Verizon tackles domestic abuse

One of the biggest challenges facing any PR firm is how to make compelling messages from long-term clients seem fresh and newsworthy year after year.

One of the biggest challenges facing any PR firm is how to make compelling messages from long-term clients seem fresh and newsworthy year after year.

For Tampa-based Roberts Communications and its client, Verizon Wireless Florida, that meant coming up with new ways to reach the media and public about Project Clothesline, a program that raises awareness for domestic violence.

Even though it was the fifth year of the campaign in Florida, Roberts Communications principal/acct. executive Christine O'Connor says, "We felt we could still get the public and press interested as long as we tweaked the messages."

Roberts and Verizon Wireless knew the primary asset of Project Clothesline was compelling visuals - in this case, hand-painted T-shirts made by domestic abuse survivors displayed on a clothesline. The two also had statistics to demonstrate that it was still an issue in the state.

With those two components, the companies decided a new venue was needed to tell this story throughout Florida.

"We decided in 2007... to ask [community libraries]... to hold exhibitions where people could come to see... and hear domestic violence survivors and counselors tell their stories in the first person," O'Connor explains. "We were able to get local leaders and officials from domestic violence shelters to come... and talk about how domestic violence [impacts] many families in the community."

Roberts alerted media about each event and that key government officials would be attending.

The media were provided press kits with local statistics and contact information. Each press conference ended with the Living Art Project, when the T-shirts were shown, which stayed on display for the entire exhibit.

"We were able to show every single passerby the reality of domestic violence and to inspire hope and safety for anyone currently in [that] situation," notes Chuck Hamby, PR manager of Verizon Wireless Florida.

The Clothesline Project traveled more than 1,200 miles throughout Florida, visiting seven different markets and allowed more than 144,000 people to view the campaign on display.

Media coverage included Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union, The Miami Herald, The Orlando Sentinel, and TV news stations for the Orlando, Tampa-St Pete, and Gainesville areas.

In total, an estimated 1.2 million people were exposed to the campaign through print publicity and another 400,000 through broadcast coverage.

Verizon Wireless Florida continues to make domestic violence awareness its corporate cause through Project Clothesline and would like to continue working with Roberts.

"[They have] done a great job of working with us and we [are] already in talks about our 2008 Project Clothesline plans," Hamby says.

PRWeek view:
This campaign shows how a willingness to be flexible, not just in message, but in location can help inject new life into ongoing campaigns.

With a market-by-market strategy focused on local libraries, Verizon Wireless Florida and Roberts Communications were able drive home the point that domestic violence awareness requires a community-wide effort, which gave the media a new way to cover an important social issue.

The PR team was also able to give a face to the issue, which made it more real.

PR team: Verizon Wireless Florida and Roberts Communications (both Tampa, FL)

Campaign: The Clothesline Project

Duration: January 1, 2007-December 31, 2007

Budget: $50,000

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