Kyle Williams, the 12-year-old son of a police officer and an emergency room nurse, was found dead in his bed, having “huffed” from a can of Dust-Off compressed-gas duster. When the grief-stricken father, Jeff Williams, developed an anguished email, it immediately went viral on the Internet and he appeared on the TODAY Show and CNN calling for a ban of Dust-Off. Large retailers including Wal-Mart and Costco threatened to pull the product from their shelves – a result that could have ended the parent company and long-time client of R&J, Falcon Safety Products.
- R&J counseled Falcon Safety Products to confront the issue head-on and spearhead a multifaceted educational awareness campaign.
- R&J helped broker a meeting between the grieving father and the President of the company, Phil Lapin.
- It was critical that during the emotionally-charged meeting, that Falcon did not try to deflect the issue that in fact it was its product that young Kyle Williams had misused.
- R&J devoted significant resources to ensure the meeting was productive and that both parties could discuss how to prevent other families from having to deal with a tragedy like the Williams did. Thanks to expert insight and industry data, it was mutually agreed that education, not banning products from store shelves, was the answer.
- R&J put forth a strategy that would position Mr. Williams as the spokesperson for a national educational and publicity effort to help prevent inhalant abuse and drive awareness about the deadly practice. This was coordinated in conjunction with the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition.
- Campaign tools consisted of both broadcast and print initiatives, including the production of public service announcements (PSAs), a video news release (VNR), audio news releases (ANRs), satellite media tours (SMTs), b-roll, matte features, and an inhalant abuse fact sheet and school action plan that would be distributed to more than 44,000 school counselors and nurses. Furthermore, R&J developed a media relations strategy to use Officer Williams as a spokesperson and the NIPC as a resource for journalists with successful appearances on major national broadcast outlets.
- R&J’s efforts to help mitigate the crisis that Falcon Safety Products faced single handedly saved the business. Based on the commitment to undertake this educational effort, the company was able to persuade all retailers to continue to stock Dust-Off. Sales which initially took a dip in the wake of the viral email rebounded within 2 months of the initiation of the campaign.
- Because of the campaign, Falcon Safety Products reinforced its position on education and dedication to helping fight inhalant abuse. The practice has seen a steady decline which continues today.
- The educational campaign received numerous awards and reached nearly 120 million people.