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TUNING IN

A blog dedicated to the world of broadcast and public relations

Monday, March 22, 2004

Landmark Alzheimer’s Programming on PBS

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Today approximately five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. With each passing year, as the first baby boomers approach the age of 65, America moves closer to the brink of an epidemic. On Wednesday, January 21 at 9:00 p.m., PBS presented a groundbreaking evening of programming that brought this looming health crisis to national attention — offering insight, context, help and hope.

The evening began with THE FORGETTING: A PORTRAIT OF ALZHEIMER’S, a 90-minute documentary that explores this frightening disease, the human toll it takes on patients and caregivers, and the latest research in the race to find a cure. Followed by ALZHEIMER’S: THE HELP YOU NEED, hosted by award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce, this program was a half-hour follow-up special, bringing together a panel of experts to provide authoritative answers to commonly-asked questions, and direct viewers to organizations and resources that can offer help and support.

Kelly & Salerno Communications, which represented the PBS series, worked with News Generation to schedule interviews with David Hyde Pierce and David Shenk, author of The Forgetting — Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an Epidemic, whose book was the basis of THE FORGETTING: A PORTRAIT OF ALZHEIMER’S. David Hyde Pierce, who watched both his grandfather and his father suffer with Alzheimer’s, described the challenges of dealing with the disease and the sense of personal vulnerability, and David Shenk provided listeners with the latest medical advances and information on the disease.

It came to light a few days prior to the television special that findings from a study mentioned in the documentary were about to be released in the scientific publication Annals of Neurology, where scientists have created a compound that enables them to peer into the brain of a living person and see the build up of plaque deposits that scientists believe are at the root of Alzheimer’s disease. To capitalize on this breaking news and promote the program, an audio news release was prepared for distribution the day of broadcast.

The radio media tour garnered 18,952,750 gross impressions, with 8,834 airings on 2,871 stations and network affiliates. The audio news release had 5,935,550 gross impressions with 871 airings on 844 stations and network affiliates. The segment aired nationally on Metro Source, CNN Radio, CBS Radio Network, Westwood One, and USA Radio Network. Several metro area networks and top news and talk stations in the top-25 markets broadcast the segment including the #1 talk stations in New York and Chicago, and #1 news and news-talk stations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington, DC, Detroit, Seattle, and Minneapolis.

Colby Kelly of Kelly & Salerno Communications in Greenwich, CT said, “We used different services to achieve different objectives. The combination of the two techniques together helped us maximize our impact. The interviews with David Hyde Pierce provided a celebrity to carry our message of hope and David Shenk spoke to the medical side of the Alzheimer’s story. The audio news release provided the perfect vehicle for breaking news contained in the program since it could be turned around in less than 24 hours and helped drive viewers to the PBS special.”

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