MCHENRY, IL: Breast-pump manufacturer Medela implemented its first-ever crisis PR exercise last week. The company acted after learning that the award-winning TV show, Chicago Hope, planned an episode about a breast-fed child who dies of dehydration.
The episode, The Breast and the Brightest, aired on October 21, but its plot was leaked before broadcast.
Medela's director of marketing Debra Kurtz saw the plot outline on the Internet. 'Chicago Hope is a respected show, and we were worried people would get the wrong message about the safety of breast-feeding,' she said.
Kurtz called the show's producers, who confirmed the storyline but declined to place information about breast-feeding in the credits. 'Their message was, 'Lady, we do a disease a week here," she said.
Medela decided to use a video news release to counteract the negative publicity, and commissioned West Glen Communications to handle scripting and production.
She also solicited feedback from other breast-feeding industry organizations.
'We thought it was important to get the breast-feeding industry behind this project,' she said.
The video news release was aired by some TV stations on the night of the episode. Others who saw the report used it as the basis for their own stories on breast-feeding. 'Fortunately, Bill and Monica had a slow news day,' said Kurtz.
By the end of October, the release had 61 placements. Medela and West Glen estimate it was seen by 5 million viewers.
'It was not about selling Medela or breast pumps,' explained Kurtz. 'We did a good public-service action that, in the long run, will benefit the industry by heightening awareness of dehydration problems.'.