Face-to-face with farmers
Client: DuPont Agricultural Enterprises (Wilmington, DE)
PR Team: Rowland Worldwide (New York)
Campaign: FarmFront Radio
Time Frame: March 1997 to December 1998
Budget: dollars 350,000
More than two years ago, DuPont Agricultural Enterprises made a choice.
Company executives felt a need to go past traditional market research
that asked farmers what they were growing and what products they were
DuPont representatives went out to meet face-to-face with their
customers, 2 million farmers and producers who generate 25% of the US
gross national product. DuPont people met with growers, went to field
days, and spoke with thousands of farmer customers. They learned that
farmers and seed dealers expected more of them than just good
’We found that our customers regarded us as a rather stuffy and
scientific company. We wanted to make more of a connection with them, so
we would be seen as a company, which listened to our customers,’ recalls
Michele Cunnane, PR manager at DuPont.
Farmers felt that DuPont was in a unique position to provide them with a
platform from which they could share their ideas, concerns and successes
with each other as well as the non-farm public. They asked DuPont to
help them gain recognition as the business persons, parents, citizens
and community leaders they are, and to share their views with the rest
The research findings were simple. Farmers felt isolated from mainstream
America. Also, they felt that people who consumed their crops as food
every day did not see them as ’stewards’ of the land, which is precisely
how they viewed themselves.
The non-farming public didn’t understand the new technologies farmers
were integrating into their production: precision farming, use of
geo-stationary satellites, the Internet. Even people in farmers’ own
hometowns didn’t realize that their average asset base was dollars 1.4
There was obviously an information gap between the 2% of the population
that feeds the rest of the world and the world surrounding them.
In short, farmers asked for a voice - a way to create a dialogue and be
heard. Based on its face-to-face research, DuPont turned to its PR
agency of record, Rowland Worldwide, to develop specific strategies.
Rowland engaged News/Broadcast Network, who in turn took the problem and
proposed a highly creative solution. That’s how the idea of a syndicated
radio show was born.
The idea was to equip a field reporter with a mobile home and
radio-production gear and send him out to develop one-minute stories
that would then be distributed to hundreds of radio stations
Starting in January 1997, N/BN was given a budget and the go signal for
an April 1997 launch of the radio media tour (RMT). ’We wanted a
credible, traveling syndicated radio program, that was pre-booked on
more than 100 radio stations and distributed via satellite to 2,500
more,’ says Mike Hill, president of N/BN. ’The schedule called for seven
months of travel through 13 Midwestern states.’ The team at N/BN did a
number of tasks simultaneously. These included developing a network of
’cleared’ radio stations in key states and auditioning, selecting and
training a radio broadcast producer and on-air talent.
The audio team also had to buy a Class A recreational vehicle (RV),
purchase and install a complete digital audiotape studio in the RV, and
license and produce music for use on the RMT. The N/BN crew worked
closely with Rowland on logos and signage for the vehicle and its
promotional materials as well as tour routes.
The 1997 version of FarmFront Radio launched on April 30 from St.
And from the beginning, the flexibility of the program was key to its
The distribution process designed by N/BN allowed radio stations and
networks to access FarmFront Radio stories from two separate satellite
feeds, custom feeds via phone lines as well as the National Association
of Farm Broadcasters hi tech line.
The 1997 FarmFront Radio reporter was Matthew Fisher, who toured for
eight months in the RV that mostly doubled as his home. Fisher’s
stories, both scripts and audio, were available on the DuPont web site
More than 21,948 broadcasts over Fisher’s eight months on the road
yielded 85,600,000 impressions. The program was lauded by broadcasters,
and won Creativity in Public Relations Awards in both the Agribusiness
and Technical Excellence categories.
The ’97 tour was so successful that Dupont put a second tour out in
1998, hosted by broadcaster Eric Thompson, formerly of KZAT in Tama,
Iowa. He was supported by a network of field reporters, who were
agricultural students paid by a foundation grant.
N/BN asked for an increase in stories to three per week, for a total of
105 episodes, which ran through December 1998. The second RMT generated
more than 120 million impressions, Rowland sources report.
’The program achieved a sort of snowball effect,’ helped along by local
word of mouth each time the van appeared in town, explains Cunnane. ’The
response was 100% positive.’ DuPont remains committed to radio as a
means of reaching key publics.
Since the company acquired Pioneer Hybrid International, it has launched
the studio-based radio show called ’AgriTalk’.
’At the moment, we’re going through something of a restructure, but once
we’ve identified our strategy for the future, we may well bring back
FarmFront Radio,’ Cunnane predicts.
Raising the roof for opening
Client: Red Roof Inns (Columbus, OH)
PR Team: Buchanan & Associates (Dublin, OH)
Campaign: Breakfast for 20,000 on the roof
Time Frame: March to April 1999
Budget:dollars 20,000 per event
Mailing out eggs was just one of the concepts that Red Roof Inns
’cooked’ up to publicize the hotel chain’s grand opening in the Denver
In recent years, Red Roof’s ownership policy has shifted from
company-owned to franchised inns. In April 1999, Buchanan & Associates,
Red Roof Inns’ PR agency, staged an event that marked an important stage
in the company’s history.
Not only was this the 300th inn opening, but it was the first-ever
airport opening in Denver. Competition was stiff with a popular regional
chain, Red Lion Inns, sharing the same target market and coincidentally,
a portion of the hotel’s name. Although Denver’s Red Roof Inn had
officially been open for 90 days, occupancy rates were hovering at 20%,
well below the chain’s national 70% average. ’It was very important not
only to have franchise success,’ says Jack Buchanan, PR firm principal,
’but also to put heads in the beds.’
’We needed to make our mark quickly,’ agrees Gail Whitcomb, director of
corporate communications at Red Roof Inns. The PR team also wanted to
build the brand name of Red Roof Inns in the economy lodging segment,
and portray its personality as ’fun and quirky.’ Plus, it needed to
ensure the Denver airport franchisee’s success to build its reputation
for future locations. But the most important goal was to increase
occupancy rates. To do all this, the PR team needed to catch the eye of
the media and ’the folks at the airport who would be able to recommend
the hotel to travelers,’ says Whitcomb.
The solution was ’Breakfast for 20,000 on the Roof.’ All 20,000 airport
personnel, from baggage handlers to airline crews, were invited to this
event on the morning of April 9th. A genuine Midwestern bacon-and-eggs
breakfast was served by Inn personnel from 5 to 10:30 am, without
fanfare or grand speeches. Since a significant number of the airport
personnel are traditional, budget-conscious Red Roof Inns customers,
this was a way to allow potential patrons to experience the new property
Two weeks before the breakfast, all airport vendors received a letter
containing invitations for themselves and a dozen other guests. Letters
were delivered in person by Red Roof Inn ’greeters’. Airport staff were
thrilled with this personal touch. ’It made a change from the unhappy
travelers they’re normally dealing with,’ Whitcomb recalls.
Life-size cutouts and posters of Martin Mull, the 13-year company
spokesperson, were displayed throughout the airport. According to
Whitcomb, Mull is the ideal embodiment of the Red Roof Inn personality
with his ’eccentric and quirky’ character.
The mini cartons of hollowed-out eggs were hand-delivered to key media,
along with media kits and press releases. The Mayor of Denver was also
invited, but only on the condition that he bring his secretary.
On the day of the breakfast, Red Roof Inn executives and franchisee
staff personally served the airport employees. ’It was a chance to bring
out the Midwestern values of the inn,’ says Buchanan, ’and show people
that we are just fun, honest, regular folks.’ Two roundtrip airline
tickets, 250 free hotel night stays, and T-shirts were given out at the
More than 550 airport employees stopped in for breakfast, along with
local TV and major newspaper reporters. Local radio stations interviewed
Red Roof staff live at the event. ’We were surprised that people were at
the door of the hotel at 5 am,’ says Whitcomb. ’People even came all the
way to the airport on their day off.’ The variety of people - from
pilots to policemen - that showed up, were even more of a surprise Total
media impressions were 650,000, Buchanan reports.
For the first three nights following the event, a majority of the Inn’s
guests were walk-ins. Occupancy rates went up immediately, and have
continued to rise about 10% for the current period.
The franchise owner, an operator of 37 other properties, called it one
of the most successful hotel openings he had seen. Due to its success,
the breakfast event has become a prototype for all future airport
openings across the country.
The same prototype was used to open the Red Roof Inn at Phoenix’s Sky
Harbor Airport at the end of June. Inns at the Seattle and Portland
airports will be opened in August and September. ’In another 6 to 12
months we may even do an opening in Manhattan,’ adds Whitcomb.
Hoop dreams & happy meals
Client: McDonald’s Corp. (Oak Brook, IL)
PR Team:: Golin/Harris International (Chicago)
Campaign: Recharging McDonald’s All-American Basketball Game
Time Frame: July 1998 to March 1999
Budget: dollars 100,000
For more than 15 years, McDonald’s sponsored the only high school,
all-star basketball game in the country. The event has raised more than
dollars 2 million for charities dedicated to sick kids and their
families, including famous Ronald McDonald House. The games have been
played in differenct locations each year, ranging from big cities to
small towns. This year’s game was held in Ames, Iowa.
High-profile NBA stars, such as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Magic
Johnson, participated as high schoolers. Virtually all of the players
(98%) in the annual event eventually receive pro-basketball
But several years ago, other marketers started running all-star
basketball games and McDonald’s faced competition for players, sites and
’It is definitely the most prestigious game for players to appear in,
but the general public came to think of it as just another high school
all-star basketball game,’ says Kevin Bradbury, account supervisor at
Golin/Harris, Chicago. So G/H was challenged to inject new life into the
According to Bradbury, the strategy was twofold: to generate excitement
among McDonald’s employees and to find ways to create excitement about
the game itself. The PR team set out to devise a fun and compelling
program at McDonald’s headquarters that educated its employees on the
history of the game.
The PR team used the McDonald’s restaurant in its Oak Brook, IL, home
office as All-American Game headquarters. Photos of past all-American
players who went on to the NBA were displayed, as were NCAA
Employees competed in a trivia contest with the chance to win a game
ball signed by the team. Key game statistics and historical highlights
from past contests were available on site and a video highlight reel ran
In addition, four current Chicago Bulls - Bill Wennington, Andrew Lang,
Keith Booth and Cory Benjamin - who had previously played in the
McDonald’s game held an employee autograph session.
In another tactic, John Charlesworth, the fast-food chain’s midwest
division president, along with former coach John Wooden, spoke at a
formal banquet for the 1999 players. Ken Barun, Ronald McDonald House
Charities president and CEO, gave a live ESPN courtside interview during
the game telecast.
Working without the benefit of paid advertising, the PR team paid
special attention to the sports media: For the first time, a media game
guide was published. Another first was retiring Michael Jordan’s number
23 McDonald’s All-American jersey in honor of his retirement from the
NBA. The event capitalized on March Madness bydistributing a press
release announcing teams in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA college
tournament that had players who were former McDonald’s
There were approximately 400 million media impressions with more than
1,200 point placements and 100 broadcast segments. Bradbury adds that
there were eight nationally distributed AP photos.
The ’99 high school All-Americans appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell Show
and on ESPN in a special program, ’A Week In The Life of a McDonald’s
All-American.’ Perhaps more importantly, the game raised money for this
year’s designated charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central
Bradbury said Golin/Harris will examine last year’s PR effort, see how
they have raised expectations and take those ideas and improve them each
’We learned that you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel with
an existing program, but should be open to adding elements that will
enhance the program and give it a new and different feel.’ That sounds
like a winning long-term proposition.
Changing the Latino image
Client: National Council of La Raza (Washington, DC)
PR Team: Capitoline/Manning Selvage &Lee (Washington, DC)
Campaign: Latinos on TV
Time Frame: 1994 to present
Budget: dollars 300,000
ABC network’sbroadcast on of the American Latino Media Arts Awards
(ALMA) on June 3 for best performances in film, TV and music videos drew
more than 5 million viewers. While the program recognized and
highlighted the talented Latino population, surprisingly, more Latinos
were shown on TV in the 1950s than in the early 1990s. To increase
awareness of this ethnic group in entertaiment, the National Council of
La Raza (NCLA) initiated a campaign with Manning Selvage & Lee.
Managing director Joe Gleason and VP Kathy Mimberg of MS&L helped NCLR
to implement a carrot-and-stick strategy. First, the PR team wanted to
educate the networks, corporate sponsors, and public about how
underrepresented and distorted their portrayal of Latinos was on prime
time TV. At the same time, NCLR’s longer-range goal was to showcase
Latino performers and to promote positive portrayals of
NCLR commissioned a report by the Center for Media and Public Affairs
that assessed the portrayal of Latinos on TV.
The report found that when Latinos were shown ’their
portrayal ... reinforces crude and demeaning cultural stereotypes.
Positive media portrayals of Latinos are also uncommon.’ Reality-based
shows such as America’s Most Wanted and Cops tended to affirm the
stereotypes shown in entertainment programming.
Right before the Emmy awards were telecast in September 1994, the PR
team held a press conference was held at the National Press Club to
release the report, ’Distorted Reality.’ The event generated news
coverage in The Los Angeles Times, a key target to reach Hollywood, and
other national newspapers. While the networks covered the press
conference, they never received broadcast clips from it. However,
satellite feeds featuring clips from the conference were sent to local
stations in selected markets.
A follow-up study was issued in April 1996 that discovered ’some welcome
progress,’ recalls NCLR VP for Communications Lisa Navarrete. Corporate
members of NCLR’s board also persuaded the networks to feature Latinos
in more positive roles. One corporate PR executive disclaimed a desire
to ’dictate’ program content - controlling broad cast ad dollars to
influence programming - but emphasizes, ’We want our commercial messages
to appear in appropriate programming.’
ABC now broadcasts the ALMAs, and NCLR produces the program. Navarrete
credits the campaign with bringing ’this long simmering issue’ to the
forefront of the entertainment industry.
The Screen Actors Guild recently released a report that argues the
entertainment industry still tends to ignore the fast-growing Latino
market. So, La Raza says, there’s more work to be done.
This article was first published on PR Week USA