'Better Homes' puts 811 in spotlight

Who is your client? What are its media goals?

Who is your client? What are its media goals?

Chris McMurry: The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is an association of 16 different stakeholder groups, ranging from professional excavator groups to utilities companies. It's looking to educate homeowners about the cost and dangers of hitting underground power and other lines when doing home or garden renovations. CGA wanted to drive national awareness of 811, a one-year-old, toll-free number [that] people can call to learn the approximate location of underground utility lines before digging around their homes.

What made Better Homes & Gardens such a good hit? How did you pitch the editors there?

McMurry: Better Homes & Gardens has a huge circulation that reaches do-it-yourself gardeners, making it our number one target. We sent an e-mail pitch to the gardening editor early this year, who in a response mentioned that she had hit a utility line while digging in her yard. That experience encouraged her to do a story.

Did you have to media train sources? What background or statistics did you provide to clinch this placement?

McMurry: We didn't do any media training, although we illustrated the severity of the problem with statistics, showing that once every minute there's utility damage in the US caused by excavation work, and that even digging down only a few inches has its risks.

What was the impact of the hit?

McMurry: Because dialing 811 connects people with local, rather than national, officials, it's too early to tell whether the placement triggered a surge in calls. But the high-profile nature of the story helped highlight the problem and raise awareness for 811, so our client was really pleased.

Name: Chris McMurry, account director, MGH (Baltimore)

Placement: Better Homes & Gardens, May

Pitch timeline: three months

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