city’s motto for several years has been

’Education First,’ living up to it has been a problem - 70% of its

50,000 students, who are packed into crowded classrooms, lack fluency in


’Many of our children come from homes that don’t have a lot of printed

resources,’ says Jane Russo, an organizer and area administrator for the

Santa Ana Unified School District. Estimates of the cost of an all-out

campaign ranged from dollars 5,000 to dollars 100,000, to be covered by

private and public sources and possibly state or federal grants.

The city wanted its citizens to understand that reading is the basis of

all learning, says librarian Robert Richard. ’Learning leads to academic

success, and that leads to greater earning power.’

The city also wanted to communicate the idea that reading for pleasure

results in greater comprehension, larger vocabulary and correct


Richard adds: ’Children who read demonstrate higher self-esteem, better

relationships with parents, school success and improved chances of going

to college.’ Therefore, access to books is important to improved reading

scores. ’It’s not just to improve standardized test scores,’ stresses a

city council member.


Santa Ana’s goal is to establish the importance of reading and make it a

public priority. It wants to highlight and honor existing reading

efforts; to mobilize the adult population to engage kids in reading; to

create regular opportunities to honor community reading champions; and

to maximize external resources available for reading programs.

The primary objectives include identifying and supporting reading

efforts - particularly the reading of books - and driving home the

obvious advantages of learning through reading by helping to create new

opportunities for reading activities at home, school and work.


To launch the program, the mayor called on business and civic leaders,

educators and celebrities to support the drive and if possible, to

provide resources, including contributing to a web site.

A city council committee will provide monthly reports to the community

and recognize’s ’reading champions’ by featuring them in the reports and

publicizing them through news releases and local television, as well as

the web page.

To mobilize the adult population to engage the kids in reading, another

objective is to create and sponsor a reading summit by mid-November.

This would tie in with ’Education Celebration’ next April, a Santa Ana

Unified School District parent conference and library book sale. The

city’s adults are asked to make a greater effort to give youth access to

books by reading aloud to young children for at least a half-hour a day.

They are also encouraged to take children to the local library or

bookmobile, create reading opportunities in business, organizations and

neighborhoods and give books as gifts.

Finally, to maximize the resources that are available for reading

programs, the committee aims to create a resource book, convene a

reading coordinating council and identify and apply for grants.


So far, says librarian Richard, the program has generated tremendous

goodwill for the city, with letters of appreciation and encouragement

pouring in from educational institutions, including the University of

California at Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, members of the state

legislature and book publishers.


Santa Ana has been busily engaged in preparing to move the program into

high gear this fall. But it will take time to measure the campaign’s


’We are making a long-term commitment,’ says Santa Ana Mayor Miguel


’But it takes years and years of implementation to get an impact. We’re

going to do everything we can.’ - Alvin M. Hattal.

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