Creating a Roadmap for a Complex PR Campaign
Help for Children (HFC), a not-for-profit established in 1998, is a global foundation supported by the alternative asset management industry. HFC provides grants to the most effective and efficient child abuse prevention and treatment programs in seven countries and operates in 13 cities. It has distributed more than $51 million in grants in 20 years.
In the spring of 2018, HFC was planning to launch Run2Heal, a 3,000 cross-country run by Christian Griffith, a former American Ninja contestant, ultra-endurance athlete, and child abuse survivor. Christian was set to run an epic 30 miles a day—an ultra-marathon distance—five days a week for five months, beginning in New York City and finishing in San Francisco.
A survivor of sexual abuse that he experienced in his early teens, Christian is dedicated to empowering others to speak out about child abuse and seek treatment. His anthem: break the silence and speak out loudly!
The Wakeman Agency was retained only two weeks before Run2Heal was set to begin. Our team went into high gear, creating messaging and press materials and developing a communications strategy. Our plan required a nuanced approach in order to highlight Help For Children and the organizations it funds, as well as Christian’s story. We listened to HFC’s leadership carefully, then crafted the messaging and materials to ensure they emphasized HFC’s mission and a clear call to support the cause, in addition to Christian’s compelling adventure.
Keeping Up the Media Momentum
With our media outreach team hitting the phones, the response was notable. Coverage of the Run2Heal launch included People, USA Today, Daily News, Inside Edition, ABC, Fox, and major radio stations. But once Christian crossed the George Washington Bridge in New York City, the real work began.
Our team was tasked with generating media coverage for Run2Heal across the entire country, timed with his presence in various states during his run. Not only did this require connecting with local and regional media outlets across the country, but also tracking exactly where Christian would be, and when, during his run. This plan did not always go according to schedule, due to late season snows, torrential rains and personal developments—including the birth of his first child in the middle of the marathon.
Just like Christian Griffith, Wakeman never wavered in our commitment to reach as many people as possible, with a clarion call to break the silence and fight the scourge of child abuse. We kept pace and generated interviews and media coverage across the nation—with more than 80 major print, web, TV and radio stories.
One of HFC’s goals was to continually tie in the coverage with local organizations that received funding and were on the front lines of fighting child abuse. We achieved this through regional and local coverage and a PSA campaign in three cities along the way where Run2Heal was hosting 5K events. We customized PSA scripts for these cities, to cite local organizations funded by HFC, bringing the story home and connecting it to the local community. More than 45 stations ran these spots multiple times for several weeks before each 5K, amplifying the message.
From Social Media to Impactful Meetings
The Wakeman Agency also coordinated a multi-platform social media campaign to raise awareness and engage more people in the crucial conversation about preventing and healing child abuse. Through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we documented Christian’s journey and gave followers a platform for speaking out and becoming advocates.
At the same time, we arranged opportunities for Christian to connect with other survivors in person, at rallies in big cities, meetings in small towns, and even along the road. He also met with the dedicated people who work and volunteer at organizations that receive funding from HFC, as well as inspiring donors at fundraising events.
It was not uncommon for strangers to open their hearts, homes and wallets to Christian in support of his efforts. Christian’s courage and vulnerability in sharing his trauma highlighted the power of HFC’s mission. The power of the messaging created a groundswell of support with people giving whatever they could.
The Finish Line
At the conclusion of this incredible cross-country run in San Francisco, The Wakeman Agency wanted to ensure that Help For Children and Christian received the recognition they deserved. We concluded with a wave of significant coverage, including a feature in Runners World and an ABC-TV Eyewitness News segment that was broadcast in the Bay Area and New York markets.
Christian once again brought his unique slant and optimism to this endeavor when he proposed marriage to his fiancée at the Run2Heal finish line—and the moment was caught on camera by ABC-TV. What a perfect coda to a campaign that brought a powerful and painful message to the forefront, while also embodying the human spirit of resiliency.