Etch A Sketch’s PR firm tells PR Daily about its whirlwind week

Learn how the firm handled the intense media attention in the moments after the Etch A Sketch story broke.


This week was PR heaven for the icon Etch A Sketch toy and its PR firm, Southard Communications.

On Wednesday, Mitt Romney’s communications director Eric Fehrnstrom compared the candidate to the toy, telling CNN: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign, everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart it all over again.”

As Romney’s camp struggled to control the fallout, Etch A Sketch capitalized on the media spotlight thanks to the savvy work of Southard Communications, the PR firm that represents the toy’s parent company, Ohio Art.

The firm’s owner, Bill Southard, spoke with PR Daily publisher Mark Ragan at the Nasdaq studio in New York on Friday about the incident.

“It’s been phenomenal … a whirlwind,” he told PR Daily about the experience.

Southard said that around 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, shortly after the comments appeared, the cell phones of Southard staffers started exploding with messages. Once they saw the comment, PR pros at Southard got on the phone with the owners of Ohio Art and mapped out a strategy.

“We wanted to make sure that we were politically neutral,” Southard said. “In fact, moving forward, really want our strategy is—from a social media standpoint and from an ongoing communications standpoint—is we’d really like to shakeup the way things are being done and bring the parties together and erase the debt.”

Naturally, you noticed the Etch A Sketch-related puns.

After the phone call with the Ohio Art owners, Southard Communications did two things: wrote a statement and sent it to the media, and reached out to its retail partners, such as Toys ‘R Us.

“We realized that one of the biggest questions has been, and continues to be, what has been the impact on sales,” he explained.

According to Southard, Etch A Sketch sales on Amazon.com increased by more than 3,000 percent as of Friday morning. Sales were also brisk at Toys ‘R Us, he added.

Now the company is fielding scores of interviews requests across a range of media, both domestic and international. Southard said the company sent Etch A Sketches to all of the presidential candidates, including President Obama, and offered to give the toys to all of the TV talk show to give to studio audiences. The company plans to roll out social media promotions to help continue bringing attention to the toy once the media cycle ends.

Watch the entire interview between Southard and PR Daily below:

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