Burson helps turn 'IT' into Segway story

NEW YORK: After nearly a year of intense speculation, "IT" was

revealed last Monday to be the Segway Human Transporter, a

battery-powered, self-balancing scooter. And Burson-Marsteller, hired by

Dean Kamen to manage communications efforts - and expectations - for his

much-hyped invention, is one of the reasons the average consumer cannot

yet buy one.

Working with Segway's SVP of marketing Gary Bridge, Burson's brand

marketing practice director Linda Recupero and brand marketing director

Jennifer Norton put together a strategy that focused on the vehicle's

commercial applications. "We could have come out with the consumer model

first," said Bridge, "but we wanted to offset the fun and recreational

aspects of the product by showing actual work being done."

To spread Kamen's intended message - that Segway is not a space-age toy,

but rather a tool that may eventually become a relied-upon part of

everyday life - the Burson team handpicked the news outlets to which the

machine would be unveiled.

Freelance journalist John Heilemann was chosen to write an exclusive

feature story. He wanted to do the piece for The New York Times

Magazine, but Burson steered him toward the broader audience of Time.

The Times, however, was the newspaper given a sneak peak at Segway,

while ABC's Good Morning America got the coveted broadcast debut.

"Keeping the three embargoed media outlets in harness, that was

impressive to me," Bridge said.

Bridge expects stories on the first major Segway purchases - Amazon.com

and the US Postal Service are among those showing early interest - to

appear early next year. Summer 2002 will finally bring events showcasing

the consumer version of Segway. And beyond that? "We've had calls from

people who want to make a movie about this," said Bridge, who insisted

on keeping the names of his Hollywood suitors secret - for now.

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