CAMPAIGNS: Company awards event gets cheers from staff, clients

PR Team: Development Dimensions International (Bridgeville, PA) and Jack Horner Communications (Pittsburgh) Campaign: "IM-mies" employee relations event Time frame: October 2003 Budget: $30,000 to $50,000

PR Team: Development Dimensions International (Bridgeville, PA) and Jack Horner Communications (Pittsburgh) Campaign: "IM-mies" employee relations event Time frame: October 2003 Budget: $30,000 to $50,000

When it comes to energizing hundreds of employees, sometimes a dry seminar just won't cut it. Development Dimensions International (DDI), a human-resource firm with nearly 1,000 employees worldwide, teamed up with its agency Jack Horner Communications (JHC) to think of something different for 2003. To supplement a weeklong meeting designed to update, recognize, and motivate employees, JHC was tasked with producing a memorable closing ceremony and celebration that would help launch the company's new leadership-development product, IM (Interaction Management). The agency knew that after four days of meetings many of the attendees would want to head home. JHC needed something big to get them to come back for one last event. Strategy The goal was to plan an event that everyone talked about all year. After a series of brainstorming sessions, DDI SVP Rich Wellins hit on something that seemed just right. "I was reading an article before in Newsweek that dealt with [Chicago director] Rob Marshall's interaction with Richard Gere, Renée Zellwegger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones," he says. "This guy was a great artistic director and a competent leader. It was only a half page about his style, but it talked about how people felt about him as a coach, about the type of environment he creates. It had to do with the nature of relationships he was able to establish." With Marshall in mind, the team came up with an idea for the "IM-mies," an awards show in the style of the Academy Awards for him to preside over. They developed various awards for employees to receive. Tactics JHC came up with a three-tiered plan to make it happen. First, because Marshall was from Pittsburgh, JHC contacted the mayor's office to present him with a key to the city. Then, they teamed up with his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, to offer him an alumni award. Finally, DDI created its own Legend in Leadership award, and sent him an invitation for a weekend of awards in Pittsburgh. With Marshall in place, the firm floated rumors of a surprise guest and a movie theme via company e-mail. As the event rolled closer, the agency planned for red carpets, flashing cameras, and tuxedo tails. They outfitted a movie theater with oversized Oscar statues, and hired a Joan Rivers look-alike. They organized an audio-visual display and an awards-show production that included music as each award recipient came up to the stage. After six months of schedule juggling and closed-door whispering, DDI CEO Bill Byham introduced the special guest with Chicago film footage playing on a large screen behind him. At the podium, with his parents in the audience, Marshall offered advice and told of his experience working with the cast and crew of the film. Results A story on the local CBS affiliate reached an audience of 250,000, while an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yielded more than 600,000 impressions. DDI also promoted the event in its company newsletters. Employees and clients reacted overwhelmingly to the event, and organizers received more than 200 e-mails, phone calls, and personal comments with rave reviews. Judy Prisk, an AE from Houston who attended the meeting, says of Rob Marshall, "He was phenomenal. I mean, so incredibly humble and gracious, and he really tied his message to what our company does." Future In future years, DDI will continue to honor individuals with the Legend in Leadership awards, whether they are lead actors or business executives.

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