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HomeCase StudiesEarned media landslide for St. Baldrick’s head-shaving initiative

Earned media landslide for St. Baldrick’s head-shaving initiative

St. Baldrick's head shave

Cancer takes more children’s lives than any other disease in the U.S., and for those who survive, their lives are changed forever. As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is leading the charge to take childhood back from cancer.

The foundation is known for its signature head-shaving events, in which volunteers go bald to raise money for childhood cancer research. Because the foundation was founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 2000, a large majority of these events take place during March.

With 600 events slated during this “peak” season, the St. Baldrick’s team realized it would be a challenge to create a personalized media approach for each one. The team decided to scale back outreach to the outlets and influencers representing key markets only; however this still involved a hefty number of contacts. “Our goal was to target the top 20 designated market areas for our foundation,” says Traci Shirk, director of media & storytelling.

 Drive awareness

The PR strategy was divided into three parts: pre-event, day of event, and post-event coverage, creating new angles for competing media. “We pushed for same-day coverage last year, so it was really important that we could maximize awareness with additional earned media opportunities,” says Shirk.

The foundation turned to Cision for help reaching key print and broadcast media contacts in specific markets across the country, all throughout the month of March. Specifically, the Cision Comms Cloud platform was chosen for its all-in-one ability to target, distribute, monitor, and report on how the campaign was faring.

The St. Baldrick’s team began its work within the platform’s media database feature, creating media lists.

“The keywords function helped us ensure that we were pulling the right kind of media contacts — those that would be interested in our events and overall strategy,” explains Shirk. The St. Baldrick’s team strongly recommends taking the time to pull hyper-targeted media lists for the story you plan to tell.

“We pushed for same-day coverage last year, so it was really important that we could maximize awareness with additional earned media opportunities”


We pushed for same-day coverage last year, so it was really important that we could maximize awareness with additional earned media opportunities

Traci Shirk, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Bacardi


Once media lists were built and exported, the team sent out media alerts to relevant contacts a week ahead of an event. Follow-ups were sent out to print media three days later and to broadcast media two days before the scheduled event.

On event day, St. Baldrick’s monitored local news coverage within Cision Comms Cloud. Post-event, the team drafted event recaps, captured news coverage, and sent those assets to its volunteer staff. “We wanted to make sure those who made our events a success knew what kind of coverage they were receiving,” says Shirk.

Mid-way through the month, St. Baldrick’s leveraged Cision’s multimedia distribution capabilities, powered by PRNewswire, to put out a multichannel news release highlighting the rich history of its head-shaving events. The release also included the foundation’s Rock the Bald tagline, several video and high-resolution images supporting its efforts, and described how childhood cancer patients have benefited from these fundraising events.

“Having an multichannel news release let us reach larger audiences in a very creative and engaging way,” says Shirk. “Additionally, these are very practical in the sense that they allow us to host all of our assets in one centralized place. We can easily direct journalists to a complete set of resources.”

Earned media landslide

“Out of the events that received personalized media outreach in March, 92% secured some form of coverage,” relates Shirk. “This included mentions in event calendars as well as print and broadcast media hits.”

Using the Cision Comms Cloud analytics feature, the foundation tracked impression numbers that that were later shared with the internal PR team and board members. ”We could easily chart out all of our news coverage and pinpoint specific events where spikes in coverage occurred,” says Shirk. Compared to March 2016, St. Baldrick’s 2017 campaign saw a 78%  increase in media impressions. “We are proud of the coverage we received. Our goal was set for a 5% growth, so these results were incredible to see,” notes Shirk.

Additionally, the Cision Comms Cloud platform enabled the foundation to track and export data on monthly unique visitors to the news stories published online and receive the “news vs ad value” on coverage. “Having these tangible values readily available and to be able to provide that type of information to leadership was great,” says Shirk.

The foundation credits Cision’s media database, which houses over 1.6 million records, for its success in surpassing its media outreach and coverage goals. “We could glean a lot of important contact information, like reporter titles, which was key for us when looking for event-specific coverage,” says Shirk. “Knowing the difference between weekday and weekend reporters was especially valuable since we had so many different events happening any given day of the week.”

St. Baldrick’s was beyond satisfied with the turnaround and design elements of its multichannel news release, as well. “It was great to work with such a dedicated and unified team,” says Shirk. The multichannel news release was viewed over 25,000 times, with more than 75,000 views of included multimedia assets. In terms of social engagement, it was shared hundreds of times and drove traffic to St. Baldrick’s donations page.



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