Utah is home to many tech companies, but the state does not always receive a commensurate amount of attention from the tech media. "Even two years ago, a renowned analyst told one of our clients they could develop their technology wherever they wished,
says Cheryl Snapp, partner and director of PR services for Meservy Wing Snapp (MWS), an Orem, UT-based PR firm. "But to be taken seriously, they'd better make their public launch from either coast."
When Salt Lake City was named host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the world's spotlight was set to shine on Utah. MWS wanted to harness that attention for the benefit of its own clients, as well as that of the entire state.
The Olympics provided the perfect vehicle to attract journalists to the region. Alteris, an MWS client, had purchased tickets to the Games' closing ceremony, and, through a co-sponsorship agreement with the agency, decided to maximize their value.
Armed with the means to attract reporters to Utah, the next challenge was to determine what would be the perfect model for the event - one that would both entertain and educate reporters. "We have always been proponents of individual partnerships between clients and reporters, as opposed to press conferences where the client presents and the press just listens,
The team decided that in order to create the kind of atmosphere that would foster one-on-one interaction, it needed to strike a balance between social activities and briefings. In addition, the PR team wanted to make sure that it maximized the technological aspect of the Olympics, which would showcase systems that kept the event safe.
The intention was to create a summit, bringing together editors, analysts, and a total of eight technology clients, including co-sponsor Alteris.
Those attending included analyst and writer David Strom; Cheryl Currid and Linda Musthaler from Currid & Company; Dipka Bhambhani, news editor of Government Computer News; John Taschek, executive editor of eWeek, and others.
The participants attended the closing ceremony of the Olympics, courtesy of Alteris. Over the next two days, half of each day was spent in briefings in which each vendor got to spend an hour with each editor or analyst.
The attendees were also taken on a tour of the Olympic venue. One of the clients, Satel, was a subcontractor on some of the security systems, and the company was able to talk about the work it had done.
A networking dinner in the Olympic Village was also held, and the summit concluded with a roundtable lunch with the editor-in-chief of Digital IQ, Utah's technology magazine.
At least six articles have already appeared featuring clients and issues raised through the summit, including pieces in InfoWorld, eWeek, and David Strom's Web Informant.
But the more intangible result has been a sense that the summit helped boost Utah's profile among this key media and analyst audience. "I was a little surprised with coverage that came out on Utah and the hi-tech industry here,
says Tyler Smith, VP of marketing for Alteris. "The participants were impressed with the number of technology companies out here."
Both the agency and Alteris plan to hold another summit next winter, with the possibility of a summer version if there is sufficient interest.
"We probably won't benefit again from a draw like the Olympics, but we'll find a way to attract people,
says Smith. "After all, the snow is still here."