ASPCA breeds collaboration

Too often, pets in animal shelters around the country are put to sleep for lack of money or space.

Too often, pets in animal shelters around the country are put to sleep for lack of money or space.

But greater coordination among local animal welfare groups - to more widely promote spaying and neutering, for instance, or to share information about pets available for adoption - could save quite a few furry lives. Such is the goal of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' (ASPCA) Mission: Orange, a campaign to bring together all the animal agencies and organizations in several cities to ensure the highest possible level of collaboration.

The ASPCA called on Vollmer Public Relations for help with the effort.

Strategy

To launch the campaign, the ASPCA chose to focus on four metropolitan areas - Austin, TX; Gulfport-Biloxi, MS; Philadelphia; and Tampa, FL - where all of the various animal welfare organizations, from shelters to animal control agencies to community advocacy groups, were committed to work with one another.

As the aim eventually is to tackle other cities, initial media outreach would, therefore, be both national and local.

By associating the campaign with a vibrant, energetic color - orange - the ASPCA sought to give the effort a greater resonance "so that ultimately we hope it will be identified in the average person's mind that orange is for animals," says Shonali Burke, ASPCA VP of media and communications.

Tactics

With the assistance of Vollmer Public Relations, the campaign kicked off with a press conference in New York on January 10, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed ASPCA Mission: Orange Day. Similar mayoral proclamations were made in Austin and Tampa, as well, coinciding with media events in those cities on February 8 and February 26, respectively.

"When [local news] stories run, that helps when we go back to the national media. We can say, 'Look what we've been doing in all these places,'" Burke says.

Along with the media outreach, the organization conducted extensive internal communications and also sent out information on the new campaign to the ASPCA's approximately 450,000 newsletter subscribers.

Results

Though the group says it is still too early to characterize what level of increased cooperation may be occurring among animal welfare groups in the target cities, the campaign did get significant media attention, including coverage by NY1-TV, CBS' The Early Show during weather segments, The New York Times, The Tampa Tribune, Austin-American Statesman, and other local TV, radio, and print outlets.

In addition, surveys that Media, PA-based ICR conducted before and after the launch on behalf of the ASPCA found a "significant increase" in awareness of the ASPCA in general in the target cities following the launch.

The ASPCA has since expanded the program to Spokane, WA.

Future

The ASPCA plans in coming years to continue to expand its effort to other cities. "As we help each of our 2007 communities, as we see they have progressed enough to be self-sustaining, we can move to other cities." Burke says. "So the ultimate goal would be to create a country of humane communities, where no animal is euthanized for lack of a home."

PRWeek's view

The ultimate success of the campaign can't be known yet, but press events certainly generated significant media attention, and securing mayoral proclamations of ASPCA Mission: Orange Days helped convey the civic good of the campaign.

Also, in employing its high-concept "orange" branding strategy - on press materials, the ASPCA Web site, and elsewhere - the group cannily emulates other successful color-associated awareness campaigns, such as breast cancer and the color pink, and, more recently, HIV/AIDS in Africa and the color red.

ASPCA

PR team: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (New York) and Vollmer Public Relations (New York)

Campaign: ASPCA Mission: Orange

Duration: January 10-ongoing

Budget: $150,000

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