For a successful PR campaign, timing may be everything.
With any issue-based campaign you can spend weeks, even months, strategizing every detail. But in the end, your biggest success may just come down to when events occur – including events you weren’t even planning on. The recent success of our Give5ToPCA campaign for Philadelphia Children’s Alliance is one of those episodes where unexpected factors helped drive the final momentum.
Philadelphia Children’s Alliance (PCA) is a non-profit that promotes healing and justice for sexually abused children in Philadelphia. The organization was approached before the 2017 NFL season by Eagles tight end Trey Burton, who offered a significant donation and the promise to get directly involved. Burton brought teammates Nick Foles and Jordan Hicks to tour the PCA’s facility and strategize ways to use their public platform to elevate this difficult issue. After a dinner with the players and PCA’s staff, the “Give5ToPCA” campaign was born.
The three Eagles collectively donated $50,000 to Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. Our firm, Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy, was tasked with creating and implementing a digital strategy that challenged Eagles fans to donate to PCA a small amount – just $5 each – in an effort to match the players’ laudable gift.
The campaign began with general excitement. PCA staff, board members and partner organizations were excited to see big-name local athletes promoting the cause and organization. But early in the season, Hicks – the Eagles’ starting middle linebacker – sustained a season-ending injury and a bit of momentum was lost.
We hosted an “Eagles Watch Party,” which pushed fundraising and brought new donors and supporters to the forefront of the issue of child sexual abuse. But with a campaign that was contingent upon the football team’s success and popularity, we were genuinely unsure how or when this project would end.
When all-star quarterback Carson Wentz tore his ACL in early December, we were in shock - as fans and as PR professionals. On one hand, we were concerned for the team and how this changed its lofty prospects for the season. On the other hand, our advocate Nick Foles had effectively become the starting quarterback for a team that was doing well.
As Nick became a more popular and visible player, Trey too was getting a bigger name for himself – on and off the field. Even in the now famous SuperBowl play, we saw Nick and Trey working in tandem to bring us to victory. Off the field, Trey was a genuine driver of this campaign – he kept in constant contact with Philadelphia Children’s Alliance to make sure that the issue of child sexual abuse was one that mattered to Philadelphia. After helping us become SuperBowl champions, he even reached out to Glen Macnow with the ask of coming on his radio show to discuss the issue and campaign.
We made the strategic decision to continue pushing the campaign’s message until the Eagles’ season was over. Our hope was that, even without Wentz, they could stay competitive into the post-season. But I can’t honestly tell you that at the time, we expected one of our three campaign spokesmen to lead the Eagles to an NFL championship in Super Bowl LII – a game where he played brilliantly and was named Most Valuable Player.
Two weeks before that amazing Super Bowl, I watched the Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship game. Although the Eagles were an underdog – not the first or last time this season –they pulled it off. Convincingly, by the way. And the No. 1 star of the game was one of our three spokesmen, Nick Foles.
As a fan, I was delighted. As a PR pro, I saw the creation of a sudden opportunity.
At this point, we at Ceisler Media had two weeks to capitalize on the Eagles’ momentum and create a miniature campaign that was reflective of the past five months. It was at this moment that “#Give5ToPCA - Road to the Super Bowl” was created.
From a messaging standpoint, not much had to change. We altered some language to reflect how reporters and commentators were referring to the Eagles and Foles, but the ask was still the same: Three local soon-to-be Super Bowl champions gave $50,000 to help sexually abused children. Will you show support by giving $5?
We kicked up the frequency, posting on social media five-plus times per day. We sent this story to local and national reporters, many of whom were receptive to this feel-good sports story. Radio personalities, elected officials, business leaders and the players themselves began posting messages that we sent them to promote the cause.
And we used the social media audience and radio platform of Ceisler Media consultant Glen Macnow to speak about the campaign. Glen hosted PCA Executive Director Chris Kirchner on the air, allowing her to speak to 25,000 radio listeners about how “#Give5ToPCA” came to be.
The result? Suddenly we saw donations arrive from across the country from young, male sports fans – not the typical donor base for child sexual abuse intervention. Corporate donors and board members forwarded our electronic requests and even solicited small-dollar donations at Super Bowl watch parties.
And the rest is glorious history. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, Nick Foles was the game’s MVP and Philadelphia had a wonderfully energetic parade to celebrate its first NFL title in 57 years.
I’d love to tell you we at Ceisler Media planned it that way. But, really, we were just able to capitalize on wonderful circumstances.
Many people put forth an immense effort to drive this campaign’s success. It took time, energy, strategy and an outpouring of external support. But a great deal of this campaign’s success was due to timing.
We had no control over how well the Eagles would perform. But as they got closer to the Super Bowl, the campaign gained momentum.
We had no control over the visibility or popularity of our player advocates. But as Nick Foles was put in a prominent role, the campaign gained momentum.
We had very little control over the outward push from our partners. But as the Eagles got closer to the Super Bowl, fans across the country were excited to join in our efforts - and the campaign gained momentum.
A good campaign takes the precise planning of messaging and resources, but it also takes the ability to account for the unplannable. Sometimes timing and luck will drive success. It’s our job to embrace the unforeseen factors and make them work with the planned factors.
If you’re interested in learning more about this campaign and want to be a part of something bigger – please visit www.give5topca.org.
Max Weismanis a Senior Associate in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia office.