Getting America To "Take a Closer Look" For Missing Children
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Holmes Report

Getting America To "Take a Closer Look" For Missing Children

For nearly two decades, ADVO¡¯s ¡°America¡¯s Looking for Its Missing Children program¡± has been at the forefront of public efforts to help identify and recover missing and abducted children.

Paul Holmes

For nearly two decades, ADVO¡¯s ¡°America¡¯s Looking for Its Missing Children program¡± has been at the forefront of public efforts to help identify and recover missing and abducted children. Although the program has enjoyed significant success and many consumers do look at the missing child cards they receive, recent survey research and overwhelming anecdotal feedback has indicated that a certain segment of people who receive these cards pay relatively little attention to them.

Comments like ¡°there¡¯s no chance that the child featured on this card is located near me¡± or ¡°there¡¯s little chance that the kid on this card is even still alive¡± were typical reasons that some consumers gave for not giving the cards their full attention.

Keeping their ultimate goal ¨C to help recover as many children as possible ¨C in mind, ADVO realized that it needed to both raise the profile of the missing child card in the mind of the public and do so in a manner that would educate consumers about why it is important to look at the faces on these cards¡ªand if possible, to teach the public how to look at these cards in the most effective way possible. ADVO and Rowland knew that, with nearly 85 million ¡°Have You Seen Me?¡± cards being distributed to homes across America each week, any enhancement in the quantity or quality of time spent by consumers looking at these cards could have significant impact on the lives of the missing children and their families.

In addition, although ADVO has committed to the issue of missing children for entirely altruistic reasons, like most businesses it recognizes that there are certain business benefits to philanthropic endeavors as well. Traditionally ADVO had not capitalized on the fact that ¡°doing good¡± could also help them ¡°do good business.¡± The company looked to Rowland for ways to use the undeniably positive momentum of the missing child program to help build its relationships with customers and with key third-party groups on which it relies, such as the United States Postal Service, which delivers the vast majority of ADVO¡¯s direct mail advertising.

ADVO and Rowland¡¯s key audiences for this program were the general consumer public ¨C specifically the 85 million U.S. households which receive ADVO ¡°Have You Seen Me?¡± missing child cards each week ¨C and groups crucial to ADVO¡¯s business success, including ADVO¡¯s customers, particularly those who had indicated an interest in participating in some way in the ADVO missing child program; and the United States Postal Service. ADVO is the single-largest private sector customer of the USPS, and the USPS plays a huge role in the success of ADVO overall, since its carriers distribute the vast majority of ADVO¡¯s direct mail products and since the stability of postal rates is directly related to the profitability of ADVO.

In order to meet its objective of raising the profile of the missing child cards in the mind of consumers, ADVO and Rowland would need to:
¡Æ Explain to consumers the fact that these cards do work and that there is a chance that every American can make a difference by taking the time to look at the faces on the missing child cards they receive from ADVO.
¡Æ Give consumers simple, easy to remember tips on how to better remember the faces they see on the ADVO missing child cards and to provide consumers with actionable steps to take should they recognize a child that might be missing.

In order to meet its objective of using the positive energy that the ADVO missing child program generates to help strengthen relationships with key customers and third-party groups, ADVO and Rowland would need to integrate key third-parties/customers into ADVO¡¯s missing child activities and provide customers with value-added publicity benefits for their support of the ADVO missing child program
Rowland and ADVO executed this strategy through five main tactics.

In October 2003, Rowland and ADVO kicked off the ¡°Take a Closer Look¡± initiative by partnering with the USPS in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute. The exhibit ¨C entitled In the Line of Duty: Dangers, Disasters and Good Deeds ¨C focused on the heroic efforts of the USPS throughout its history and highlighted ADVO¡¯s partnership with the USPS in distributing ¡°Have You Seen Me?¡± cards. ADVO CEO Gary Mulloy and a child who was recovered as a result of the ADVO missing child program cut a ribbon at an event to officially open the exhibit.

Rowland conducted extensive media relations regarding this event, and earned ADVO and the USPS coverage in leading national newspapers such as the Arizona Republic. Rowland also placed ADVO executives on two high-profile national news programs as a result of this event. ADVO CEO Gary Mulloy appeared on CNBC¡¯s ¡°Morning Call¡± the day of the exhibit opening, and the following day, ADVO VP of Government Relations Vince Giuliano appeared on CNNfn¡¯s ¡°The Flip Side¡±.

One of the best ways to encourage people to pay closer attention to the faces on ADVO¡¯s ¡°Have You Seen Me?¡± missing child cards is to publicize how well these cards actually work. Rowland and ADVO had an opportunity to do just this in November 2003 when Raymond Miller, a young child who had been abducted, was recovered in Arizona as a result of someone having recognized his face from an ADVO missing child card. Rowland and ADVO conducted a recovery celebration event for Raymond which honored the post office that delivered the card that helped recover Raymond, as well as honoring the woman who recognized Raymond¡¯s face and called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help bring him home.

Through Rowland¡¯s media relations efforts, this event generated extensive media coverage ¨C with 9 stories (8 broadcast and 1 print) appearing in the Phoenix market the day of the recovery event. Each of these stories featured a poignant plea from the woman who recognized Raymond on the card, asking the public to ¡°please take a close look at these cards, because they do work.¡± Since this event also honored the post office workers who had a role in delivering the card that helped safely recover Raymond, this event also significantly enhanced ADVO¡¯s relationship with the USPS.

In May 2004, Rowland rolled-out a formal system of ¡°Take a Closer Look¡± tips to give consumers precise, actionable ways to ¡°take a closer look.¡± Rowland identified and worked with Jeanne Boylan, the nation¡¯s premier facial recognition expert, to develop this set of tips, and then ¨C with Ms. Boylan as spokesperson ¨C publicly announced this system of information on National Missing Child Day (May 25).

This outreach, which included a satellite media tour, matte release, radio interviews and other media relations efforts, generated extensive media coverage and greatly helped educate the public about what specific steps they could take to better process the information they see on the ADVO missing child cards, and how to use that information to help recover a child. In addition, a key element to Ms. Boylan¡¯s message architecture was to compliment the USPS for its role in the ADVO missing child program.

Each week, a different child is featured on the ADVO missing child cards, and Rowland complimented this weekly outreach with a corresponding media relations effort on behalf of each child featured. Rowland conducted weekly media relations efforts to local media in the areas where children were abducted and/or in areas where law enforcement believed a missing child might be located. In addition, when appropriate, Rowland also reached-out to national media outlets to raise awareness about certain cases as well.

A prime example of this strategy in action was the outreach Rowland did on behalf of Jacquilla Scales of Wichita, KS. Rowland was able to generate multiple stories about Jacquilla¡¯s plight -- 2 stories in the Wichita Eagle, an Associated Press Story and then a feature interview on the national Fox News program ¡°On the Record with Greta Van Susteren¡± with Jacquilla¡¯s mother and ADVO executive Vince Giuliano.

Rowland also helped ADVO take a proactive stance regarding missing children by encouraging parents to take a closer look at their own children now in case they should ever turn up missing. Law enforcement often reports that when a child goes missing, parents are often without a recent photo or updated height/weight information. To combat this problem, ADVO sponsored several KidCare ID events during which ADVO employees, and employees from key ADVO clients, would photograph and assemble an updated information file for parents. The KidCare ID booths, conducted at high-traffic locations, were also a boost for Rowland¡¯s media relations initiatives.

Rowland conducted successful media outreach regarding several KidCare ID events, including events in Las Vegas, Hartford and Cleveland ¨C where Rowland generated coverage of ADVO and participating customer Discount Drug Mart on all four network news affiliates and a statewide cable news program. In each these segments, ADVO employees and representatives of Discount Drug Mart encouraged consumers to take a closer look at their children and make sure they have current information about them. 

Through ¡°Take a Closer Look,¡± multiple program goals were achieved. Most importantly, during the course of the program, six missing children were identified and recovered because someone recognized a child from the picture they had seen on one of ADVO¡¯s Have You Seen me? Cards. This means that six children¡¯s lives were saved, six families were reunited, and untold numbers of people who know and love these children were spared from having to live each day not knowing where a certain special child is, and whether or not that child is alive or dead.

Tossing aside every other measure of success¡ªit is this statistic that means most to Rowland and the team at ADVO. To be a part of saving six lives is a very special honor.

From a public relations and business perspective, the dual goals of raising the profile of ADVO¡¯s missing child cards in the minds of consumers and utilizing the inertia of the missing child program to build relationships with key audiences were also achieved, with 20+ million media impressions generated and leading national media placements, including:
¡Æ Two appearances by ADVO executives on Fox News ¡°On the Record with Greta VanSusteren¡±
¡Æ Appearance by ADVO CEO on CNBC ¡°Morning Call¡±
¡Æ Appearance by ADVO senior executive on CNNfn ¡°The Flip Side¡±

Relationships with ADVO clients such as Discount Drug Mart strengthened by the integration of these clients into the ADVO KidCare ID program. Discount Drug mart alone received more than nine-stories worth of free, value-added publicity for it¡¯s participation in a KidCare ID event in Cleveland.

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