When neonatal nurses at a local hospital approached The Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), informing it of the recent spate of cases involving shaken baby syndrome (SBS), the nonprofit knew it had found a cause for its annual campaign for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
SBS derives from a lack of knowledge by the caregiver, and the CAC, working with Access PR, saw a problem that education could fix.
"It's 100% preventable, and it is something that is done out of the complete ignorance and frustration of the caregiver, not necessarily out of any intent to harm," says Tony Pearman, CEO and chief creative officer of Access PR. "It's something we thought we could make a difference with."
The most striking aspect of the problem was that the solution lay in the campaign itself and the simple dissemination of information regarding the prevention of SBS.
Lacking the media-excitable nature of other forms of abuse, SBS had long flown under the radar, so Access wanted to drive home its dangers by the most noteworthy means possible.
When the PR team at Access unexpectedly approached the creative team with the idea of a high-profile event in which hundreds of rattles representing the number of children who had died of SBS in the past year were to be hung from a prominent tree in downtown Roanoke, the stark imagery challenged the creative team to think about the cause in a new light.
"It was a very obvious landmark on which to place these rattles, and it would hopefully make people wonder what was going on and ask these questions," says Janice Dinkins Davidson, executive director of the CAC. "Once you got their attention, raising awareness about SBS would become easy."
Utilizing the tagline "Shaken Babies Often Never Stir Again" to sear the message into people's memories, the firm printed rattles and informational posters for use in community outreach and education programs, and ran ads in donated space in local health and women's publications.
During the main event, which local television and radio covered, more than 900 rattles were hung on a tree at a main intersection of the city, the typically pacifying toys offering a poignant juxtaposition against SBS.
Additional rattles and T-shirts were given to doctors, nurses, and social workers to distribute to parents of newborns and toddlers after discussing SBS.
More than 75 people attended the rattle tree event, including the mayor, city council members, and key members of the medical community, all of whom were instructed on how they could reduce the number of cases in the area.
At least 1,000 at-risk families were educated about SBS, and posters were displayed in approximately 100 pediatricians' offices throughout the region.
Thanks to donations and pro-bono work, the cost of the campaign was reduced by $17,000.
The CAC hopes to continue the SBS Awareness campaign on a yearly basis and will use the next annual campaign for Child Abuse Prevention month to alert people of the risks of leaving their children unattended in cars.
PR team: The Children's Advocacy Center (Roanoke, VA) and Access PR (Roanoke, VA)
Campaign: Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness
Duration: January to April 2007
The firm was absolutely right in its assumption that the best way to exact a response from people regarding this cause was to leave them with an indelible memory of the effects of ignoring it.
Though the aim of startling people or causing discomfort is a tricky route, the serious nature of the subject and the immeasurable impact of each impression more than justify the means.
The organization of the informational flow also contributed greatly to the effort's success, in that the limited resources were used to educate and influence pivotal individuals, such as medical personnel and lawmakers, who could pass along the message to the target audience at little to no cost.