Effectively appealing to diverse audiences through public relations campaigns can be viewed as a tough problem or a great opportunity. PCI, in their 2011 silver anvil award-winning campaign for Howard Brown Health Center, saw its opportunity to utilized the strong lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & questioning (LGBTQ) community to its benefit.
After being subject to investigation for inappropriately using grant funds, the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago was facing the reality that they would be shut down in approximately 50 days due to a financial crisis. After calling on PCI for help, the lifeline appeal was utilized in a PR campaign to get help from the LGBTQ community. To understand the financial crisis and the community’s concerns, PCI conducted primary research by interviewing Howard Brown’s CEO, senior staff, board members and four members of peer LGBTQ service organizations.
This research highlighted people’s concerns with supporting Howard Brown and allowed PCI to form a plan to alleviate fears about mismanagement and to gain community support. According to the PRSA case study, the plan included accepting responsibility and executing complete transparency while developing long- and short-run plans to pay back the grant fund. Continuously emphasizing the fact that Howard Brown would shut down if it did not get $500,000 in 50 days, it released videos of personal stories of lives changed and saved as a result of Howard Brown. These videos were posted daily on all of the center’s social networking sites and website to remind the LGBTQ community of the positive things the center has done, of the lives that it has saved and of the difference it has made (this in my opinion was possibly the most clever thing they did to gain donations). They encouraged healthcare advocates, LGBT community leaders, elected officials, and AIDS/HIV researchers to publicize and speak out about saving the center. Meanwhile, PCI encouraged LGBTQ bars and health clubs to hold fundraising events to spread awareness about the campaign.
By calling on primarily LGBTQ support, the campaign used this diverse and strong community to spread awareness and gain funds for Howard Brown Health Center. Appealing to LGBT community leaders, publications, health clubs and bars not only gave the campaign and health center credibility but also united the LGBTQ community in helping to save Howard Brown. PCI brought in more than $650,000, saving Howard Brown Health Center and consequently the lives of many sick LGBT people. This case exemplifies effectively researching and then appealing to a diverse target audience.