Health, Public Relations

Lessons from the PRSA Conference: If you don’t have a celebrity ambassador, create one

This was the key take away message from the presentation by Colleen Creighton, executive director for the Alliance for Consumer Education from the great case study she shared with attendees at the PRSA International Conference in Orlando.

The Alliance, based in DC, runs a number of public health education initiatives including:
– inhalant abuse prevention
– disease prevention
– heroes of the health league, which is designed to give an all encompassing look at home safety.

Their disease prevention program started in 2005 with the development of a website at and an education campaign targeted at parents with small children.

This evolved to the creation of their superhero mascot ACE Clean to spread educational messages to consumers about how they can keep them and their families safe and healthy.

The superhero mascot became an instant hit with children. He made appearances at baseball games and in school appearances to promote hand washing and other health messages.

Popularity for the mascot snowballed after ACE lawyers began trademarking the superhero names and the organisation caught the attention of Marvel Comics.

A relatively cost effective partnership with the comic book creator saw ACE Clean being teamed up with Iron Man to fight germs. A book cover, with artwork created by the same artist who drew Spiderman. The book cover and other ACE Clean material was distributed to schools in the New York area.

Key learning

The case study highlighted how an organisation with limited funds and resources is able to to achieve its communications goals by firstly utilising a good idea, and then leveraging this using mutually beneficial partnerships.

The use of the superhero character tapped into the children market and appealed universally to both boys and girls, and to the parents. It engaged them, not pushed information at them and delivered the story in a method that appealed to this audience.

Using partnerships increased the reach of the program by bringing on additional funds and resources to reach a wider audience. ACE successfully tapped into the needs of its partners and was able to deliver a mutually beneficial outcome to both its supporters and to its own strategy.

With Marvel, for example, the partnership tied into the release of Iron Man 2, helping them to make use of a smaller marketing budget through the additional publicity that was provided by the partnership.

How can you increase the reach of your programs?


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