The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world's largest private organization concerned solely with finding cures for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improving the quality of life of patients and their families. Two years ago, the Society inaugurated “Light The Night” – a national fundraising walk in major cities that was designed to be the centerpiece in its annual fundraising program. The first year fell short by many important yardsticks – dollars raised, media attention, “buzz,” and chapter enthusiasm, to name a few. The Society turned to Booth to put some pizzazz in this potentially glittering program and to establish it as the pre-eminent fundraising event across the country. The results: Total fundraising revenue doubled to $9 million over previous year; 50% more participants in the walks; and 100 million media impressions.
Booth’s PR challenges were to 1) Compete for and win significant national media attention amid the clutter of national charity fundraising events and, 2) “Brand” the Society’s Light The Night Walk with a repeating theme that would carry it from year to year and cause chapters to “get on board” in record numbers. Like Race for the Cure and the AIDS Walk, the Society needed to find a distinguishing feature that would generate annual anticipation for its walk among its constituents and stimulate local and national media coverage.
Considerable time needed to be spent with the National Office of the Society -- as well as its flagship chapter office in New York City where the largest Light The Night Walk would take place -- to assess logistics, participation goals, celebrity and public official involvement, and prior media attention. As it turned out, the Society had enlisted a “National Youth Ambassador” – an appealing 12-year-old leukemia survivor who was also a musician and singer – to lead the NYC walk.
Booth’s strategy for Light The Night was designed to meet and overcome both challenges of needing to cut through media clutter and to “brand” Light The Night nationwide. We determined that the Society needed a signature event that it would “own” and build on year after year. Further, we understood that the Society’s mission -- which involved children and their parents struggling with potential fatal illnesses -- created a platform for generating tremendous media appeal.
Booth’s campaign, carried out over three months and culminating with the Light The Night Walk on September 21, 2000, was built on these components:
Light The Night Skyscraper Challenge – As a result of Booth work, the red-and-white lighted Empire State Building became the kickoff skyscraper in a nationwide challenge to get important buildings in major cities to Light The Night for Leukemia and Lymphoma. Booth worked with ESB to secure the lighting and worked with local chapters to identify and enlist local building participants. On the evening of September 21, the Empire State Building blazed with Light The Night colors and kicked off the local Light The Night Walk in a series of walks across the country.
National Media Campaign: Understanding the media appeal of the young Light The Night Walk Ambassador, Booth booked personal appearances on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The CBS Early Show and interviews and coverage on six NYC television stations plus 71 local market stories.
In a single day, Booth’s campaign achieved the following:
- 100 million media impressions generated including a 3-minute segment on “Rosie”
- Total fundraising revenue almost doubled to $9 million over the previous year
- 71 local market stories ran, most in major markets
- 50% more participants walked in the 2000 Light the Night