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America's beef producers are doing what mothers have been unable to do for generations - talk to "tweens" - those 8- to 12-year-old girls just finding boys, fashion and fads. Through the coordinated beef checkoff-funded public relations campaign "Cool-2B-Real," tween girls are discovering the positive nutritional value of beef.

"It's during the tween years that girls begin connecting what they want to look like to what they eat. Their body image quickly becomes linked to overall self-esteem. Misguided information can lead girls into lifelong food habits that negatively affect their health," says Barbara Selover, executive director of education, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).

"America's beef producers have a real concern about the healthiness of our youth. Because we have a national checkoff program ... we can reach out to kids with accurate information they can relate to," says Gary Sharp, member of Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) and chair of the joint producer subcommittee for the beef checkoff youth program.

NCBA managed the Cool-2B-Real program on behalf of CBB and state beef councils. While getting through to tween girls can be tough, NCBA found it is not impossible when messages are put into the context of their world.

"Our short-term objectives included positioning beef as a fun, healthy food and differentiating beef from other food choices," says Sharlet Teigen, S.R. Brown Marketing Communications, Camp Crook, S.D., and project manager for the youth PR program. "We also wanted to establish credibility with key influencers and talk directly with tween girls about beef's great taste and nutrition. We set out to generate 7 million positive impressions with the tween girl audience, and we more than surpassed that goal."

The Cool-2B-Real campaign evolved from an extensive process undertaken by CBB and NCBA during 1999 to evaluate the beef checkoff's youth program. Through market research, producers learned that the youth market, specifically tween girls, would be a solid investment.


"Beef producers have always placed a high priority on educating youth and made sure their programs were based on solid science," says Teigen. "(Tween girls) are receptive to our messages now, and reaching them today means a more receptive audience during adulthood. A beef consumer at this age means almost 60 more years of eating occasions."

Selover supports those statements. "We looked at a lot of research with girls and found that how they think about themselves relates to their food choices," says Selover. "There are many misperceptions about beef's nutritional profile. Chicken is perceived as a healthier choice. By presenting the facts about beef, we can influence girls' and their families' food choices now. We know that what these girls eat as tweens is what they will serve as mothers."


In the long run, beef producers want youth to develop positive attitudes and behaviors regarding beef nutrition. Cool-2B-Real was designed to reach girls on many different levels: through the print media they trust, through a fun and educational Web site and via the airwaves.

"We wanted to go to girls with the truth about beef, and we decided the best way to position the message was in a way to help tweens develop positive self-esteem as well," says Selover. "We see this positioning as bigger than just beef. It is a public service for girls."

Burson-Marsteller Public Relations, New York, helped create the media relations program. One of the first steps was conducting a phone audit of key youth editors to judge their receptivity to the Cool-2B-Real message, review their editorial calendars and learn more about their personal feelings about nutrition and beef. These findings were used to craft the media program, which was launched during a deskside media tour with editors from,, Discovery Girls, Scholastic Science World,, American Cheerleader Jr. and others. A mailing to other media went out soon after.

"Most of the editors are young, which helps keep them connected to their readers. However, they seemed to have many of the same nutrition misperceptions about beef that general consumers do, so we had some hurdles to cross," says Teigen. "We brought in the expertise of Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D., author of See Jane Win and See Jane Win for Girls, to help us connect the emotional and physical aspects of health and add credibility with editors. We also capitalized on the exceptional abilities of beef spokesperson and registered dietitian Mary Young, who is the executive director of nutrition for NCBA."

The same day the deskside media tour started, the Cool-2B-Real Web site,, went live. Teigen says the goal was to generate additional media interest and to reach girls directly.

The site's content built upon the same messages conveyed to editors. The "Keepin' it Real" section featured Rimm's self-esteem tips, simple ways to eat smart, snacks and recipes, and fitness information. The "Real Friends" section linked to an essay contest, message board and e-mail cards. "Fun and Chat" included edu-games and a "PartyZone" with a customizable invitation maker.

Teigen adds that by multitasking materials already in existence, they could include more content. "For example, we used games developed for a previous beef Web site. Recipes tested with girls for a brochure were also used," she says. "We also included a 'Hey Mom and Dad' section where adults can obtain information on children's health, why America's beef producers sponsor the site, testimonials from parents, teachers and other experts, plus a way for them to contact us directly."

A third segment of the campaign was a Radio Disney "edu-ad." Teigen says Radio Disney is a premier national broadcast outlet for tweens with high brand recognition. She says the edu-ads added another dimension to the campaign and increased exposure to the nutrition message. The ads also gave state beef councils a local connection.

"With the Radio Disney element, we could assist the 45 state beef councils who wanted to participate by developing a taggable edu-ad that extends the Cool-2B-Real message in a useful and flexible manner," says Teigen. "States have very little print or online options for local youth efforts, and Radio Disney was the solution. The network has 55-plus local affiliates and very competitive pricing."

Cool-2B-Real has now gone to its next phase. The Web site has transitioned to ZIP, which stands for zinc, iron and protein, will communicate, in a "still cool" format, how these key nutrients help girls grow and learn.


One of the short-term objectives of Cool-2B-Real was to generate 7 million positive impressions. From December 2002 through October 2003, the campaign reached more than 11 million tween girls - 8.9 million through media placements, 1.4 million through the Web site and more than 814,000 through Radio Disney.

What's more, market research in 2001 revealed that 67 percent of tween girls said beef was "very healthy" or "somewhat healthy." What they found in January 2003 was that the number had already grown to 80 percent. Teigen says that while Cool-2B-Real was just beginning then, the progress illustrates the effectiveness of the overall repositioning of the beef youth program.

"Measurable results are very important. We tried to combine short-term impressions with long-term youth attitudinal studies," says Teigen. "While we can't take full credit, we are confident the Cool-2B-Real campaign has had a role in helping positively educate girls about beef."

The Cool-2B-Real campaign won its category in NAMA Region III and was Best of Show - PR. The previous year's beef youth PR program with Olympic skater Sasha Cohen also won its category and Best of Show - PR in Region III.

"For a program that is now just in its fourth year, we are very pleased with the results," says Teigen. "Beef producers, through their checkoff, always go the extra step. That is a great philosophy. Producers determine the program direction, and then it's up to staff to make it happen. This program has really excelled because of the youth team's incredible ability to translate an audience's input into a tactically successful program."

"We have received positive feedback and mentions about beef as a result of this campaign. Other youth Web sites are now linking to our youth site," says Selover. "We want tween girls to be true to themselves and know the facts about beef. Beef producers believe this is an important concept, and one they can continue to fund." AM

Written in the strictest confidence by Barb Baylor Anderson, freelancer.

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