Making a Campaign Bigger With a Sustainable Hook

The story of Aflac’s Boston district manager Steve Karas donating bone marrow to save a young boy’s life is poignant in and of itself, but company’s PR team needed to elevate it to a larger media stage if they wanted its impact to reach a broad national audience.
“Just one story angle was insufficient,” says Paul Dusseault, senior vice president and partner at Fleishman-Hillard, and client relationship manager for the Aflac account. “The story [lacked] the punch to be of interest to the national media.”
In order to pack the necessary punch, then, the Aflac-Fleishman team decided on the following to strategies, all of which can be translated into best practices for any communications professional looking to raise awareness:
•    Spark a friendly rivalry: “To tie into the end of the baseball season, the PR team recommended the angle of sports team rivalries, what with the Red Sox fan’s bone marrow saving a Yankee fan [the bone marrow recipient, Matthew Welling, who lived near New York City],” Dusseault says. “That worked for the New York Times.”
•    Give the story longevity: “The PR team also recommended that Aflac cite the Karas-Welling episode as the inspiration for an internal program, themed ‘Sign, Swab and Save a Life,’ to encourage Aflac agents and others to enroll in the National Marrow Donor Program Registry,” Dusseault says. “That gave us a second and more sustainable angle for multiple media targets.”
•    Get validation from a credible third party. “The PR team enlisted the assistance of Dr. Ann Haight, director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to serve as the medical media spokesperson,” Dusseault says. “She accompanied our Aflac executive spokesperson, company president Paul Amos, on a very successful satellite media tour. Alfac’s philanthropic connection to the hospital made access and availability relatively simple.”