'Today', July 3, 2006
What were your client's media goals?
Debbie Fitzgerald: Our client was the 2006 Special Olympics and the 2006 Special Olympics USA National Games in Ames, IA, July 2 to 7. The Special Olympics had previously been either a state-level or international event, so this was the first time athletes from across the country would compete, and the organizers wanted to generate as much public awareness as possible.
Why did you target Today?
Fitzgerald: We knew a national morning show would be crucial, and Today reaches not only the largest audience, but also has an audience demographic that relates best with the Special Olympics' goals of promoting understanding, acceptance, and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities.
How did you pitch the show's producers?
Fitzgerald: I'd worked with Today in the past, so I knew the types of stories it pursues. I spent several weeks sorting through inspirational athletic biographies submitted by all the state Special Olympics officials until we found one about the Bass family, which has six adopted children, four of whom play on the North Carolina Special Olympics soccer team. I then e-mailed a short pitch to Today executive producer Mary Alice O'Rourke highlighting this family, and she expressed interest almost immediately.
Did you have to media train either the Special Olympics athletes or the organizers?
Fitzgerald: We spent a lot of time on the phone with parents Gail and Steve Bass to make them feel comfortable before a Today crew traveled to North Carolina to meet the family and attend a soccer practice. We also worked with them to gather home movies and photos that were used in the segment.
What was the impact of the hit?
Fitzgerald: The Today segment ran July 3 and became great kickoff for the National Games. The hit ended up setting the stage for a flood of coverage that ultimately resulted in 2,000 stories about the National Games.
Name: Debbie Fitzgerald, senior PR manager, GroundFloor Media (Denver)
Placement: Today, July 3, 2006
Pitch timeline: Two months