ADT's LifeSaver program serves up heartwarming stories to local press on a 'silver platter'

The inside story on ADT's eight-year effort to drum up local media interest and boost employee morale.

Company: ADT
Campaign: LifeSaver Award campaign
Duration: 2011 to present

ADT, which provides home and business security systems, has held a ceremony at a customer’s house every month since 2011 to honor an employee who helped to rescue people from potentially deadly emergencies, including fires, carbon monoxide, and break-ins.

The event is a chance for families to meet "the voice on the other end of the phone who helped save their lives," said Bob Tucker, ADT’s PR director.

At the ceremony, the 911 call - in which an ADT responder calls a dispatcher to report the details of the situation - is played for the gathered audience. Afterwards, everyone heads to a celebratory luncheon at the local ADT office.

Tucker started the LifeSaver program eight years ago as a way to drum up interest from local media in markets where ADT has a branch office. He also wanted to boost employee morale by emphasizing the company’s "noble calling." Since then, he’s traveled across the country, often throwing multiple events per month. In May, for example, he’ll host three.

Tucker explained that as a former journalist he understood that to generate coverage, he needed a good story. Luckily, ADT had hundreds, including dramatic first-person accounts from customers of being saved by their alarm systems. These narratives doubled as a pitch for why paying for a home monitoring service is worth it.

"While your house is on fire in the middle of the night and you can’t find your cell phone, we are calling 911 for you," he said.

Most ceremonies are held at the customer’s home at 11 a.m. Tucker has found that’s the "sweet spot" for local media: after the morning meeting, but before news picks up in the afternoon.

The goal is to make it as easy as possible for news outlets to cover the heartwarming story of a customer being saved by their emergency system. By now, he has it down to a science. A day or two before the event, he sends out a media advisory to local outlets. If he doesn’t hear back by the afternoon before, he follows up with a phone call. When an editor or reporter expresses interest, he has materials ready to send, including photos and details of the emergency event, relevant statistics, along with the recording of the 911 call.

After the event, Tucker follows up with additional materials, including sound bites and images.

He ensures the story is being "served up on a silver platter." As newsrooms shrink and reporters’ demands and responsibilities grow, this is increasingly important.

"Do as much packaging as possible to make it quick and easy for them," he said.

Tucker also travels with his own video team. The company regularly posts shorts, which feature footage from the event and, when possible, the emergency incident itself, on ADT social channels, including YouTube

Since 2011, Tucker has organized 93 events.

"There hasn’t been one time where there wasn’t at least one camera," he said.

600 local media outlets have covered a LifeSaver celebration. Often, Tucker gets what he refers to as a "clean sweep," which is when all four network affiliates in the market (Fox, CBS, ABC, and NBC) show up, plus a local paper.

"That’s success for me," he said. Last year, he achieved a "clean sweep" seven times.

On ADT’s YouTube channel, its 21 LifeSaver videos have been viewed 271,000 times total. A LifeSaver video posted to ADT’s Facebook page in January - which details how an ADT alarm system saved a couple from a house fire - has been viewed 1.5 million times.

The campaign has also had a positive influence on company morale, as measured by employee survey results and comments from employees who read about the LifeSaver events through the ADT’s internal newsletter.

"In our monitoring centers, hiring managers tell us one of the drivers for recruits wanting to work at ADT is that they get to help save lives for a living," Tucker said.

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