MAC's philanthropy looks good

In 1994, employees at MAC Cosmetics established the MAC AIDS Fund (MAF), one of the first foundations to call attention to HIV/AIDS.

In 1994, employees at MAC Cosmetics established the MAC AIDS Fund (MAF), one of the first foundations to call attention to HIV/AIDS. The same year, it launched Viva Glam lipstick, and dedicated 100% of product sales to MAF. The company hired Weber Shandwick last year to help raise MAF's profile as an HIV/AIDS philanthropic leader and boost visibility of its global efforts.

Nancy Mahon, SVP at MAC Cosmetics and MAF executive director, explains that customers knew about Viva Glam (the only product MAC advertises), but not about MAF's impact.

"We're the third-largest corporate donor to AIDS," she says. "We never had
a major press effort and needed a partner like [WS] to help frame the message."

Jennifer Risi, EVP of WS' global strategic media group, says the idea was to use the media to build on MAF's position as "instigator, trendsetter, and thought-starter" in the HIV/ AIDS foundation space.

A variety of media were targeted, including outlets in healthcare, HIV/AIDS, philanthropy, corporate business, and retail.

The team also sought to increase recognition of Mahon and John Demsey, MAF chairman of the board of directors and MAC president, and their voices in the HIV/AIDS community.

"The first six months was [about] meeting the right media," Risi notes. "We had to try any and all ways to get MAF's message out."

The team integrated MAF's platform in business and fashion stories by leveraging Demsey's role as president of MAC with existing media covering MAC.

"[We] energized coverage of MAC to get AIDS messages to audiences we otherwise would not," Mahon says.

A global study analyzing HIV misperceptions and stigmas was conducted in the second half of 2007. Results were tied to MAF hitting a $100 million milestone in cumulative donations last November. As part of the milestone celebration, MAF gave money to celebrities to donate to their favorite charities, which helped expand coverage. Study results were discussed at a November 13 roundtable in New York.

Risi notes that buzz and media opportunities increased after the research was released. Mahon and Demsey received increased public speaking opportunities, including the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy's Annual Summit.

Media coverage includes more than 100 stories (more coverage than in the previous two years combined) in outlets such as Vanity Fair, USA Today, AP, BBC World, Reuters, CNNMoney. com, and Viva Glam raised more than $1 million a month for MAF in 2007.

"A lot of metrics [that matter to corporations] don't matter [to us]," Mahon explains. "We look to the quality of coverage. [Demsey] was just in Fortune. Our annual giving budget is about $18 million, and we're [competing for attention with organizations that have] 10 or 100 times the amount of money that we have. [WS] has helped us highlight our story in a crowded and competitive field."

MAC and WS will continue to work together to maximize exposure for MAF.

Efforts will expand globally this year, with a London event in March and South Africa
event in June.

PR team: MAC Cosmetics and Weber Shandwick (both New York)

Campaign: MAC AIDS Fund

Duration: January 2007-ongoing

Budget: $15,000 monthly, plus an additional $45,000 for events

PRWeek's view

MAC has been very successful in the past without using broad, hammering brand and product promotion, but MAF needs a mechanism to spread the word about its efforts to a larger audience.

Mahon made a wise choice in hiring WS to mobilize and drive a media relations campaign. Broad outreach to a variety of media outlets is always a smart approach, as it can help to widen coverage.

The survey also provided a nice platform, while leveraging MAC seems effective at enhancing momentum.

Cultivating media relationships and positioning MAF and its grantees as resources should continue to pay off in the long run.

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