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MEDIA ALERT: New Duracell/Red Cross Campaign on Emergency Preparedness Walks Fine Line

February 20, 2003

The new emergency preparedness public service campaign launched by the American Red Cross and Duracell, the battery division of The Gillette Company, walks a fine line but may still be successful, says Simon Moore, crisis communications expert and professor of Information Design and Corporate Communications at Bentley College in Waltham, MA.

The "Together We Prepare" campaign advises six steps to becoming a safe family, including enrolling in a Red Cross lifesaving course and assembling an emergency kit that including batteries. Moore says the campaign must find a balance between being a true public service and exploiting America's fear of a terrorist attack.

"However genuine the intention, the slightest misjudgment - one inappropriate word or sentence - can take companies swiftly down the road to a [public relations] nightmare," Moore says.

"But let's remember that companies, whether food firms or pharmaceutical giants, often link social issues to their product or corporate identity. What is unusual is that this issue happens to be terrorism. We're just not used to that, and it feels somewhat different to promoting the need for a healthy diet or regular medical checkups.

"Still, if it's done sensitively there need be nothing inappropriate about a battery maker getting involved in homeland security. The biggest problem may be dealing with uninformed but influential coverage and comment about the campaign, rather than the campaign's actual content."

Simon Moore is an expert on crisis communications and professor of Information Design and Corporate Communications at Bentley College in Waltham, MA. He is author of "Crisis 2010" (forthcoming), "An Invitation to Public Relations" (Cassell/Continuum, 1999) and "Effective Crisis Management: Worldwide Principles and Practice" (Cassell, 1996) and consults on crisis communications in the information age.

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