Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 2 - Public Service
Child Watch 2007
Jessica Hays, APR & Cheray Keyes-Shima, APR, CPRC; KSC, Inc.; The Florida Center

Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: Sarasota’s first Child Watch Conference was held on April 17, 2007. The event was designed to educate local professionals and the community about the serious negative effects of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, effects referred to as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The conference was co-presented by the Kiwanis Clubs of Sarasota & Manatee Counties and The Florida Center for Child and Family Development. Formal secondary research (Center for Disease Control) shows that FAS is the leading cause of mental retardation in western civilization and is 100% preventable. According to a 2002 study conducted by the CDC, 10% of women use alcohol during pregnancy and 2% engage in binge or frequent drinking. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy and alcohol consumption during pregnancy is most common among women with a 4-year degree who have an average income above $50,000 per year. In addition, the state of Florida spends an estimated $78,918,000 annually to provide special education and juvenile justice services to children affected by FAS/FASD, an estimated $914,183 per day.

Objectives: (1) To attract a minimum representatives from 10 local health and human services organizations or government entities and of two potential donors to the event. (2) To achieve media coverage from at least two media outlets in the Sarasota/Manatee area. (3) To position The Florida Center as the leading authority on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders among local policy makers and key audiences. (4) To introduce the Seth’s Bench program to the Florida Center’s supporters and conference attendees. (5) To obtain pledges (financial or intangible) from a minimum of 50% of attendees to further the cause of FASD awareness and education.

Implementation: Planning for the Child Watch Conference began in October 2006 and was conducted by a 14 person committee. Goals for the conference were outlined at the October meeting and duties were assigned. In order to achieve attendance objectives for both potential donors/sponsors, community leaders and health & human service professionals, it was determined that it a strong invitee list would need to be developed and that follow-up would be essential to achieving good attendance. Invitations were sent out one month prior to the conference date and follow-up calls were conducted personally by Florida Center Board Members. As RSVPs came in, it was determined that the original plan to hold an all-day conference needed to be modified. Many of those invited were in positions that made it difficult for them to be out of the office for an entire day (Directors, CEOs, etc.). The program was modified to accommodate a morning track and an afternoon track so that it was more convenient for our target audiences to attend. KSC Advertising & Public Relations developed a media kit and targeted key reporters and writers for story pitches and media kits were sent out two weeks prior to the event with follow-up conducted one week later. A media alert was also faxed to the media the day before the event. All media that attended were given opportunities to interview the speakers and experts in attendance. The Florida Center was responsible for the program development and logistics of the day. As the home of Florida’s first Fetal Alcohol Diagnostic and Intervention Clinic, The Florida Center was in able to provide some of the state’s leading experts as speakers, as well as demonstrate cutting edge technology being used in diagnosing and assessing FASD. Attendees were also shown case studies, visited with foster/adoptive parents of children with FASD and participated in experiential learning activities. KSC also worked with The Florida Center’s FASD experts to create an attendee packet that was informative and interesting. During the lunch portion of both tracks, a new program to raise funds and awareness for FASD called “Seth’s Bench” was introduced to the group through an emotional presentation made by the child who inspired the idea for the program, Seth Shea. At the end of each program track, Jack Levine, an expert in advocacy and public policy initiatives made an impassioned call to action and urged those in attendance to use the information gathered at the conference to make a difference for this important issue that faces so many children and families.

Evaluation: (1) The conference was covered by three major newspapers in the Sarasota/Manatee area (The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sun Newspapers, and The Bradenton Herald), as well as a local television station (SNN 6) and a local magazine (Scene Magazine). Coverage highlighted the event’s central theme of FASD awareness and prevention and included statistics and information on the Seth’s Bench program. (2) The conference was attended by more than 50 people, including four potential donors, three Board Members, and 18 representatives from local government and human services agencies. (3) The Florida Center was showcased during the day’s activities and in the media coverage as the state’s first FASD clinic and FASD experts from the Florida Center spoke during the conference and gave media interviews. (4) The Seth’s Bench program was introduced during the lunch portion of the conference. Program inspiration Seth Shea was in attendance and presented the first bench to a local store owner. The program was outlined in attendee packets and the media kit and attendees were given the opportunity to participate in the program. (5) After the conference’s call to action, The Florida Center received one check for $500 and pledges were received from almost all attendees to take action on the issue.

Budget: The conference was sponsored by a grant made by the Sarasota Sports Foundation which offset almost all of the expenses associated with the event. The catering for lunch was also donated by Golden Corral at a value of $800. Expenses: rentals (tables, chairs, tent) $700, public relations and advertising fees $2,462.50, printing and misc. supplies $1,288.12; speaker fees $1,000. Sponsorships: $5,000. Total Cost: $450.62.