Award touts civic-minded efforts of baby boomers

Baby boomer stories typically discuss the same things: Social Security, the graying of the population, golf, or medical problems.

Baby boomer stories typically discuss the same things: Social Security, the graying of the population, golf, or medical problems.

"A lot of coverage was about the burden this generation would be," says Mike Smith, Fenton Communications account director. But Civic Ventures, a nonprofit, saw that the 77 million-strong population wasn't sitting on the porch in rocking chairs. It was leading second or third careers and making social change.

Strategy

Civic Ventures created the Purpose Prize, a $100,000 award to recognize social entrepreneurs older than 60. Fenton and Civic Ventures thought reporters needed a different angle on the baby boomer story. It was pitched as an uncovered story - an anti-retirement look at a generation exposed to social and civic mindedness in its youth.

Tactics

The team pitched it as a trend story, but more than just "Grandpa does good," in the retirement section. Embargoed information on the winners was released to reporters before the Labor Day holiday, so they could write the results in advance. The articles ran the Tuesday after Labor Day, a day editors typically are aching for stories. "That was a hugely successful strategic decision," says Stefanie Weiss, VP of communications at Civic Ventures.

Results

Endorsed by President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton, the Purpose Prize received 1,200 nominations. The Wall Street Journal ran the story as a trend piece when Civic announced it. Not long after, papers across the country covered it, from initial offering, to finalists, to winners. "We were stunned," Weiss says. However, Fenton and Civic say that if they had the campaign to do over, they would have put more time into local TV resources.

Future

Fenton and Civic Ventures continue to work together, with Fenton handling PR for next year's awards.

PR team: Civic Ventures (San Francisco) and Fenton Communications (San Francisco)

Campaign: Purpose Prize

Duration: November 2005 to September 2006

Budget: $150,000

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