Jennifer Aniston. TV anchorwomen. My friend Kristie. What do they all have in common besides their beautiful faces? Gorgeous, sleek hair. Thanks in large part to the chemical hair treatment best known as the Brazilian blowout. They also have in common one other, in this case, unfortunate trait – being victims of chemical companies who hide what is in their products. Formaldehyde beyond legal limits? No need to tell anyone because there are no ingredient disclosure requirements for everything from Brazilian Blowout hair treatments to window cleaner. Like a lifeguard asleep on the job, the FDA sat there and took no action when people raised alarms.
Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), national advocates for protecting women and children’s health through consumer right to know laws, had a long history of testing products and pressuring companies to remove unsafe ingredients and was ready to pounce when the opportunity arose. What started as an innocent email from Portland, Oregon hairdressers suffering strange side effects after applying Brazilian Blowouts on their customers’ hair triggered university science testing, and a partnership between WVE and Resource Media to set everything aside and jump on an exceptional chance to publicize the lax federal laws around hidden ingredients that threaten women’s health.
- Resource Media worked with WVE to develop a message that tightly coupled the threat with an easily doable solution, leaving the FDA with little room to maneuver.
- Resource Media trained the lead spokespeople for the toughest of media interviews – live on camera.
- Resource Media pitched traditional media, focusing heavily on TV because of the audience reach and the nature of the story, successfully tackling one of the hardest mediums for environmental and health stories.
- Resource Media invested in training WVE staff over many months in the previous two years to up their online media presence, with a heavy payoff in blogger coverage.
- Resource Media very carefully planned which media outlets in which to seed the story early in the game to generate a snowball effect resulting in hundreds of stories – from TV to print to magazines to radio.
There have been few victories in the last several decades at the federal level around chemical policy reform. But, when the product is one so widely used by many women in high profile media positions and by movie stars, you have a veritable jackpot in your hands if you execute a well thought-out media campaign. With coverage so omnipresent and overwhelmingly in favor of stronger regulations the FDA simply could not ignore it. They responded on the side of the public, not the companies as is typical and WVE scored a rapid victory in the world of toxics policy where progress more often moves at a glacial pace.