Division B - Printed Tools of Public Relations
Category 11 - News Release
Doreen Overstreet, Summer Walker, Costa DeVault

Golden Image Award
Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: Like many nonprofits, Orlando-based BETA Center, which provides resources and services to at-risk teen mothers, was looking for an alternative way to help raise money – and awareness – for its organization. BETA found the answer in Building Baby’s Brain Power, a book written by two qualified staff members. Brain Power offers hundreds of fun and easy one-minute brain stimulating activities for baby’s first years. Each activity involves one or more of the five senses. For example, exercises range from dancing with baby to smelling vanilla extract to watching the rain. The nonprofit had already sold about 50 copies of the book locally, but wanted to promote the book to caregivers nationwide – with all profits benefiting BETA. The challenge was that BETA had no advertising budget, so PR was integral to generating awareness. BETA asked Costa DeVault (CD) to write and distribute a release about the book that would generate press. BETA wanted to gain exposure for Brain Power that would help it generate more sales, and ultimately have the book sold in a nationwide bookstore. Before beginning, CD used research conducted by Rollins College students (that was offered pro-bono), which highlighted the book’s potential buyers, competition, strengths and weaknesses. CD also researched targeted media, how to enlist a national bookseller and baby trends. CD agreed to help BETA take its unique marketing tool to the next level … all at no charge to the nonprofit. The PR effort spanned a two-and-a-half-year period and is currently ongoing.

Objectives: To: 1) develop a press release that would gain both local and national attention, and result in 15 media placements, which would help sell Brain Power; 2) use publicity generated from the press release to enlist a national bookseller to carry the book by 2006; 3) to increase sales by 200% within two years.

Implementation: The springboard for these objectives was an attention-grabbing news release titled, “Oh, Baby … Simple Activities Can Make Your Infant Smarter.” The news release also featured side bar attachments that included sample Brain Power activities and facts. CD decided to creatively package the release in a baby diaper bag. Each bag included a book, a news release and a sample toy that referenced an activity. For example, a rattle was placed inside the diaper bag with a note attached that read: “Teach your baby listening skills. Use this rattle with the hearing exercise on page 30.” In addition, the release was complemented by pictures of BETA Center moms practicing the Brain Power activities with their babies. The photos helped convey the story’s visual potential. The release was distributed with targeted pitch letters to more than 50 selected local and national media, including parenting publications. CD also mailed packets about the book to national bookstores to request they consider carrying it, and sent packets to Florida-based governmental agencies, pediatrician and OB-GYN offices.

Evaluation: CD quickly secured a five-minute feature on CNN’s AccentHealth “Baby & You” show about the book and it was placed in ePregnancy magazine. This publicity directly helped obtain two print sponsors and improved book sales by 380%, which surpassed objectives. The book was reprinted in 2006 in a larger quantity and CD continued publicity efforts, landing coverage in the Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel, American Baby, Orlando Magazine and the Daily Buzz – a national morning show – as well as a week-long feature on the local CBS affiliate, WKMG Channel 6. Additional coverage included a segment on Central Florida News 13, a 30-minute radio interview on WOMX 105.1, coverage in four weekly papers and parenting Web sites, and favorable book reviews. In the end, more than 20 placements were secured, which also surpassed objectives. Upcoming placements include national parenting publications such as Parents Magazine, Urban Baby, iParenting and Wondertime. BETA was ecstatic with the coverage. According to BETA’s President Hope Kramer, “We had such great feedback and made sales in every single state.” During the time period that CD publicized the book (2005-present), publicity helped fuel sales, which accounted for more than $70,000 in profit for BETA (3% of BETA’s annual budget). An added bonus: the “press clip book” – along with the news release – was part of the sales presentation materials, which helped secure a contract from Barnes & Noble and a distributor in 2006, which met CD’s final objective. Babies R Us has also expressed interest in carrying the book.

Budget: BETA did not have a marketing budget for the book – and fortunately, incurred no costs. CD provided more than 300 hours of PR services valued at $40,000, in addition to donated press kit materials, the cost of printing, mailings and selected clip retrieval. Research was donated by Rollins College graduate students. As a result of the more than $400,000 worth of publicity, Nemours Children’s Clinic and Arnold Palmer Hospital generously donated the costs for printing. In addition, the ABC local affiliate generously donated B-roll footage, which was used on CNN. Had BETA paid for all these services, it would have cost more than $85,000. Instead, BETA wound up in the black – generating $70,000 to support its programs. And now that the book will be in Barnes & Noble and Babies R Us, BETA will have the exposure and visibility needed to generate additional profits for this worthy nonprofit.