Case Study: CCPHA and Brown-Miller Communications


In 2005 the California Center for Public Advocacy (CCPHA) teamed with Brown-Miller Communications to introduce two new bills (SB 12 and SB 965) in the state of California which would eliminate junk food and sodas in schools to combat obesity. Childhood obesity has been an increasing problem in California that has seldom been addressed by legislators. Through extensive research and media analysis, the CCPHA and Brown-Miller Communications were able to create a successful campaign to win passage of the legislation.

The CCPHA and Brown-Miller Communications wanted to make legislators accountable for the rising obesity numbers in their own district. By creating a campaign that focused on research, community outreach and voting trends, they were able to pass laws that would ban junk food and sodas in California schools, in hopes of reducing the childhood obesity numbers.

The key tactic used in this campaign was research on the target audiences. The voting history of all 80 State Assembly members was accounted for to see who usually supported health initiatives and who was still unsure. A media analysis of which news outlets were in favor of healthy standards helped figure out which ones would support the new legislation.

  • Made personal contact with media personal to give the correct facts and stats about childhood obesity in their specific district
  • Sent out childhood obesity research information to California legislators before voting
  • Met with media to discuss what information was important to give to legislators and the public
  • Created a safe media environment, where legislators in favor of the bills spoke candidly about their support
  • Issued press releases and media alerts about the progress of the legislation
  • Met personally with the governor of California to secure his backing on the campaign

The campaign was successful, and both bills (SB 12 and SB 965) were passed. The CCPHA and Brown-Miller Communications were able to push childhood obesity in California to the top of the legislators’ list instead of it continuing to always be dismissed. The passing of the bill prompted other state legislators to consider changing the school food regulations in their own state in the hopes of decreasing their childhood obesity problems.

The extensive research behind this campaign was what made it successful. Quickly gaining the support of legislators with a history of supporting health initiatives allowed them to speak openly to the media about why it should pass, using specific facts and numbers on the issue as support. This, in turn, swayed legislators who were usually on the fence to vote in favor of the bills.

I think that the CCPHA and Brown-Miller Communications could have reached out to the community more to gain support. If the district legislators would have seen that the public was also in favor of these bills, they might have passed it sooner.


4 Best Practices in Media Relations

by Amanda Craig

Photo by Kevrekidis on DeviantArt.

One way to get information out to the public is by making use of the media that reaches it every day. Understanding the best practices in media relations today will help you to secure some media coverage for your story. Be professional in how you communicate with them so that you can establish a working relationship for the future. Journalists can receive close to 1,000 email pitches a day, so it is extremely important stand out from the rest by following these best practices. Avoid these commonly overlooked errors in media relations and be sure to follow the four below.

1. Don’t forget about storytelling: The most important aspect of pitching to the media is making your story newsworthy. Journalists want to share content that will interest their audience, so go above and beyond to make your story stand out above the rest with details and information that sparks a reader’s interest.

2. Credibility is key: Only include accurate information that will not mislead the journalist or the public. Journalists’ reputations depend on the information that gets sent to them, so never lie or exaggerate to get your story noticed.

3. Always be accountable: Media relations is about having people skills. Strive to make the journalists’ jobs easier by respecting deadlines and sending out work that has been polished and edited for errors. Always include contact information for you and your company, and be ready to follow up with additional details if needed.

4. Target your pitch: One way to gain some media coverage on your story is by making sure you are pitching to the right audience. Instead of emailing or calling every single journalist in your contact list, take some time to find out which journalists cover the specific industry you are pitching.

The Value of Infographics

by Amanda Craig
Susan G. Komen Infographic - 1

Infographic for Susan G. Komen for the Cure made by Amanda Craig. Click to enlarge.

This week I created an infographic for an assignment in my strategic public relations communication course. I was “hired” by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to assist with effectively communicating a message to their audience. The infographic was designed to educate women about the importance of regular screenings and how it can make a difference in their survival rates for breast cancer. The call to action included asking women to sign up for email reminders with information about when they should schedule their next screening.

Infograhics are a great tool to communicate important and useful information to broad audiences. Sometimes statistics and data can seem dry and hard to comprehend, but using visuals can help to reduce the core message into simpler terms that everyone can understand. Infographics are also easy to share via social media and are convenient to post around events when people are moving in fast-paced environments.

Here are some tips for creating an infographic: (I made mine in InDesign, but you can use a site like piktochart for pre-made templates and graphics)

  • Don’t start without a plan. Take some extra time to define the core problem that the infographic will address, who the audience will be and what the call to action is.
  • Infographics are meant to persuade your audience to believe something or do something, not to sell so really consider the message that you communicate. Research credible sources to find data that will support your message and strategically place them in your infographic. Even though it is a visual tool, storytelling is still extremely important. Tell a story with your data that contains a beginning, middle and end.
  • Keep your infographic simple. Don’t overwhelm it with too much information that viewers will not take the time to read. Only use a few colors that aren’t too bright or overpowering and stick to one font with different style treatments such as different sizes, bold or italics.
  • Use the opportunity to creatively engage with your audience.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand Reputation

By Amanda Craig

Brand reputation is everything these days. One easy way companies can maintain a positive reputation is practicing good corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is a company’s initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s impact on social welfare and effects on the environment. It is an opportunity to make your brand stand out from the rest while benefitting both the company and the public. There are many different types of CSR, ranging from the environment to community projects. A few common CSR practices are listed below.


Infographic courtesy of Lab42.

Sustainability: Creating a business and manufacturing model that reduces environmental impact. An excellent example is NIKE Inc., which created the Reuse-A-Shoe CSR program. They collected old and worn athletic shoes and recycled them to make new athletic surfaces such as basketball courts or running tracks. This allowed them to reduce their environmental footprint by giving new life to shoes that would otherwise be heading toward the landfill.

Philanthropy: Making contributions to the community including education initiatives, charity donations or neighborhood beautification projects. Common philanthropic CSR programs include donating a portion of its sales on specific products to charity or nonprofit organizations.

Ethical labor practices: Treating employees fairly by ensuring fair pay and safe labor conditions. The Walt Disney Company is known for treating their “cast members,” or employees to most companies, exceptionally well. This dynamic creates a positive environment for employees to thrive, which leaves customers satisfied.

Good CSR can increase profits and brand popularity. According to a Nielsen Study, “55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact”. Companies that make this a priority will reap in the benefits in terms of customer relationships and loyalty.

Consumers are much more likely to trust in a brand who they view as socially responsible. Weaving your company’s brand in with CSR programs is a great way to increase exposure and build a positive reputation with consumers. Check out these companies with the best CSR reputations to get some ideas for your company’s next social responsibility initiative.

Brand Management in the Midst of a Crisis

By Amanda Craig

Crisis Communications The most important aspect of a company is its brand. It’s one of the easiest ways to show potential customers and clients what your business is all about and public perceptions of a brand can greatly influence how successful business is.

The way a company responds in the midst of a crisis is crucial to maintaining its brand value. Crises can spin out of control and tarnish a brand if they aren’t handled the right way.

The biggest piece of advice is to have a plan set in place for crisis communications so that you are ready to address the situation right when it occurs. Create a checklist of items to run through as soon as possible to make sure everyone is on the same page with what’s going on. You must delegate who will be making the major communication decisions internally to the rest of the staff and externally to the media. Always remember, it can take years to build a positive reputation but only minutes to destroy it. Check out these tips to get prepared.

It is important to publicly acknowledge that there is an issue and the company is working to solve it. Respond to the crisis thoughtfully and in a timely manner to the press and on social media sites so that the public is stays informed. Don’t allow short-term thinking to destroy the long-term value of the brand and the business.

A company must be transparent in the midst of responding to a crisis. Consumers lose trust in brands that try to cover up a scandal or lie about the seriousness of an issue they are involved in.

Crises are never good for any brand but it doesn’t mean that all will be lost. Be prepared, respond thoughtfully and remain transparent.

7 Social Media Missteps

By Amanda Craig

Social media is a great way to increase engagement between a company and its audience. If done right, it can bring significant success to the business. However, with the ability for followers to “unfollow” a company at the click of a button, it is extremely important to be strategic about how to post on social media. Below are 7 common social media blunders that every company should avoid.

  1. An imbalance of power

    Don’t focus too much on one specific social media platform because you could miss out on reaching a portion of your audience that is active on another. On the other hand, don’t spread yourself too thin and try and keep up with every single new social media tool that is introduced. Find where your audience is most active and use sites that are the most relevant to your industry.

  2. Careless posts

    A tweet with a broken hyperlink or a Facebook post with a spelling error is a sure way for a company to lose credibility. Double and triple check that each post you make is accurate and correct to avoid misleading information and confusing your audience. Casualty comes easy on social media, but don’t forget to be professional.

  3. Being impersonal

    Show your followers that your company cares by eliminating automated responses and engaging with them in real time. Respond to comments, whether they are positive or negative, in a respectful and timely manner. Always admit mistakes and be ready to step in for a little damage control if necessary – transparency is a great way to get people to trust into a brand. If you do get negative comments or feedback on a post, follow these steps to neutralize the situation.

  4. Being inconsistent

    Post content at peek times during the day so that your audience doesn’t miss out on important information. Don’t overwhelm the news feed with multiple posts in one day; on the other hand, don’t let your accounts sit without any activity for too long. Find the sweet spot when your audience is online and post regularly.

  5. Being irrelevant


    A tweet from Kenneth Cole during the Arab Spring in 2011. Yikes!

    Don’t get involved with topics that have nothing to do with your company’s core message. Trending hashtags can seem like a good idea for your posts, but they may stand for something that does not line up with your message. While it is easy to express your opinions and personal views on social media, stick to engaging with your audience about topics that are related to the brand.

  6. Bad timing

    The ability to schedule posts in advance on most social media sites saves time and makes life easier for the communication team. However, crises do occur and nothing is worse that a scheduled post seeming tasteless in regards to the current situation. Keep up with the news and put a halt to scheduled posts so that your company doesn’t seem inconsiderate.

  7. Forgetting to analyze data

    Companies that don’t know which types of content and posts are engaging their audience are failing to communicate strategically. Use a site like Google Analytics to see what’s working and what’s not so that you can improve your social media presence.

Always remember to be strategic, professional and polite with the information you share on social media and your company could benefit greatly.

Why Taco Bell Is So Successful On Social Media

By Amanda Craig


It’s easy to see how mastering the art of social media can make a difference in the popularity of an organization. If used correctly, social media can increase company exposure and website traffic, improve online search rankings and generate a larger consumer audience, all while reducing marketing expenses.

One brand that leads the pack in the social media world of followers, likes and retweets is Taco Bell. They use social media to engage with their consumers and promote products in real time, which has lead to an increase in sales. Taco Bell has been able to establish social media profiles with huge numbers of loyal fans, and is among the top three fast food restaurants on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Their content generates the more likes, shares and retweets than most major brands.

Taco Bell has been so successful on social media simply because they understand their target audience.taco_bell_old_spice Their typical consumer is of a younger generation, and their posts speak to this. Their posts use popular culture references, and they make sure to keep up with trending topics on the Internet. This makes it feel like a friend is casually speaking to you, not just a brand trying to sell their products.

Another aspect of Taco Bell’s social media strategy that has been very successful is their engagement with followers. They use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other popular sites to announce new products, which creates hype and incentive for consumers. For example, Taco Bell developed customer anticipation for the release of the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco by giving select loyal fans on social media the opportunity to try the new tacos one day before the general public. According to the SocialBro Twitter blog, the offer generated 20,000 responses, including nearly 4,000 shares, and ultimately led to the most-successful product launch in the company’s 50-year history selling 100 million units in its the first 10 weeks.

Taco Bell truly has social media figured out. Their posts come off effortless, but the strategy behind each one shows in the amount of responses and increases in sales.