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Public relations shines bright light on Delaware skin cancer

We needed to face the problem.Protect Your Skin Delaware

Whether enjoying our famous beaches, working outside or just relaxing in the summer sun, Delawareans spend a lot of time outside. So what’s the big deal? Well, ultraviolet radiation from the sun — and indoor tanning — have done some serious damage in the First State. The most recent report from the Delaware Division of Public Health (DDPH) found the state’s melanoma incidence rate is now the fourth-highest in the country. Additionally, many people don’t put melanoma and skin cancer into the same deadly category as prostate, breast, colorectal and other cancers.

We identified our target audiences…

It’s not just beach regulars who are getting overexposed. We needed our message to reach young people, their parents and people with a family history of skin cancer. Another at-risk population was people who work outside. With Delaware farmers earning the title of “most productive and efficient in the nation,” the campaign had to take root in the state’s fertile fields.

…and developed a public relations strategy.

With another bright and sunny Delaware summer on the horizon, the AB&C PR team targeted May — Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month — as its campaign launch date. The team wanted to spread the word not only through DDPH cancer experts, but also through people with direct experience battling this often underestimated cancer. So AB&C recruited, interviewed and recorded two extremely passionate skin cancer advocates. Each testimonial speaker’s story related to a different group within our target audience.

Finally, the PR team wanted “boots on the ground” at popular summer hangouts and events to educate Delawareans in all three counties on skin protection.

Our PR team got to work.

Testimonials from Samantha Gustafson, who lost her 28-year-old husband Brett to melanoma, and Terri Stoakley, who endured seven facial surgeries due to years of outdoor and indoor tanning, were so powerful that the campaign website — — was completely reorganized to feature these dramatic stories.

In April, the team enlisted 30 partners across the state to share campaign materials and messages. Once the clock struck May, the PR team hit the road — setting up shop at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand, the Delaware Sports League, the Delaware Farm Bureau and several farmers’ markets throughout the state.

At the same time, the PR team was busy sharing the testimonials and Delaware’s skin cancer story. In the month of May alone, the media relations effort resulted in 32 news stories in a state with limited media outlets. Coverage appeared in broadcast, radio, print and online sites.

The campaign is a success.

Due to the tremendous success of this May effort, the campaign will continue throughout the summer with social media, including promoted posts and contests, visits to national youth sporting events and local camps, and more media outreach on the docket.

DDPH continues to monitor cancer incidence and mortality figures each year. Time will tell how the skin cancer campaign benefited Delaware in 2014, but we don’t have to wait for the next report to know that people are sharing the message and taking the disease seriously.

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