Pinellas County women who are due for a mammogram can run but they can't hide.
Bayfront Medical Center has a new marketing campaign designed to reach them at shops, restaurants, restrooms and even dressing rooms.
"Are we alone? Good. Let's Talk," read the 6-by-8-inch stickers on the doors of the women's restroom stalls at Outback Steakhouse at 1900 Fourth St. N. It goes on to ask if the reader has had her annual mammography and directs her to a website to find out how important and easy it is to have the breast screening.
Thirty-two local businesses are posting or handing out similar messages. Not only is this marketing campaign notable because it starts an internal monologue in places where women aren't expecting it, but also because of the low investment Bayfront is making to go directly to its target audience.
"We have to be really innovative in our marketing approach, and that necessity breeds creativity," said Bayfront spokeswoman Kanika Tomalin. "We are always very mindful of every dollar spent when we step outside clinical services."
She sees this as a low-cost campaign with high impact.
"We really tried to eliminate any obstacles to women getting the screening they need," Tomalin added. She wants to spread the word that they can come to the Bayfront Breast Health Center with no appointment, prescription or referral from a physician.
Since the nonprofit hospital launched the campaign designed by Tampa-based Spark advertising in October, it has had nearly 600 hits on its new women's health website, bayfront.org/women.
Every business asked to put up the stickers or hand out small pamphlets has agreed. There are links to the businesses on Bayfront's website.
"At first I was little skeptical about what the cost associated would be and they said, 'No, it's absolutely free,' " said Sean Gerrard, Outback Steakhouse managing partner. "It seems like it's the right thing to do, and why not create awareness?"
Gerrard and all the men who work at his store are growing mustaches for the month of November to promote awareness about prostate cancer as part of another grass roots campaign.
"It doesn't have to be a big cash contribution or volunteering 40 hours of your time," he said. "It could be just doing little things, like putting a sticker in the bathroom or growing a mustache, that make a difference."
Outback is offering a free appetizer to women who sign up for Bayfront's Health-E Club on the hospital's website. Embellish, a personalized gift, clothing and home decor shop at 914 Fourth St. N, is offering free monogramming.
"It's such a great idea to partner with businesses that have the same target audience," said Michelle Burtch, Embellish co-owner. "A lot of us are trying to do that now in this economy."
She hopes to gain some new customers who find her through Bayfront's website and said she has seen a lot of her customers picking up the Bayfront pamphlet next to her cash register.
"I don't know about how they respond (to the sign) in the restroom," Burtch laughed. "But I'm sure it makes people smile."
After recruiting a women's imaging expert to round out an experienced team of surgeons, Bayfront has ramped up its effort to target women over the past three years.
"We put together a dream team of breast care experts … and coupled that with a significant investment in technology," Tomalin said.
The hospital recommends that women over 40 get an annual mammogram. According to the American Cancer Society, 80 million women in the United States should be getting a mammogram every year, but it estimates only 60 percent of women get the screening they need.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.