Paul Holmes 28 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
In January 2000, Sage Products announced its first product available to consumers -- Comfort Bath, a rinse-free cleanser and moisturizer. Sage Products, a leader in the manufacture and distribution of medical and healthcare products, had recently sold its market-dominating sharps disposal line to concentrate on pre-packaged bathing. Previously available only in hospitals, Comfort Bath made the leap to the mass market. The product and its introduction media campaign revolutionized cleansing for all those who have difficulty bathing.
Comfort Bath was, and is, the only product of its kind available to consumers. Therefore, its introduction to the target audience – seniors and caregivers – presented both opportunities and challenges. In its favor, Comfort Bath had a consumer following: discharged hospital patients had demanded the product be made available at retail outlets. Comfort Bath is also unique, lending the product a novelty often ferreted out by media. However, to the uninitiated, the concept of waterless bathing was difficult to grasp. In addition, many caregivers clung to the belief that truly helping their disabled loved ones meant giving them a “real” basin bath.
PR PLANNING PROCESS & OBJECTIVES:
The goal was clear: Comfort Bath must be brought from the hospital to the home. Research conducted by the PR team showed some caregiver emotional dissatisfaction with waterless bathing products – tied to a belief that taking the extra time to give a basin bath was a measure of how much one was loved. Therefore, Comfort Bath would be positioned in the media alongside caregiving authorities who would help Comfort Bath be adopted as a “standard of care” by seniors, the disabled and caregivers. The public relations program was designed to create widespread consumer awareness of the product through extensive media relations coverage.
To keep Comfort Bath in the news throughout its first year of mass-market availability, the PR team developed a three-pronged media relations program to support both national and local efforts. The plan focused on introducing media to the product through a national media campaign; gaining an authority point of view with a national survey of caregivers; and aligning the product with a key influencer group, the National Family Caregivers Association.
Product Introduction: The PR team positioned Comfort Bath as the first and only product of its kind, touting the brand as America’s introduction to portable bathing. The key to Comfort Bath’s first-ever media campaign was a comprehensive media kit designed to showcase the product and clearly deliver its clinically tested resume. The kit likened Comfort Bath to the revolutionary product Velcro and included a product sample – a necessity since portable, rinse-free bathing was a new concept for many. In addition, the kit contained a lead release, product information and slides, testimonials, and fact sheets with Comfort Bath’s independently tested skin-health study results. Fact sheet on caregiver statistics were also included. The PR team conducted extensive media relations to seniors/womens/features writers at daily newspapers; seniors syndicated columnists; womens magazines; mature lifestyle magazines; medical magazines; and business and trade media. In addition to features in major dailies across the country, the Comfort Bath product introduction was featured in a Knight-Ridder Wire Service feature story.
National Caregiver Survey: Armed with the knowledge that gaining the trust and alliance of caregivers was key to a successful product introduction, the PR team conducted a national survey of unpaid caregivers. The study was designed to gain an authority point of view while presenting news-you-can-use statistics about a national issue: last year, the number of American caregivers was estimated at 25 million. The survey revealed a staggering 50 percent of households that expect to become caregivers in the next five years. It also shed light on the number of caregivers who sacrifice personal, work and family time to provide for their loved ones.
The results, which showed that bathing was the No. 1 most time-consuming task for caregivers, were compiled in a compelling national media relations campaign that positioned Comfort Bath as a time-saving product, giving back 30 minutes per day to caregivers. In addition to a lead release with the survey statistics, the media campaign featured two statistically based fact sheets: “Caregivers with Careers,” which broke down the reasons behind employers’ loss of $29 billion per year to caregiving duties; and “Portrait of a Caregiver,” which defined the caregiver population via survey results. A third fact sheet used the survey results – ranking bathing as the most time-consuming task – as a base for caregiving tips and advice. Two camera-ready slides were also included with key survey results compiled into “USA Today-type” graphics. The lead release was distributed nationally by PR Newswire and the complete media kit was received by more than 200 media across the country. The result was blanket coverage in consumer media, including a Los Angeles Times Press Syndicate wire service story and features in top dailies throughout the country.
Comfort Bath Caregivers Award & National Family Caregivers Month: To solidify Comfort Bath’s relationship with caregivers, the PR team partnered the product with the National Family Caregivers Association – the premier organization of its kind dedicated to caregivers whose president, Suzanne Mintz, is quoted often by the Wall Street Journal as a caregiving expert. To kickoff the partnership with the NFCA, the PR team positioned Comfort Bath as a key benefactor of National Family Caregivers Month in November 2000. In addition, Comfort Bath also was a benefactor of the National Report on the Status of Caregiving in America, which revealed that the number of family caregivers in America, 54 million, was more than twice that of previous estimates. These shocking statistics were sent to 240 media outlets and select members of Congress, and received widespread attention in national media, including a USA Today Snapshot on Nov. 21, 2000.
To localize Comfort Bath’s sponsorship of National Family Caregivers Month, the PR team created the Comfort Bath Caregiver Award in the brand’s hometown of Chicago, Ill. The award was designed to create awareness of the needs of caregivers and inspire the public to take action by supporting caregivers. In its inaugural year, the award will honor five Chicago-area caregivers. Year 2000 Honorees were chosen to represent different types of caregivers: spousal, parent/child, child/parent – often called the “Sandwich Generation” – friend/neighbor and community. Honorees received a $1,000 grant to help them purchase caregiving aid and equipment. The award also included a “care”-package with a prepared gourmet meal and products to address the needs of each caregiver and their loved one.
A news release containing the details of the award was sent to greater Chicago media on Oct. 1, announcing that nominations would be accepted for the award through Oct. 3, and winners would be announced in November during National Family Caregivers Month. Extensive Chicago-area media relations placed award announcement stories in major Chicago media while PR team worked hand-in-hand with seniors centers to place nomination forms throughout the Chicago area. Nominations were also accepted online at www.comfortbath.com.
In its inaugural year, the Comfort Bath Caregiver Award honored five Chicago-area caregivers. A news release with information on the award and all five winners was distributed to print dailies, magazines, radio and broadcast media. Targeted local releases were distributed to each winner’s hometown daily and weeklies. The PR team secured local Mayoral Proclamations on behalf of three winners. In addition, Mayor Richard M. Daley of the City of Chicago proclaimed Nov. 22, 2000 as National Family Caregivers Day in the City of Chicago in honor of the five winners of the Comfort Bath Caregiver Award.
Every person nominated for the award received an honorary certificate from Comfort Bath and product samples. A letter was also sent to all those who had nominated a caregiver, thanking them for their love and support of caregivers in the Chicago region.
The public relations efforts surrounding the product launch of Comfort Bath generated the following results:
In total, the PR team produced media coverage with an estimated advertising value of $1.7 million and more than 16 million consumer impressions;
Secured 68 print and Internet placements;
Key trade publications covered Comfort Bath, including Physical Therapy Magazine, Dermatology Times, Nursing Management and New Mobility.
Consumer media coverage of the Comfort Bath product launch included Knight-Ridder Wire Service, Los Angeles Times Press Syndicate, Chicago Tribune, Dayton Daily News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Detroit News, Arizona Daily Star, Richmond-Times Dispatch, The Birmingham News and Tucson Citizen.
The extensive media coverage Comfort Bath received in its first year of mass distribution increased demand by consumers, according to Comfort Bath sales managers.
Sales centers across the country felt the impact of the public relations efforts. The sales centers received three-times the normal number of phone calls requesting the product in markets where newspaper stories appeared.
Sage Products understood that the increase in their sales was directly correlated to public relations and therefore have extended their p.r. budget for 2001.