Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 7 - Promotional/Marketing
Doreen Overstreet, Summer Walker, Cindy Marfori

Award of Distinction
Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: 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 their organization. BETA found the answer in Building Baby’s Brain Power, a calendar-style 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 book was originally written for moms taking classes at BETA to help them bond with their babies. However, the non-profit wanted to promote the book to caregivers nationwide – with all profits benefiting BETA. In March 2004, BETA asked Costa DeVault (CD) to redesign the original version of Brain Power to make it marketable and to publicize it. The problem? Although the book had excellent content, it was bulky, more than 500 pages, designed in calendar format and printed in black & white. The book would have been difficult and costly to reproduce – and not commercially appealing. BETA enlisted Rollins College students to conduct focus groups and research, which highlighted the book’s potential buyers, competition, strengths and weaknesses. CD was charged with taking the research and developing a new Brain Power book, and taking it to market. CD also researched targeted media, baby trends and how to enlist national booksellers. PR was integral to generating awareness because BETA had no advertising budget. CD agreed to help BETA take its unique marketing tool to the next level … at no charge.

Objectives: To: 1) redesign Brain Power’s to make it commercially marketable in order to enlist a national bookseller to carry it; 2) produce a cost effective book that would generate at least $50,000 in revenue for the nonprofit over a two-year period; 3) publicize Brain Power to help fuel book sales by securing 15 media placements and at least one national placement.

Implementation: Focus group members stated that Brain Power needed more color and was too long. Although the book wasn’t date specific, CD found that it shouldn’t be in calendar format because it would limit its bookstore shelf-life. To reduce printing costs, CD edited the book from 365 exercises to 200 exercises, and resized it from 8” x 7” to a friendlier 5” x 5.” CD redesigned Brain Power, using soft pastel colors. National bookstores required a soft spine, so the spiral binding was removed. CD wrote press releases and fact sheets about the book, created a “baby bag” press kit (complete with a diaper bag and sample items like a rattle for activities), designed book flyers, and sent pitch letters to media, government agencies and pediatrician offices. CD also publicized the book to both local and national media, focusing specifically on parenting-based publications. CD sent packets about the book to national bookstores to request they consider carrying it, and corresponded with book agents. During the first year and a half, Brain Power was originally sold through BETA’s Web site and Amazon.com for $14.95.

Evaluation: Cost-effective and commercially appealing, Brain Power met all objectives and proved to be an outstanding marketing tool. CD secured a five-minute feature on CNN about the book and placement in ePregnancy magazine. This publicity directly helped obtain two print sponsors and improved book sales. 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 and the Daily Buzz – a national morning show – as well as spots on two local TV station affiliates and radio interviews. CD surpassed its publicity goal with more than 20 media placements, three of which were national. According to BETA President Hope Kramer, “We had great feedback and made sales in every single state.” The printing costs for the new book were $2.99 each, compared to $8.95 in the original printing. The repackaging saved BET $30,000, and generated over $70,000 in revenue for BETA, which exceeded the $50,000 objective for revenue. Publicity – which gathered momentum in 2006 – also fueled sales (and print sponsors) and was equivalent to more than $379,000 in advertising dollars. The coup de grâce of the marketing efforts paid off in 2006 when Barnes & Noble agreed to carry the book nationwide and Babies R Us expressed interest in carrying it … and CD helped BETA secure a book distributor! Brain Power is poised to generate even more money – and awareness – for BETA. It is being translated into Spanish.

Budget: BETA did not incur any expenses. Rollins College students donated research. All redesign, editing, PR and marketing costs were donated by CD, totaling more than 800 hours. As a result of publicity, Nemours Children’s Clinic and Arnold Palmer Hospital generously donated the costs for printing. Warehouse storage for the book was also donated. 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. The total value to the organization (including in-kind contributions): more than $150,000.