“There's a big gap there, and a lot of people don't understand the value because it's hard to see beyond the disability,” says Neil Romano, assistant secretary for disability employment policy.
ODEP turned to Maroon PR to create an “honest conversation with people.”
The team wanted to present the message in a relaxed way, so it harnessed America's pastime – baseball. It enlisted Jim Abbott, a well-known former baseball pitcher who has only one arm. “We knew we had a really good spokesman in Jim Abbott who could directly relate to the issues,” says John Maroon, president of Maroon PR. The team decided to focus on a couple of markets where Abbott would be giving speeches and pitched the lifestyle and sports media.
The team also focused on Abbott's 15th anniversary of a no-hitter season in its outreach, Maroon says.
The agency utilized its sports media contacts to reach influential outlets. It pitched select markets like Baltimore and Chicago to reach ODEP's target audience.
The team also helped create a link from the DOL Web site that focused on the campaign with information about Abbott, the effort, and facts on hiring the disabled, Romano says.
ODEP saw a huge increase in traffic on its Web site, Maroon says. “[ODEP] saw... traffic go up from virtually nothing to thousands of hits as a direct result.”
The campaign was covered in various large media outlets, including ESPN.com, ESPN's Jim Rome is Burning, and the WashingtonPost.com's Live Web Chat.
ODEP would like to continue the campaign in 2009, but it hinges on the new administration, Romano says.
PR team: US Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and Maroon PR (Marriottsville, MD)
Campaign: P.I.T.C.H. (Proving Individuals with Talent Can Help)
Duration: September-October 2008