2013 Platinum PR Awards: Crisis Management

Winner: LIVESTRONG Foundation - From the Crisis Trenches: Blazing a New Trail in Communications

In 2012 and early 2013, the world watched as Lance Armstrong’s fabled cycling career crashed. Caught in the crossfire was the LIVESTRONG Foundation, the highly respected nonprofit Armstrong created to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. With every new development in the cycling scandal, media turned to the charity for its reaction. As it was reluctantly pulled further and further into the coverage, the stakes couldn’t have been higher for the nonprofit.

In November 2012, after Armstrong resigned as chairman of the organization, the Foundation retained a firm to conduct public opinion research and ultimately developed two immediate primary goals: The first was to clarify that the LIVESTRONG Foundation exists to serve people and families struggling with cancer, not a celebrity athlete; the second was the prioritization of three prime target groups to receive that message—women, caregivers and people under the age of 40.

For the six days leading up to Armstrong’s critical sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey, the communications team worked around the clock executing the plan, crafting surrogate communications talking points and schedules for national news programs, booking the Foundation’s CEO on the Today Show and National Public Radio, crafting and placing a USA Today op-ed and delivering talking points for board members, staff, donors and supporters.

The Foundation issued a statement on January 16, 2013, to address the influx of media inquiries leading up to Armstrong’s confessional with Winfrey. Immediately following the interview, which aired on Jan. 17, the Foundation issued a final statement responding to Armstrong’s confessions of cheating throughout much of his cycling career and its disappointment at being misled.

The effectiveness of the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s communications and marketing strategy will be measured at key moments throughout the year through polling, supporter focus groups, in-depth interviews and surveys. Bearing in mind its key targets, it will focus on broad-swath outreach to women and Americans under 40, as well as micro-targeting to caregivers. Course adjustments will be made in rapid order to amplify the Foundation’s effectiveness throughout an initial 12-month horizon.

Honorable Mentions:

  • American Red Cross - Bracing for a Superstorm: How the American Red Cross Handled the Challenges of Hurricane Sandy
  • APCO Worldwide - MF Global Inc. Trustee
  • Bank of America - Response to Super Sandy
  • Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens - Hurricane Sandy
  • Cone Communications - Protecting Brand Reputation from a Plant Closure
  • Homefront Communications - Stop Big Trucks
  • Marketing Minds at Work - 2013 ZORA! Festival: From Crisis to Congratulations