CAMPAIGNS: Parent conference comes of age with issue-based focus

PR Team: Beech Acres (Cincinnati) and Powers Agency (Cincinnati) Campaign: For the Love of Kids conference Time Frame: January 2002-November 2002 Budget: $15,000 (plus $18K in paid media)

PR Team: Beech Acres (Cincinnati) and Powers Agency (Cincinnati) Campaign: For the Love of Kids conference Time Frame: January 2002-November 2002 Budget: $15,000 (plus $18K in paid media)

It's no secret that over the 18 years of a child's upbringing, parents face new and different challenges every day. And while there are various sources of information to turn to, they don't necessarily provide the specific and hands-on help that parents often seek. With that in mind, along with a perceived movement toward more involved parenting in recent years, the Cincinnati-based nonprofit Beech Acres was formed. "They help with family intervention and family counseling," explains Powers Agency AE Krista Taylor. "They also assist with very normal things such as their parenting hotline, which is for parents who have simple questions like, 'Why won't my two-year-old eat his peas?' The hotline helps parents get through those everyday little crises that hit them." But the organization needed a little help of its own in drawing parents to its fourth annual For the Love of Kids conference, a single-day event that offers up expert speakers and breakout sessions on a variety of topics, from the two-year-old who won't eat his veggies to dealing with sibling rivalry. Strategy With a straightforward goal of getting parents to attend that conference, the Powers Agency sought to educate mothers age 25-49 as to what the conference had to offer, the idea being that women are the "gatekeepers of family information," says Taylor. "And if any woman hoped to get her spouse to come, she'd have to know an awful lot of information about the conference in order to convince [him]." As a result, the Powers team settled on the idea of an integrated campaign, focusing as much on parenting issues as the actual conference itself. Tactics The agency started by purchasing ad space on a new, high-profile digital billboard being tested by the Department of Transportation along the side of a nearby highway, and other paid placements. Then came the media efforts. "We felt that an integrated campaign was the best way to create some awareness and buzz on a very finite budget," says Rodger Roeser, PR director at Powers. "We felt that the way in which PR could make the most impact was not by doing an article about the conference, but the issues that were going to be surrounding the conference itself. So what we pitched to the media was a series of articles about the issues that were going to be addressed at the conference. It was a very issues-oriented campaign," he explains. The idea, Roeser adds, was to build awareness of the conference through the advertising, and explain what the conference had to offer by raising parenting issues in the media. Results Stories on parenting issues appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer, among other local print, TV, and radio outlets. "For the Love of Kids worked closely with a local community newspaper, TV station, and radio station that all provided outstanding broad-based exposure for both Beech Acres and For the Love of Kids," says Kim Chapman, For the Love of Kids conference director. But more importantly, conference attendance increased over the previous year by 25%, drawing about 1,700 people. The majority of the attendees did fall within the target demographic of women age 25-49, though Taylor adds that there were more fathers in attendance than usual. Future Beech Acres and Powers are in the process of doing follow-up research to find out what attendees thought of the breakout sessions, and what topics they would like to see addressed at future conferences. "The topics that are most important to the attendees are the topics that will be addressed at next year's conference," says Taylor. Thus, the Cincinnati event will serve as the flagship to expand the conference to other cities. This year, the conference was also held in Indianapolis. The goal is to hold the event in 30 other US cities within the next five years. "For our national expansion, we are requiring that each new city have at least one local media partner their first year," says Chapman.

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