Caron Treatment Centerswww.caron.org
Caron Treatment Centers, a nationally renowned nonprofit provider of drug and alcohol treatment headquartered in Pennsylvania, worked with Affect to increase awareness of the services it offers at multiple facilities around the United States.
Part of Caron’s mission is to educate the public about emerging addiction issues affecting families and communities across the country. To help Caron achieve this goal, Affect developed a strategy of identifying breaking news stories with the potential to spark public dialogue and raise awareness on drug and alcohol addiction with the goal of preventing further pain, suffering and tragedy.
Conducting a media relations campaign around a sensitive topic like addiction represents a formidable challenge. Drug and alcohol abuse are dark and difficult subjects to address with top-tier media outlets. Typically, mainstream publications are only moved to cover these issues following the release of new research studies or when a notable figure has a very public and embarrassing incident that results in an overdose or a trip to rehab.
Caron, unlike many treatment centers, is highly protective of its patients – even those that are high profile. However, when stories of addiction surface in the news cycle, they can provide an opportunity to educate the public on the science of addiction and potentially help families in similar situations. With this aim in mind, Affect worked to identify breaking stories around the topic of addiction that would allow Caron to intervene in the news cycle while simultaneously maintaining a deep appreciation for the sensitivity surrounding these issues.
The campaign’s objectives included:
- Using breaking news and high profile stories to raise awareness and public education around addiction and treatment in mainstream media outlets
- Elevating Caron spokespersons and medical experts as thought leaders on drug and alcohol abuse
- Establishing relationships with top-tier media outlets to position Caron as a go-to source for analysis and commentary on addiction related issues
DEVELOPING A STRATEGY
Affect understood Caron’s deep level of expertise and commitment to providing the public with vital information regarding addiction and drug and alcohol treatment. They key was figuring out how to insert Caron into media conversations that occurred in the wake of high profile addiction related stories without appearing opportunistic.
Affect began by conducting substantial research on reporters and publications that cover addiction from multiple angles. In addition, the Affect team monitored news on an ongoing basis to quickly identify breaking stories that would provide an opening for Caron to offer expert commentary and analysis. At the heart of Affect’s strategy, however, was a plan that not only focused on immediate responses to breaking news but offered compelling “Day Two” stories to lifestyle, health, and science reporters as well. These stories would allow Caron to provide expert commentary that contextualized the public health issues at stake surrounding specific types of addiction.
EXECUTION: USING BREAKING NEWS TO RAISE PUBLIC AWARENESS
July 2013 marked the unfortunate passing of actor Cory Monteith, best known for his role as Finn Hudson on the Fox television show Glee, of an apparent drug overdose. In the immediate aftermath, celebrity media focused primarily on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Monteith’s untimely death. Affect, however, saw this as an opportunity to raise public awareness and worked with Caron to educate the public on the recent rise in addiction among young adult males.
Affect identified specific reporters that cover addiction from the perspective of health and wellness, not just celebrity news, and offered experts capable of providing guidance and advice to families that have a loved one in the throes of addiction. Specifically, the Affect team developed two story angles. The first dealt with the reasons why addiction in males needs to be handled differently than addiction in females. The second provided insight regarding how to identify and help someone who is a highly functioning addict. The more in-depth, “Day Two” stories offered journalists valuable content for their readership and allowed Caron to showcase its expertise and establish itself as a primary source of information and analysis on addiction related issues.
Affect’s efforts resulted in a premier placement on the U.S. News & World Report website that receives more than five million visitors per month. A Caron spokesperson, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, was interviewed exclusively for the in-depth piece. The reporter, Angela Haupt, was so impressed with the Caron organization and their work that she decided to write a two-part follow up story with Mike Devlin, a former patient at Caron, and his mother, Anita. The initial story, as well as the resulting profile of Mike and Anita, helped Caron reach a wide audience and share a story of hope and success that could help inspire other young men to seek treatment for their addictions.