WASHINGTON: Looking for a PR challenge? How about this: convince an
entire city that milk is bad, so much so that the mayor of that city -
an erudite, respected, bow-tie wearing man - publicly turns his back on
Oh yeah, and you have two weeks in which to do it.
Sound impossible? Well it's been done, which is why we are bestowing a
PR Play of the Week on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM). In just two weeks, this nonprofit health group used its media
and PR smarts to run the National Dairy Council (NDC) and its 'Got
Milk?' campaign out of the nation's capital.
DC Mayor Anthony Williams' office announced in April that he would
proclaim May 11 'Drink Chocolate Milk Day' and pose for photos with a
chocolate milk mustache. Harmless enough, right? Not to the PMRC.
'Milk increases the risk of ovarian cancer, heart disease,
juvenile-onset diabetes, anemia, allergies, and other chronic problems,'
said PCRM president and founder Neal Barnard. 'And they were promoting
the highest sugar form of milk. We had no choice but to play a strong
That meant press conferences held directly outside the mayor's office,
strong visuals and powerful anti-slogans ('Got Diarrhea?' being a
particularly memorable example). Major stories appeared in The
Washington Post, The Washington Times and the local City Paper.
As of May 8, the mayor's office had dropped its plans and changed its
tune. 'We don't do proclamations for anything of controversy,' said a
spokesperson. When asked for a list of those who suddenly made milk a
thing of controversy, the spokesperson gave an impressively short