Pool safety education effort finds support across the US

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission awarded Widmeyer Communications a contract to develop and implement "Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives."

Pool safety education effort finds support across the US

Client: US Consumer Product Safety Commission (Bethesda, MD)
PR agency: Widmeyer Communications (Washington)
Campaign: Pool Safely
Duration: January 2010-June 2011
Budget: $3.67 million

A national education effort about drowning and entrapment prevention in pools and spas was mandated in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (signed into law December 2007). The US Consumer Product Safety Commission awarded Widmeyer Communications an 18-month contract in January 2010 to develop and implement "Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives."

Kathleen Reilly, Pool Safely campaign leader, says the community of influencers involved in helping spread the message ranges from swimming teachers to pediatricians to hotel associations.

"We didn't know if we'd get funding, so a sustainable program was vital," she adds.

About 60 organizations were recruited as campaign safety partners and campaign safety leaders. They include the American Red Cross, YMCA of the USA, and Safe Kids Coalition. Any group expressing interest helps spread information as part of the campaign safety community.

Summer events were held with partners in four states where drowning is a major issue - Florida and Texas in 2010, Arizona and California in 2011.

Organizations nationwide hosted additional events, while the team provided support materials. Media relations, PSAs, www.poolsafely.gov, social media outreach, and paid ads also drove awareness.

Widmeyer SVP Ben Finzel cites positive, proactive messaging and the commission's clout as key to campaign success.

The 2011 campaign launched in San Diego with a May 25 roundtable of partners and local groups. Commission chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Janet Evans spoke at a May 26 press conference at a municipal pool.

Pool Safely Day was held in late June in Phoenix. Organizations across the US hosted their own events - about 86 in total.

Reilly attended federal agency events in Washington, DC; partner events, such as the National Drowning Prevention Symposium in Colorado in April; and various trade shows.

Partners were provided press release templates and collateral, including brochures, tip cards, and fans. The team and partners also conducted traditional and social media outreach.

Widmeyer tracked coverage of drownings and near-drownings, and sent information to 38,500-plus media contacts. Mommy and parenting bloggers were also targeted. An SMT was conducted in San Diego. RMTs were also held in Colorado and Phoenix.

Launched in September 2010, poolsafely.gov houses information for parents and families, industry pros, government officials, partners, and media.

PSAs, developed with the American Red Cross and YMCA, were distributed to media, appeared in out-of-home locations in many cities, and were posted on the commission's and partners' social media channels and websites.

Reilly reports nearly 2 million pieces of campaign collateral have been distributed since 2010. poolsafely.gov got about 100,000 monthly visits in the summer. The campaign safety community has about 1,000 participants.

Broadcast PSAs have netted 500 million-plus impressions since July 2010. About 100 million additional earned impressions were garnered in outlets such as Today, AP, The Miami Herald, The Arizona Republic, and the Chicago Tribune.

The team has responded to 600-plus reports of drowning or close calls since 2010.

Widmeyer's contract is up. Reilly is awaiting 2012 budget news, but she says the campaign will continue.

"If there's funding to re-engage Widmeyer or another agency, we'd love the opportunity," she adds.

PRWeek's View
This team successfully built a very solid base of partners and collateral. It also did an outstanding job of uniting and empowering stakeholders to disseminate unified messaging. Crafting positive, proactive messaging certainly contributed to widespread adoption. The website is particularly robust and informative, and the tactic of responding to media coverage of incidents at local levels worked well in driving broader coverage. The team has established a fantastic infrastructure to carry this campaign forward.

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