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Lemons to lemonade feature #9: Stephanie Azzarone

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Child's Play Communications specializes exclusively in public relations and marketing communications for products and services targeted to moms. Founded in 1988, by Stephanie Azzarone mother of one, the company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Prior to starting Child's Play Communications, Stephanie was a freelance reporter for publications such as The New York Times and New York magazine as well as vice president and manager of editorial services at the Rowland Company.

As with many service firms, the company has experienced some difficult times due to the strain the economy has placed on businesses. Stephanie's research showed that the most effective way to communicate with mothers today is online or in person – and that their competition was still focusing primarily on traditional media. Her many years of experience and positive attitude, along with some creative ingenuity, allowed the company to reach a new level and attract more clients. Here is her story...

How has this economy affected you, your business and your family?
Service companies – such as those in marketing – are historically considered dispensable in tough economic times and are often “the first to go” when companies make budget cuts. Earlier this year, a long-term client cut its budget in half as a result of the economy while another client of many years – and one of our largest – began falling behind on payments by several months.

Others who were planning to sign up for programs backed out at the last moment as the economic news worsened. It was an extremely stressful few months for myself and my family, especially since I was determined to keep the same staffing level in order to effectively service the clients we had.

How are you making lemonade from lemons?
To counter this scenario, I decided to differentiate Child’s Play from the competition in a way that would accomplish two goals: make potential clients take notice, and fill a specific need. To do that, we launched a series of proprietary programs. For example: our research showed that the most effective way to communicate with mothers today is online -– and that our competition was still focusing primarily on traditional rather than digital media when it came to reaching the mom market.

To fill the gap in the marketplace, we extended our capabilities through innovative mommy blogger programs such as Team Mom™ and our upcoming Bloggers Brunch. Team Mom is a carefully vetted network of more than 100 mommy bloggers who have agreed to write about our clients’ products on a regular basis. Demand for the service is so great that we have been sending products and information to our Team Mom members every two weeks. Because we have built relationships with these bloggers and other mom-focused media, in November we are holding our first Bloggers Brunch, a special event to which we’ve invited New York City-area mommy bloggers and the companies who would like to reach them. The event’s purpose is to thank these influential online media for working with Child’s Play and to give our clients an opportunity to exhibit their hottest new products to them, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The result of these new programs: Child’s Play has signed a dozen new clients in the past few months alone – including major companies that we were unable to interest previously -- and we are receiving a flurry of inquiries from other name-brand corporations.

Any encouraging words you would like to offer mom entrepreneurs?
Instead of feverishly treading water, take time out to step back, clear your mind and think about what you might do that you’ve never before thought of doing to keep business strong. Look beyond the obvious – cost-cutting measures – and devise value-adding opportunities for your current clients and potential clients that address a genuine need in your marketplace.

To learn more, visit or the company's blog, You can also reach Stephanie directly my emailing or by calling (212) 488—2060 x 11.