AICR's 'fat equals cancer' message makes prominent impression on 'USA Today'

Who is your client and what are its media goals?

Name: Aaron Cohen, VP of media and digital communications, MS&L (Washington, DC)
Placement USA Today, Nov. 5, 2009
Pitch timeline: Four days

Who is your client and what are its media goals?

Cohen: The American In-stitute for Cancer Research (AICR) is a Washington-based charity that sponsors research on the link between diet, physical activity, and obesity and preventable cancers.

Around its annual conference, AICR turned to us to generate media awareness for new statistics on how excess body fat alone is responsible for 100,000-plus cancer cases a year.

USA Today is a leading outlet, but what made it ideal for this study? How did you pitch reporter Nanci Hellmich?

Cohen: We planned a press conference, but we wanted a high-profile exclusive first that would plant the seeds for other coverage. With 2 million readers, USA Today is like the wires in setting the news agenda for other outlets.

Nanci had covered AICR research before, so we offered her the first crack at statistics tying obesity to breast, kidney, and other specific cancers.

The obesity epidemic has been around for many years. What fresh angle helped you generate Hellmich's interest?

Cohen: Even though the link between obesity and cancer has received plenty of coverage, the issue remains topical, so we knew interest would be there.

What really helped was that AICR research enabled us to boil the message down to three words - fat equals cancer. We also set up an interview with Tim Byers, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center. In addition, Nanci spoke with other experts on her own.

What was the hit's impact?

Cohen: The USA Today story ran above the fold on the front page and triggered widespread follow-up coverage. All told, either the AICR or the report were mentioned in more than 340 radio and TV broadcasts, including CNN, FOX, NBC, CBS, and ABC. The client was thrilled with our work. l

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