Protecting Young Athletes: Building Support for Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act During Crowded Legislative Session

  • Challenge

    Position Children’s Hospital Colorado as a leading proponent of the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act

  • Solution

    Leverage medical experts, patients and the public affairs team for an aggressive media relations campaign

  • Results

    More than 420 concussion stories mentioning Children’s Colorado, doctors and patients related to SB-40

Challenge

In 2011 Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado) was engaged in the rollout of Senate Bill 40 (SB-40), the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act, which was designed to protect young athletes from concussion complications. GFM was challenged to promote the hospital’s leadership role in the bill and highlight its Concussion Program experts.

Solution

Children's Hospital Colorado

For the rollout of SB-40, Dr. Michael Kirkwood, a pediatric neuropsychologist and co-director of the hospital's Concussion Program, was identified as a key expert on the topic.

GFM conducted media and message training with Dr. Kirkwood and reached out to a number of patient families to determine their willingness to participate in media interviews and testimony before the Colorado Legislature.

Prior to the bill’s official release, the Children’s Colorado and GFM teams met with state legislators, advocacy groups and party representatives to develop consistent messaging and plan details for a press conference announcing the initiative. Immediately prior to the press conference, the GFM team worked with Children’s Colorado public affairs, physician relations and internal communications teams to secure a patient for media outreach. Additionally, GFM drafted guest commentaries by Dr. Kirkwood and his co-directors and pitched for placement in media outlets in Colorado and Wyoming prior to the release of the bill and bill signing. The team also developed a targeted media list and created patient-focused media pitches for outreach to local, regional and national media to ensure Children’s Colorado was at the forefront of the press conference and bill signing. In March 2011, SB-40 was signed in to law.

Results

Signing the Bill

GFM generated 427 stories mentioning Children’s Colorado as part of SB-40’s passage in the Colorado Legislature. Following the bill signing, more than 150,000 placements were secured, including news stories, blog mentions and social media posts. Children’s Colorado doctors and patients were featured by the Associated Press, on the front page of The Denver Post and interviewed on Colorado Public Radio, KOA Radio, PBS and 9News. Guest commentaries appeared in the Casper Star Tribune and on DenverPost.com. Several doctors noted patient referrals based on the media coverage, and the campaign received a Gold Leaf award from Colorado Healthcare Communicators.