Charting the future of public relations
Building 877-ASK-LAPD Non-emergency Awareness
Paul Holmes
Holmes Report

Building 877-ASK-LAPD Non-emergency Awareness

People call 9-1-1 because that is the number they know to call when they have an emergency. A victim of its own success, 9-1-1 has become so well known and so well remembered that people call it when they need almost any kind of assistance—making emergen

Paul Holmes

People call 9-1-1 because that is the number they know to call when they have an emergency.  A victim of its own success, 9-1-1 has become so well known and so well remembered that people call it when they need almost any kind of assistance—making emergency callers wait longer to reach an operator.  Unfortunately, in an emergency, every second counts.  The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which houses 9-1-1 dispatchers for the City of Los Angeles, found that approximately 80 percent of 9-1-1 calls in the city are not emergencies.  In an effort to address this, the LAPD activated 877-ASK-LAPD—a new phone number for non life-threatening calls—and hired Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to increase awareness and usage by City of Los Angeles residents.

· To increase the call volume to 877-ASK-LAPD.
· To decrease the number of non-emergency calls to 9-1-1.


Primary—City of Los Angeles residents, including English-speaking residents, Spanish-speaking residents and Korean-speaking residents. 

Secondary—Those who commute to the city during the day.


Because of the large, ethnically and culturally diverse population of Los Angeles, it was important to present cogent messages that can reach and be understood by all segments of the community.

Given the difficulty of remembering the 877-ASK-LAPD number, we knew from our formal and informal research that use of 9-1-1 would continue.

The outreach about this Los Angeles Police Department service was to be conducted on the heels of the highly publicized LAPD Rampart Division scandals during which the historic problem with the Department’s integrity was raised. 

The LAPD Media Relations Unit was to take the lead on media activity, however our client contact did not have a relationship with the media staff.

Making a presentation of life and death situations is a delicate undertaking, and our research showed that people did not find that an overly serious message or a humorous message were effective.


Primary Research
Focus groups—uncovered program challenges and imparted vital community feedback about police service, 9-1-1, 877-ASK-LAPD, public understanding about emergency and non-emergency situations, and program messages. 

Secondary Research
Assessment of other cities’ programs—provided insight to other cities’ messages and communication strategies.
Stakeholder outreach—demonstrated broad stakeholder support for 877-ASK-LAPD outreach.

Strategic Approach

Appeal to the public’s sense of doing the right thing by emphasizing that lives may be saved if the emergency and non-emergency numbers are properly used.

Highlight the 9-1-1 overload problem.

Make the distinction between emergency and non-emergency situations by clear example.

Support the Department’s media efforts by providing all the tools for outreach to both the general market and ethnic markets.

Ogilvy PR developed an integrated marketing communications plan designed to tie in a variety of marketing tactics to reinforce and build awareness of 877-ASK-LAPD and collaborated with its in-house Creative Services Division and with subcontractors who specialize in the African American community, the Korean community and the Latino community.  

Advertising was designed to build the public’s awareness and the copy in the creative countered emergency and non-emergency situations in attention-grabbing rhyming couplets, such as:
· Is a crime in progress?  Call 9-1-1
· Or did vandals leave a mess? Call 877-ASK-LAPD
· The Spanish creative also employed the rhyming couplet concept, and new situations were created to maintain the feel of the concept, such as:
· Necesitas los paramedicos para un herido?  Llame al 9-1-1
· esta su carro perdido?  Llame al 1-877-ASK-LAPD

Ogilvy Public Relations leveraged an additional $155,000 worth of advertising in addition to a budget of  $185,000 through partnership development to execute the following:

Outdoor advertising—the cost-effectiveness of the 8-sheet billboards allowed rotation of several creatives as well as ample posting of the Spanish and Korean creatives in the smaller geographic areas of Spanish- and Korean-speaking communities.  104,200,200 campaign impressions.

Transit advertising—leveraging a tight advertising budget, interior bus advertising provided another medium through which both residents and non-residents would see messages. 21,900,000 impressions were registered by riders over the length of the program.

Radio traffic sponsorships—reaching both primary and secondary audiences, multilingual traffic sponsorships were featured on more than 50 stations serving the Los Angeles area. 18,802,200 gross impressions.  

Community Outreach:
Community outreach built on awareness created by the advertising by providing Angelenos with in-hand collateral that kept the phone number handy in the home on their phone or on the refrigerator.

The community outreach team distributed over 400,000 posters, phone stickers, and magnets to Los Angeles residents through 1,849 participating organizations and groups in the City of Los Angeles.

Community partners included public and private schools, Catholic, African American and Korean churches, community-based organizations, public libraries, youth organizations, and neighborhood associations.

Media Relations:
Prepared media materials and provided support during the 877-ASK-LAPD public education program kick off with LAPD Chief Parks which resulted in print coverage including: the Los Angeles Daily News, the Compton Wave, the Carson Wave, the Culver City Star; and network coverage on KCBS Channel 2, KCOP Channel 13, KTLA Channel 5, KTTV Channel 11 and KNBC Channel 4. 

Pitched and coordinated Los Angeles Police Department participation in a news segment created by an independent producer and delivered to every NBC affiliate in the United States.  The segment focused on 9-1-1 and emergency room overloads.

Results - Evaluation/Measurement of Success

By the end of the outreach phase of the campaign in May, 2001, call volume to 877-ASK-LAPD peaked at 41,546 calls—a 32% increase over the average monthly call volume and marked the first time that non-emergency calls outnumbered emergency calls coming into the dispatch center.  In one year, the program achieved:
· 25% increase in calls to ASK LAPD
· 19% decrease in calls to 9-1-1

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