Secret Anti-perspirant, a brand that symbolizes feminine strength, wanted to respond to an alarming trend among its target, teenage girls.  Research showed that many girls face a dramatic drop in self-esteem and often lose their strong, confident voices upon entering puberty.  Low self-esteem among girls has been linked with teen pregnancy, high dropout rates, eating disorders, depression and even suicide.  Working in collaboration with the prestigious Partnership for Women’s Health at Columbia University, MMC created the Secret to Self-Esteem program, to help spread national awareness of this major issue, and to begin encouraging teens to take the first steps to combat low self esteem and boost their confidence.  The program’s core was a one-day, interactive workshop that taught participants “Ten Tips to Healthy Self-Esteem.”
The program was a success because:

  • The brand made an emotional connection with teenage girls through a one-day interactive workshop for 200 seventh-grade girls and their mentors.  The workshop featured medical and psychotherapy experts, athletes and celebrities with target appeal, such as WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes and R&B singer Mya Harrison. 
  • Secret to Self-Esteem generated 92 million media impressions, which was 67% over goal.   Although staged as a one-day event, coverage appeared throughout the year, keeping Secret and the self-esteem program top of mind with target consumers: Teenage girls, 10-17 years old; Adult females 18+ years old (especially mothers).
    Based on the highly successful results in 2000, the Secret brand is expanding the program to four additional markets in 2001.


Fostering national media attention for a local, one-day workshop, taking place in Lubbock, Texas.  The location, pre-selected by the brand and Columbia University, limited the opportunity for MMC to attract network and entertainment-focused media coverage. 

Assure that media didn’t perceive program as a commercial vehicle, but instead conveyed the importance of the program as part of its coverage. 


MMC reviewed qualitative research provided by Secret’s partner, the Partnership for Women’s Health at Columbia University.  Key findings were:

  • Many girls face a dramatic drop in self-esteem and often lose their strong, confident voices upon entering puberty.  
  • Low self-esteem among girls has been linked with teen pregnancy, high dropout rates, eating disorders, depression and even suicide.  
  • Mothers of teenage girls (most often noted by teenage girls as their choice for mentor) are concerned about their daughters’ self-esteem and would like to nurture and guide their daughters to become strong, confident women.  The teenage girls and their mentors are crucial to Secret Anti-perspirant.  This target audience prefer to purchase brands that support good causes and “give back” to society.


Program Objectives

Generate ongoing stream of publicity highlighting Secret’s feminine strength message

Position Secret as an authority on female teen issues, such as self-esteem, body image,
hygiene/grooming and becoming strong women

Increase teenage girls’ awareness of Secret as a brand that understands them

Educate teen girls, their parents and others who guide them on how to create/maintain healthy self-esteem

PR Strategies

Capitalize on partnerships and unique combination of spokespersons to create news and communicate Secret’s messages

Leverage workshop for maximum publicity return 

Create national press out of local activities


Marina Maher Communications (MMC) used a three-prong tactical approach to achieve program objectives: 

Reached Out Directly to Teens:  MMC worked with to produce an online survey to gather information on how girls in 1999/2000 view their own self-esteem, and used this relevant information in diagnosing the current state of self-esteem in teens today.
Aligned with Role Models :  MMC identified female celebrities (Amy Jo Johnson of Felicity; Mya Harrison, R&B singer and Nike athletes Sheryl Swoopes, Gail Devers, Cynthia Cooper and Tiffany Millbrett) with whom teens relate.  These personalities shared experiences from their own lives on how they developed a healthy self-esteem.  Additionally, MMC worked with Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute to provide the program expertise and credibility – two factors that also helped secure significant broadcast and print coverage.

Used Publicity Drivers to Generate National Workshop Coverage:  By using nationally recognized spokespersons, and, in many cases, bringing them to Lubbock, MMC captured national media attention.   In addition, the agency released the online survey key findings and conducted a satellite media tour, radio media tour, and produced a video news release.


Generated Ongoing Stream of Publicity:  MMC’s campaign generated 92 million media impressions, a full 67% above client goal and did so throughout the year.  This program generated extensive local and national media coverage, including:
-  The Rosie O’Donnell Show   -  USA Today  -  Oxygen Network “Trackers” -  Sports Illustrated for Women -  Fox News Net “The Slant”            -  Sports Business Journal -  Fox News Now -  Today’s Black Woman -  Lifetime -  Washington Times -  CBS Early Show -  Talk America Radio Network

Position the Brand as an Authority on Female Teen Issues: A media analysis indicated that the coverage generated by the program clearly relayed brand sponsorship messages, the importance of self esteem and tips on how to achieve it. (see full media report and program highlights video).  Through the program itself and the surrounding media coverage, MMC helped create an emotional bond with the target audience.
Client Praise on MMC’s Strategic Approach:  Secret Brand Manager Colleen W. Leonard said, “Our partners at Marina Maher Communications have been involved with this program since its inception and have truly helped us take a nebulous idea around “self esteem” and turn it into a strategically aligned platform for the Secret brand.”
Program Expansion:  Based on the program’s success in “building a stronger relationship with our teen consumer,” the Secret brand is expanding the program by funding four workshops in 2001.