It's not easy for small nonprofit agencies with limited budgets to launch massive PR efforts.
So when the Independent Public Relations Alliance (IPRA) agreed to help the Center for Child Protection and Family Support (CCPFS) promote its first forum on child abuse and child victimization - on a pro-bono basis - the CCPFS was in luck. "The [CCPFS] had a really well-defined need," says Sandra Wills Hannon, IPRA's pro-bono committee co-chairwoman, about why, of 18 applicants for IPRA's pro-bono services, the CCPFS was chosen. "They told us that they wanted help publicizing their research study and to create and produce a forum," she adds. "They had very tangible goals, whereas [other applicants] had much more global needs." Eighteen members of the IPRA, a component of the National Capital chapter of the PRSA, donated more than 1,000 hours to the effort and, in turn, revamped CCPFS' external image.
In preparation for the center's April forum, IPRA's "virtual agency" - in which experienced PR execs from myriad DC-area firms collaborate on pro-bono projects - sought to establish the CCPFS as an expert in its field, says Rita Mhley, Hannon's co-chairwoman. IPRA convinced the CCPFS to expand its ambitions beyond the local level. By taking its efforts to a regional and even national level, the center could then reach out to more professionals in its field, attract more potential funders, generate media interest, and better connect with organizations that have similar goals.
To supplement the center's recent local research, a national poll was conducted on the prevalence of child abuse, the results of which gave even more credence to CCPFS' key messages and provided a news hook for the forthcoming, now regional forum. IPRA designed a new daisy logo and developed a new website with an easy-to-remember URL, www.stopchildabusenow.org, to make the center more accessible. "The whole notion of the innocence and freshness of the daisy and the use of flowers to promote a subject that is generally pretty traumatic was well-appreciated by professionals in the field," says Joyce Thomas, CCPFS cofounder and president. Leading up to the forum, the campaign's media blitz included press releases, a media advisory, a letter to the editor, and two op-ed pieces. The IPRA also prepared CCPFS leaders with a special media-training session.
More than 100 child-welfare professionals, government officials, child advocates, policy-makers, and abuse victims attended the forum. A second forum for this year is already in the works. The effort attracted attention from all corners of the news media, from National Public Radio and Parenting magazine to The Baltimore Sun and Kidshealth.org. After the forum, the US Department of Education awarded the center a three-year, $600,000 grant, while the DC Department of Health awarded a $50,000 grant to conduct an antitobacco campaign. "That was just amazing," Thomas says of the three-year grant. "It was so competitive, and I know [IPRA's work] strengthened our opportunity to be considered."
IPRA did follow-up work on the grants received. Many components of the original campaign became permanent fixtures in the center's PR arsenal. IPRA also extended its commitment to providing pro-bono PR for the center throughout this year. CCPFS is equally enthusiastic about continuing the relationship: It has offered a spot on its board of directors to a member of the IPRA.
PR team: Center for Child Protection and Family Support and Independent PR Alliance (both DC area)
Campaign: Stop Child Abuse Now
Time frame: January to April 2004