Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery

Since its inception in 1987, “Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery” has become one of the nation’s preeminent home fire safety programs, reminding Americans to change the battery in their smoke alarms when changing clocks back in the fall.

Paul Holmes

Every day in America, an average of nearly three children under the age of 15 die in home fires.  Eighty-four percent of these fatalities could be prevented if families maintained working smoke alarms.  Statistics like these serve as the foundation for and “reason for being” of the Energizer “Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery” (CYC, CYB) program.  This year’s campaign consisted of an aggressive media and community relations effort, including national and local-market media interviews by program spokesperson Danny Glover, home fire safety storybook readings by Glover in schools across the country, outreach to more than 5,300 fire departments and 75,000 elementary school classrooms nationwide, a new program website and a donation of 250,000 9-volt batteries for low-income families and the elderly.  As a result, more than 208.7 million people heard the lifesaving reminder, with more than 76 percent of coverage including the Energizer name (vs. 55 percent in 1999).


Since its inception in 1987, “Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery” has become one of the nation’s preeminent home fire safety programs, reminding Americans to change the battery in their smoke alarms when changing clocks back in the fall.  However, as CYC, CYB continues to grow in size and popularity, it has also become a victim of its own success, running the risk of becoming a generic home fire safety reminder and losing Energizer ownership and the brand’s important connection with consumers.

In 2000, the 13th year of “Change,” Energizer looked to the communications teams to increase brand recognition, establish a stronger connection with consumers at a grassroots level and continue to generate greater awareness for the program.  Looking back at 1999, the communications team reached more than 282 million people with the CYC, CYB reminder, with more than half of media coverage including the Energizer name.  The 2000 program would have to improve on this track record of success.


Research has always been a key element to the program’s development.  Each year, additional research is conducted to focus on ways to improve and extend the program, including:

  • Gathering updated statistics on home fire safety and smoke alarm use throughout the U.S. (sources included the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association)
  • Surveying fire department officials and teachers who have participated in the program in the past
  • Researching key program audiences and their media habits
  • Contacting potential educational partners to bring the CYC, CYB school program into classrooms
  • Investigating web-based methods of reaching the target audiences
  • Determining attitudes of Energizer employees toward the CYC, CYB program
  • Analyzing past CYC, CYB efforts to identify further opportunities to brand the message


For the 2000 program, we were seeking to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Reinforce Energizer and ICHIEFS ownership of the 13-year-old program at both a national and grassroots level
  • Demonstrate Energizer’s role as a responsible, caring corporate citizen 
  • Continue to generate national awareness of the CYC, CYB program among Energizer’s target audience -- families with children -- and create a greater connection with this target audience at a local level
  • Bring the Energizer CYC, CYB school program to a greater number of elementary school classrooms than in years past, and do it in a more compelling and impactful way
  • Generate sense of pride/excitement among Energizer employees and encourage them to take the “Change” message out to their local communities

To successfully meet these objectives, the following strategies were employed:

  • Retain a celebrity spokesperson to maximize publicity opportunities and message branding
  • Partner with a highly recognized and credible provider of in-school curriculum to bring the CYC, CYB school program into a greater number of classrooms and break through the clutter
  • Incorporate branded messages/visuals into program materials to increase Energizer ownership
  • Leverage ongoing relationships with ICHIEFS and the National Association of Hispanic Firefighters to grow participation in CYC, CYB among fire departments on a local level
  • Develop a program website targeting families with children
  • Encourage Energizer employees to spread the CYC, CYB message to children in their community
  • Execute an aggressive media relations campaign targeting national and local market media using daylight savings time as a news hook


Targeted key audience of families with children through:

  • Distribution of press materials to family and parenting publications
  • Partnership with Scholastic Marketing Partners, a trusted provider of in-school curriculum, to create and distribute an in-school program to 75,000 first through third grade classes.  The program taught CYC, CYB as part of overall home fire safety and featured Scholastic’s Magic School Bus characters and the Energizer Bunny.
  • Publishing Scholastic’s “Magic School Bus Gets Fired Up” home fire safety storybook incorporating the CYC, CYB message and Energizer Bunny, made available through mail-in offer
  • Coordination of school visits by Danny Glover (in Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta) and Energizer associates in cities across the country to read the Magic School Bus storybook and hand out free Energizer 9-volt batteries

Launch of program website (, offering home fire safety activities for parents and kids and information about promotional offers for 9-volt batteries and the Magic School Bus storybook

Secured Danny Glover as celebrity spokesperson for third year in a row to deliver credible, branded program messages through participation in a satellite media tour, national and local-market broadcast interviews and distribution of a public service announcement.  

Increased local community presence and outreach through:

Attendance at ICHIEFS and NAHF annual conventions to encourage grassroots participation

Distribution of new program banners with life-saving “Change” message to nearly 5,000 fire departments

Distribution of turn-key guidelines kits including Energizer messaging and visuals (such as ad slicks and program logos) to more than 5,300 fire departments nationwide

Donation of 250,000 batteries to assist fire departments in community smoke alarm canvasses 

Developed publicity tools for national and local media outreach, including:

Press kit featuring program background and statistics on home fires and smoke alarm maintenance distributed to dailies, TV news assignment desks and news radio stations

OP-ED letters sent to major newspapers on behalf of ICHIEFS president Chief “Smokey” Dyer

B-roll package featuring quotes from Chief Dyer and Danny Glover, along with footage of home fires and smoke alarm maintenance information

Newspaper and radio news releases distributed in both English and Spanish


Overall in 2000, the program reached more than 217.4 million people with its lifesaving message – 76 percent of the coverage included Energizer branding (vs. 55% branding in 1999).  Highlights include:

  • More than 320 television broadcast stories reached an audience of 56.6 million people in 48 of the top 50 markets.  National coverage included “The View,” “E! Entertainment” and CNN Radio Network.  
  • The CYC, CYB PSA aired 1,024 times during October and November to an audience of 22.1 million.
  • More than 138.7 million people read about the critical CYC, CYB reminder in 705 print stories.  Key placements included Ann Landers’ Syndicated Column, The Detroit News, Chicago Sun-Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

Nearly 4 million families across the country were reached with the CYC, CYB message through placements in parenting/family publications including Los Angeles Family and Dallas Child.

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