The Walnut Marketing Board tackled health and medical messaging head-on in its 2001-2002 public relations plan. The fundamental angle of our messaging was to publicize the fact that walnuts are the only nuts rich in vital omega-3 fatty acids and that they have the strongest evidence of benefits to heart-health.
With a cacophony of health claims emerging from a variety of different nuts, the media must scrutinize the credibility of all claims and research heavily. The challenge has been to position walnuts as delicious nuts with unique nutritional value.
The objectives were to position walnuts in the foreground of breaking heart-health news; to deliver quality information substantiated by verified clinical research; to differentiate the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts from the fat in other nuts; and to educate the media and consumers about sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
The process of promoting the health attributes of walnuts is one reliant on education – of the media and subsequently of the public. Health and fitness writers and editors are a very important audience since they directly, and for the most part, accurately, deliver the health message to consumers.
Major medical and health associations that influence nutrition and heart disease guidelines are vital allies in the education process and of greatest relevance to walnut health and nutrition positioning. Their endorsement confers invaluable credibility. The American Heart Association is particularly powerful and cultivating their support has been crucial to the Walnut Marketing Board’s health positioning. By in large, this was the most successful element of the year’s program.
Through work with the AHA, Torme & Company was able to develop the Walnut Marketing Board’s sponsorship of the Simple Solutions program, which supports walnuts’ primary heart-health message.
Simple Solutions is a program designed to educate women on the steps they can take to better their health and to fight the risks of heart disease, the number one killer of women. The program offers tips on how to eat healthier and encourages women to improve their heart-health by adding omega-3s to their daily diet by including a handful (2 oz.) of walnuts in salads, snacks, yogurt, and other recipes.
Spokesperson Julie Moran, former host of Entertainment Tonight and a woman who has lost a loved one to heart disease was announced the Simple Solutions program in an interview on Good Morning America on August 22, 2002, which was then followed by a national satellite media tour and website launch. AHA spokesperson Dr. Rosemary Robertson and Julie Moran hosted the program launch at Fiamma Restaurant in New York City and event was attended by some of the top health/medical and food media in the country from such notable publications as Fitness Magazine, WebMD, Self, and the New York Times.
Torme & Company’s work with the AHA has catapulted walnuts to the foreground of breaking cardiology news and has raised awareness that this esteemed nut is, by far, the top nut! The Walnut Marketing Board continues to receive fantastic publicity from this program and expects it to gain increasing coverage as it is promoted throughout the year.
Due to the inundation of health and medical claims and statements, many media are confused about which claims are verifiable and which are misrepresentations. Walnuts provided scientific updates to media throughout the year about publication of our research that appeared in medical and scientific journals. The updates are summaries of clinical studies documenting the overwhelming case for the heart-health of walnuts. They have been presented in a clear manner and without the bells and whistles that some have used to cloud the heart of the message.
The media seek sources who are credible experts in their fields and who can address a topic in the context of the bigger picture (such as food trends, healthy diets, etc.). Credible third-party sources were used, including registered dietician and CNN health reporter Liz Weiss, doctor and author, Artemis Simopoulos, and research doctor and scientist Dr. Joan Sabate. 
The goal was to demonstrate that the Walnut Marketing Board is the best source among nuts for credible, newsworthy information. Demonstrations, desk-side briefings and satellite media tours were arranged with health/fitness editors and producers in conjunction with a medical spokesperson in order to foster dialogue. This more personalized setting provided the opportunity to discuss the health benefits of walnuts in more depth, Torme & Company also provided product and addressed specific questions posed by the editors/producers.
Throughout the year Torme & Company provided useful information, tips and recipes to health/fitness/food editors and producers and kept them abreast of current research and news via phone, e-mail and regular mail releases.
Provided practical, healthy approaches to eating with tasteful and versatile recipe ideas to support the primary health message that walnuts are a healthful part of your diet.
Torme & Company worked with the American Heart Association to develop a free booklet filled with tasteful and versatile recipe ideas incorporating walnuts. The booklet “Enjoy!” featured the heart image on the cover and was picked up by broadcast, print and Internet media and to consumers via a toll-free hotline.
The firm also created a visual image to illustrate heart-healthy message: The walnut cracked in half produces two heart-like images. This was used in all media outreach. Media were sent walnut heart halves with publicity materials. A photograph of the image was used in all publicity materials. The hearts were also utilized in a free e-card, available on the website, that women sent to loved ones urging them to register for the Simple Solutions program.
 Walnuts have enjoyed extensive health message acknowledgment this year. Coverage of newly released medical studies, recipe suggestions for healthy living, and interviews with such spokespeople as Liz Weiss and Julie Moran, created a blanket of visibility that covered all of the 25 top designated market areas. Torme & Company have had great success in media ranging from print, to broadcast to the Internet. Among the most recognizable were multiple mentions in People Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, Time Magazine, USA Weekend, editions of The Los Angeles Times, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness Magazine, Newsday, WebMD,, Intelihealth, Larry King Live, Home Matters – Discovery Channel, and Good Morning America.
The consumer response to walnuts’ health messaging was overwhelmingly positive with 11,000 consumers requesting copies of the Enjoy! booklet of heart-healthy recipes.
“Take Walnuts to Heart” coverage generated 424,513,617 print impressions in 61 magazine clips and 270 newspaper clips; 88,210,626 television and radio impressions in 73 broadcasts; and 38,592,147 online impressions in 154 Internet clips. Health clips ran in 39 states around the country, mostly in the Midwest and including Hawaii and Washington D.C., and Alaska, and in all of the 25 major markets.