How St. Baldrick’s Agency Secured ‘TODAY’ Coverage on a Tiny Budget


todaySecuring media coverage is one of the top reasons why an organization hires a PR agency. Agencies have the experience necessary to know what kind of pitches will work, and the best ones have the contacts needed to make coverage dreams come true.

Here's how St. Baldrick's PR agency, FleishmanHillard (FH), successfully secured an innovative live segment on NBC’s "TODAY" show, earning millions of impressions and raising significant funds for childhood cancer research.

Since 2007, FH has partnered with St. Baldrick’s, the largest nonprofit funder of childhood cancer research, to build a dynamic media and public relations program that showcases stories of kids with cancer, researchers, volunteers and St. Baldrick's signature head-shaving events, which are designed to show solidarity with kids who have cancer.

In March 2014, St. Baldrick's challenged FH to come up with a creative approach to earn national media coverage from a top-tier outlet. Working within a three-week timeframe and an existing budget of just $10,500, the agency rose to the challenge.

The FH team evaluated top-tier media outlets and strategized the best partner to pursue. The agency previously secured placements with many major morning shows and was focused on securing a placement with "TODAY." The team strategically pitched the outlet offering a variety of story angles, finally deciding to focus on using the show’s upcoming Guinness World Record week to engage and entertain while raising awareness for this important cause. FH pitched to the client the idea of breaking the Guinness World Record for the most heads shaved in one hour by one barber, and eventually the agency secured one of only five segments that week for the chance to break the world record live on the air.

In the end, St. Baldrick's barber David Alexander shaved the heads of 73 people, setting a new Guinness World Record. The campaigned also earned St. Baldrick's and FH a win at PR News' 2015 Nonprofit PR Awards.

The agency fulfilled the following objectives by earning its client this national media placement:

  1. Tell a creative story. After discovering the upcoming Guinness World Record week with "TODAY," the agency team decided it could make for a fresh take on St. Baldrick's signature head-shaving events. The opportunity gave St. Baldrick's an opportunity take part in a creative campaign while still aligning with the mission of conquering childhood cancers.
  2. Secure national media coverage. FH secured a dedicated segment on a top-tier, national morning broadcast show. In addition, the Guinness team and "TODAY" both actively promoted the event on their Twitter and Facebook accounts, making the world record well known across social media.
  3. Inform viewers. Even though FH was tasked with developing a new, creative story to pitch the media, they did so in a way that still incorporated the head-shaving events St. Baldrick’s is known for. This allowed the team to continue to share key messages with a large audience in a recognizable and impactful way.
  4. Raise funds and awareness. Through the "TODAY" appearance, St. Baldrick’s received nearly 20 million media impressions and raised nearly $36,000 for childhood cancer. St. Baldrick’s also made connections with the "TODAY" anchors, some of whom stated that they may be interested in shaving their heads in the future.

For more on using social media for your communications programs, join PR News for the Digital PR Conference, which will be held June 1-3 in Miami. At the conference you'll hear speakers from the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Bright House Networks, Edelman, Finn Partners, GE, Havas PR, Human Rights Campaign, Lockheed Martin, Miami Heat, National Geographic Channel, rbb Public Relations, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Rock Orange, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Toyota, USANA Health Sciences, Verizon Wireless, Walmart, Zumba Fitness.

Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene