In March 2009, the recession was continuing to wreak havoc on the lives of Americans in the form of mounting job losses and economic hardship. Beyond the scores of unemployed Americans, another face of the recession was beginning to emerge – that of children left vulnerable due to the loss of health insurance. Dr. Irwin Redlener, the president and co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), turned to DKC, the organization’s public relations partner for 17 years, to draw national awareness to the burgeoning crisis.
For more than 20 years, CHF, which was founded by Dr. Redlener and singer/songwriter Paul Simon in 1987, has delivered clinical care through mobile health care units – doctor offices on wheels – to impoverished children in urban and isolated rural areas across the nation.
Dr. Redlener recognized that even temporary unemployment, and the resulting loss of health insurance, could result in a lifetime of negative consequences for children. Without health insurance, most families would not be able to afford the immunizations and routine check-ups that are vital to the long-term well-being of their children. With the possibility that more than one million children across the country would lose their insurance due to the recession, this was an issue that demanded in-depth attention from the media.
DKC set out to create a national conversation on the plight of uninsured children, while positioning CHF as the leading voice on the matter. DKC created a multi-tiered media strategy that brought the stories of the ”children of the recession” to life, while illuminating the ways that the Children’s Health Fund was providing much-needed help to families in need.
DKC saw the enormity of the topic – and its inherent news value – and suggested to CHF that this idea be presented to an entire network news organization, rather than a single pitch to one program. DKC knew this tactic would enable the story to become an in-depth series of reports across multiple media platforms that would shed light on this national trend. DKC presented the idea to the President of CBS News, offering the opportunity to co-brand the topic entitled ”Children of the Recession,” and brokered live, taped and packaged news stories that would air throughout the month of May – sweeps month – across the network’s various news broadcasts.
As part of the series, CBS highlighted CHF’s efforts to go into various regional markets hit hard by the recession and provide health care to children in need. CBS captured the kick-off of this campaign in Detroit, one of the most adversely affected markets by the recession, on the network’s ”Early Show” and ”Evening News with Katie Couric” news programs The broadcasts showcased CHF at its best, as it administered a weekend of free care to the children of any family without health insurance.
In addition, over the course of the series, CHF was established as the leading agent of action on the issue. Dr. Redlener was interviewed numerous times, while data credited to CHF was interspersed throughout the reports.
A true multi-platform campaign, reports under the heading of ”Children of the Recession” ran across CBS television, radio and online. USA Today, the highest circulation print daily in the country, was also brought on as a print partner, a relationship that resulted in stand-alone coverage of CHF’s efforts to tackle this national problem, while bringing increased attention to the CBS series.
High-level national coverage was complemented by regional coverage in Detroit surrounding CHF’s weekend of free health care. CHF’s regional campaign is ongoing, with planned stops in seven other cities struggling due to the recession.
Through the ”Children of the Recession” campaign, CHF accomplished its primary goal by illuminating the gravity and scope of the problem to a national audience. At the same time, it brought significant attention to CHF’s services, ensuring that uninsured families across the country were aware of the health options available to their children. The series also bolstered Dr. Redlener’s status as one of the country’s foremost experts on children’s health care, and has become a trusted resource for CBS News in future reporting.
CBS earned positive reviews for the series, as highlighted in a New York Daily News piece by media columnist Richard Huff. The piece noted the perspective of media expert Andrew Tyndall, who said, ”I give it high marks in terms of concept. That’s a really good way for a news division to cover non-breaking news.”