PR Team: Burdines (Miami) and O'Connell & Goldberg (Hollywood, FL) Campaign: "Burdines Florida Teacher of the Year" Time Frame: July 2001-July 2002 Budget: $65,000Companies constantly scramble to affix their names to the few events without sponsorship in order to get their brands plastered all over the media, hoping to become as well-known as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. However, no one knew that Florida-themed department-store chain Burdines has been integrally involved in the creation, expansion, and support of the Florida Teacher of the Year program for 14 years. In fact, the brand generally went unrecognized in the media whenever the program was mentioned. The challenge to Burdines' agency, O'Connell & Goldberg (O&G), was to create heightened awareness of the company's leadership role in Florida education, and intrinsically link Burdines' name, image, branding, and customer base with the education program it supported and helped to develop. O&G also concentrated efforts on helping Burdines accomplish its longtime goal of encouraging other corporations to follow its lead and invest in important statewide issues. Strategy "If we could make the event more media-enticing," says Jim O'Connell, president of O&G, "the hope was that we could get more mentions. We wanted to show that Burdines staged the announcements, and didn't just simply plunk down their bucks." The team proceeded to plan visual human-interest events that would force the media not only to report the program, but to recognize Burdines' integral involvement in it as well, thus portraying the chain as a caring organization that was behind the program from the very beginning. The firm also sought to create new venues to expand the program by aligning the award presentations with Florida Public Television and The Miami Herald. Tactics The team at O&G used familiar PR tools to turn an annual event into a newsworthy celebration. The first major change to the old format was to create a "Call to the Principal's Office." "In previous years, when finalists were announced, there was no recognition," O'Connell says. This year, unsuspecting finalists for the award were called to the office for a surprise greeting from the commissioner of education, colleagues, and media, who were invited as event participants. "We notified media in each region," O'Connell says, "taking them into our confidence, letting them in on the secret." Burdines presented oversized checks to the teachers, and captured the emotion of the teachers on camera. For the awards, the PR team secured the Hard Rock Live concert venue, and actor Edward James Olmos as host. "The announcement of the Teacher of the Year took the form of a stylized, slick production," says O'Connell. After the ceremony, the winning teacher went through a media-training session, involving key messages and an emphasis on the client's role. The team then took to the road, doing interviews with more than a dozen media outlets across Florida in March and April as a way to showcase Burdines' year-round support for education and to generate buzz about the announcements of the next regional winner. Results The PR team at O&G saw the campaign come together more effectively in 2002 than it ever had before. The media tour brought education issues and Burdines' role to the attention of the media and, as a result, they generated statewide coverage of the event in five regional markets, estimating more than 20 million impressions. Contact with The Miami Herald led to a relationship with the newspaper's Hispanic daily, El Nuevo Herald, and broadcast partner WTVJ-NBC Channel 6, that expanded news coverage and promotional announcements. But most importantly, virtually every news story accurately conveyed the significant role the client played in the Burdines Florida Teacher of the Year program. Future The team will continue to promote Burdines' role in education, and is refining its tactics for next year's Burdines Florida Teacher of the Year program.