City-renaming drive lands 'Got Milk?' on media's map

BIGGS, CA: The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) scored an unexpected press barrage last week when word of a new PR campaign leaked out.

BIGGS, CA: The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) scored an unexpected press barrage last week when word of a new PR campaign leaked out.

Aided by LA-based Roxana Lissa Public Relations (RLPR), the CMPB sent out letters to 20 California towns asking if any would be interested in changing their name to "Got Milk?" to help celebrate the famous ad campaign's 10-year anniversary in 2003. The letters were a preliminary step in planning for the anniversary, and were not intended as a media play.

But after the local paper in Biggs, a town in the north-central part of the state with a population of 1,793, covered the story and Mayor Sharleta Callaway's interest in the plan, outlets across the US picked up the item, resulting in dozens of broadcast and print hits.

"The joke around here is that we don't even have a press release," said CMPB executive director Jeff Manning. "The purpose (of the letters) was just to get somebody to say 'yes' first."

So far, Biggs is the only city to respond. RLPR's Roxana Lissa said she will attend a Biggs city council meeting on November 18 when the idea is debated, and that the firm and the board are currently working on a media strategy to handle the interest.

While the coverage has been positive, the unexpected attention did interfere with the image the CMPB wanted to present, leading to erroneous reports that the town would be paid to change its name.

"Many people have picked up on the (potential payoff) aspect, but we never promised to give them anything," said Manning. "We'd certainly be open to helping kids in some way, but I never mentioned cutting a check."

Instead, Manning sees the town benefiting from a "raised profile, awareness, and hopefully some traffic."

If a town agrees to the name change, Manning envisions a multilevel PR push that could include the creation of a Got Milk? museum, printing maps with the location of Got Milk?, and creating the world's best milk shake to be sold in the city.

The CMPB has an annual PR budget of about $700,000, according to Manning.

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