NEW YORK—Twenty years ago, fashion icon Liz Claiborne took a risky decision that had a transformational impact on the company’s brand and culture and earned the company a Lifetime Achievement SABRE Award—recognizing a sustained commitment to public relations programming over a period of years—at this year’s SABRE Awards dinner.

Recognizing the power of cause-related marketing to forge a deeper, more lasting bond between the brand and its customers, Liz Claiborne needed an issue that would differentiate the company from its competitors. It eschewed safe choices and settled on domestic values, an issue that neither reporters nor women were particularly comfortable discussing.

Since then, the Love Is Not Abuse campaign became a signature program, involving employees and customers, including advertising, public relations, volunteerism and more. It has gone far beyond traditional cause-related marketing, permeating the corporate culture at Liz Claiborne, becoming part of the company’s DNA, fueling an investment of more than $8 million, including funding for the National Dating Abuse Hotline.

According to Holmes Report editor Paul Holmes, “The Love Is Not Abuse campaign has been a SABRE finalist more than any other. Not only has Liz Claiborne maintained its commitment to this important issue for two decades, the company—along with its PR agency Ruder Finn—has continued to come up with new ways to draw attention to domestic violence and to generate both media coverage and consumer engagement.”

Among the campaign elements:
• LCI and RF developed a national survey, targeting teens on various topics around relationship abuse and violence. In 2005, the survey brought to light a “silent epidemic” affecting thousands of teens across the country and a year later focused on whether technology had a role in teen dating abuse and if a gap existed between teen experiences and parents’ awareness. In 2008, LCI unveiled a younger population that has been touched by violence: tweens.
• Recognizing the limited resources available to teens, parents and educators, LCI created multiple information gateways that are easily accessible and free of charge. In 2006, LCI partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and funded a resource just for teens,, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.
• The company has produced a series of five award-winning educational handbooks, each with valuable information and resources on domestic violence, targeting parents, women, teens and boys.
• LCI also partnered with the Education Development Centerand Break the Cycle to create a teen dating violence prevention curriculum. The Love is Not Abuse curriculum, which was launched in April 2006 and updated in 2010 to include a lesson on digital dating abuse, has been distributed to more than 11,000 schools and organizations in all 50 states.
• For the past seven years, LCI has held It’s Time to Talk Day, a day dedicated to ensuring that Americans speak-up about a topic many Americans would prefer to avoid. Each year Talk Radio News Service sponsors a “Talk Radio Row on Domestic Violence,” bringing leading talk radio hosts from around the country to Liz Claiborne headquarters in New York to spend thousands of hours of airtime discussing domestic violence. )articipants have included domestic violence advocates and experts, attorneys general, local, state and federal legislators, district attorneys, magazine editors, nationally renowned authors, celebrities, including Tim Gunn and Mariska Hargitay, corporate and government leaders, parents and teens.
• Liz Claiborne created several public service announcements with celebrities such as Susan Sarandon and Ashley Judd talking about the issue of domestic violence.
• Beginning in 2010, LCI has held events at middle and high schools across the country to teach students about the dangers of digital dating abuse and prioritize the need for teen dating abuse prevention education.