Sheraton provides guests vacation from hand-helds

Millions of Americans have become slaves to their BlackBerries and Treos: Many users check their hand-helds while driving, while brushing their teeth, at 2am. Meant to be time-saving helpers, for many the devices have earned their "CrackBerry" moniker.

Millions of Americans have become slaves to their BlackBerries and Treos: Many users check their hand-helds while driving, while brushing their teeth, at 2am. Meant to be time-saving helpers, for many the devices have earned their "CrackBerry" moniker.

Whether on vacation or at a business conference, says Carla Caccavale, partner at Quinn & Co. , "It's hard to communicate with other people when you can't put your BlackBerry down."

Strategy

"This was an effort to reconnect guests with the hotel experience," says Caccavale, supervisor on the Sheraton Chicago account. So the firm teamed with Sheraton GM Rick Ueno - who had given up his own BlackBerry two months earlier - to allow guests to stash their hand-helds in the hotel's executive offices during their stay.

Tactics

PR begin with a widely pitched release about "managing BlackBerry addiction," says Caccavale. After it was picked up by Reuters, she says, the story "spread like wildfire." Representing the campaign's face and personality, Ueno appeared in interviews discussing his former around-the-clock dependence and how to help people "reconnect by disconnecting."

Results

Ueno says the BlackBerry Check-In program has made an emotional impact on hotel clientele; he's been "inundated with e-mails from guests praising the initiative," he says. In addition to more than 300 media hits - including Today, Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and Esquire - the campaign caught the attention of Jim Balsillie, CEO of BlackBerry's parent company RIM, who sent Ueno the hand-held's latest model last month. "It came with a note saying, 'You don't have to go cold turkey,'" Caccavale says.

Future

Now launching, phase two of the effort features such components as "Top 10 BlackBerry Etiquette Tips."

PR team: Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers (Chicago) and Quinn & Co. (New York)

Campaign: BlackBerry Check-In

Duration: June 1 to October 1, 2006

Budget: Less than $1,000

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