Georgia Cancer Specialists‘s (GCS) Totes 2 Tots suitcase drive for foster children is an amazing event and one of Lenz’s favorite of the year. New and nearly new suitcases, backpacks, diaper bags, totes, and duffel bags are collected at GCS offices on the Friday leading into the MLK weekend and distributed to foster children throughout Georgia with the help of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
The 2013 event collected 3,132 bags; and in 11 years, the event has led to the collection and distribution of more than 33,000 new or nearly bags to Georgia’s foster children.
Twenty-four GCS offices in Metro Atlanta and North and Central Georgia participate every year; communities and media from Blue Ridge to Hawkinsville need to be alerted.
There are several ways Lenz promotes the event—media partnerships, social media, metro/region-wide media (TV, radio), local monthlies, weeklies, dailies, and online news sites.
A major milestone happened in 2005, when Lenz PR Director Ryan Klee pitched the Totes 2 Tots event to WSB-TV’s Family 2 Family (F2F) public service project. WSB concurred and brought Totes under the F2F umbrella, which exponentially increased Totes’ visibility in Metro Atlanta.
The F2F partnership means Totes receives 15 second PSAs that air during all major newscasts for weeks leading up to the event; a segment in People 2 People–WSB’s dedicated public affairs show–several hundred long sleeve t-shirts for all the GCS and DFCS staff volunteers; and fliers created and posted at several of the F2F underwriter’s locations, including Kroger, Northside Hospital, American Signature Furniture, Scana Energy, and Southwest Airlines.
This partnership is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and garners countless impressions every year. For the 2013 event alone, Totes received 49 PSAs and one P2P segment, totaling more than $55,000 of in-kind air time, and millions of impressions on the biggest, highest-rated local news station in Atlanta.
Lenz was also able to secure 1.6 million impressions on two Clear Channel Outdoor digital billboards: one in the heart of Midtown Atlanta on I-75 and another on I-75 in one of the busiest corridors near Highway 5 in Cobb County.
And Lenz found the perfect partnership in Central Georgia: Clear Channel’s Communities initiative. Clear Channel agreed to support Totes by airing hundreds of PSAs, and performing interviews with local GCS physicians on their top three stations.
Lenz didn’t stop with the partnerships; the Lenz PR machine kept cranking, garnering additional radio, print, and online coverage in Atlanta media outlets such as WSB-AM, Best Self magazine, Jezebel magazine, Atlanta INtown paper, the AJC, Atlanta Parent magazine, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Atlanta Inquirer, Marietta Daily Journal, Henry Herald, 104.7 FM The Fish, FaithTalk970 AM, Talk 920 AM, Biz1190 AM, Star 94, Atlanta Daily World, Forsyth News, Rockdale Citizen, Newton Citizen, Gwinnett Daily Post, Dallas New Era, The Atlanta Voice, Northside Neighbor, Douglas Neighbor, Paulding Neighbor, DeKalb Neighbor, and every Patch.com news site that covers a local GCS office.
In Macon/Central Georgia, Totes appeared on TV and radio media outlets such as Fox 24, WIBB 97.9 FM, V101.7 FM, 13 WMAZ, and 41 WMGT.
In Athens, Totes appeared in the Athens Banner Herald; and in Blue Ridge, The News Observer spread the word.
In the social media/digital space, we mobilized more than 1,000 followers on GCS’s Facebook page with constant Totes updates. We also refocused efforts on the Totes Facebook page, resulting in more than 100 new “likes” to push the number over 250 and counting.
It takes a lot of hard work and a unified team effort to pull all this off, says Klee, but the payoff is huge.
“Totes 2 Tots is an amazing event. There are tons of moving parts and it can be a bit overwhelming. But when you take a minute to remember the purpose behind the event, and think of all the foster children who will end up with a new bag to call their own, it suddenly puts things back in perspective and makes you push even harder,” said Klee. “One thing we’ve discovered, is that once someone who’s never heard of Totes is made aware of the event, the response is fairly predictable–’I never would’ve thought of this. How can I get involved?’ That spirit is contagious, and our job is to spread the word far and wide. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with Totes.”