The philanthropic arm of Honeywell International has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to educate 8- to 10-year-olds and their parents on how to prevent child abduction and kidnapping.
Current data indicates that about 2,000 children are reported missing every day in the US.
"Whereas the whole national dialogue is around finding kids, very little has been done to provide children the skills and behaviors that would prevent them from being abducted or exploited in the first place," says Michael Holland, director of Honeywell Hometown Solutions.
In 2004, Honeywell contracted with Peppercom Strategic Communications to elevate awareness of "Got 2B Safe! Think Smart and Take Charge," a program designed to help young children make quick decisions when faced with the threat of abduction.
Got 2B Safe! "is all about presenting this information in a way that is disarming and empowers the children so they can feel good about the lessons they are learning," explains Ted Birkhahn, partner and senior director at Peppercom.
Honeywell distributed abduction prevention kits to 50,000 schools in the US and sought to leverage seasonal hooks - summer trips to amusement parks, the back-to-school season, and Halloween trick-or-treating -to generate media coverage.
The partners also looked to develop relationships with teachers willing to let reporters into their classrooms so they could experience the program being taught to third- and fourth-graders.
A major part of the campaign focused on dispelling certain misconceptions in the media about child abduction, including an old program called "Stranger Danger," which teaches children to believe that strangers are the primary perpetrators. Reporters had never heard that Stranger Danger was bad advice, Birkhahn says.
"It was a great way to capture their attention," he adds.
The program's partners organized a live event in Kansas City, MO, one of Honeywell's largest employee markets, to raise awareness of the issue. The event attracted 1,600 people for a concert and to mingle with local law enforcement and NCMEC officials, who provided information on abduction prevention.
Later in the year, the partners created 25,000 Honeywell/Got 2B Safe!-branded trick-or-treat bags that were distributed to Honeywell employees across the country.
"Our thinking was, let's give them a real cool Halloween bag that they will hopefully use to trick-or-treat," Birkhahn says. "It has the tips and techniques right on there so they could discuss them beforehand."
Through the partnership, Honeywell and Peppercom captured coverage in more than 500 national, trade, and local print and broadcast outlets between August and December 2004. In July 2004, NCMEC president and CEO Ernie Allen was interviewed by Today's Matt Lauer about keeping children safer at amusement parks.
The PR effort also had a direct impact on the bottom line of Honeywell Hometown Solutions. In 2004, employee contributions to the foundation's pro- grams increased by 50%, compared to 2003, and staff donations to NCMEC rose by 31% last year.
The campaign also helped to increase general public traffic on the Got 2B Safe! website by 300%, compared to 2003 figures.
Honeywell and Peppercom plan to take the program to a new level during the 2005-06 school year. They are creating a contest to determine which teachers have the safest classrooms in the country in terms of teaching child-abduction prevention education, Birkhahn says.
Teachers will be asked to submit lesson plans describing how they've implemented the Got 2B Safe! program. The contest will launch in the fall, with finalists receiving awards in 2006.
PR team: Honeywell International (Morris Township, NJ) and Peppercom Strategic Communications (New York)
Campaign: Got 2B Safe!
Time frame: May to December 2004