Case Studies

Media Relations/Communications Case Study

Challenge: Increase awareness of the positive nature of Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation research and related Minneapolis Heart Institute treatment programs. Raise the local profile of the Foundation and its doctors as a way to support development efforts.

Background: The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation is one of the nation’s premier coronary research centers. The Foundation’s researchers are also practicing physicians at the MHIF’s sister organization, the Minneapolis Heart Institute (MHI). They are acknowledged by their peers as among the best in the country for treating heart disease. For the Foundation, however, a lack of awareness hampered local fundraising. In 2012, the MHIF was among the best kept secrets in the medical field and certainly in the Twin Cities. 

Strategy: Focus on local media for article placement and overall exposure. Leverage media coverage as a part of an integrated marketing communications program including, web site content and links, direct mail (print and email), events and social media.

Execution:       The Minneapolis Heart Institute and Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation enjoyed substantial local coverage over 13 months from November 2012 to December 2013, including four stories on Page One of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (two on Sunday) and another four on Page One Business in addition to coverage on Minnesota Public Radio, broadcast stations KSTP, WCCO and KARE.

Results: The aggregate number of media exposures over 13 months was estimated to be over 3.67 million with audiences boasting very favorable demographics. Qualitative research showed the MHI/MHIF presence was much stronger than expected and ranked #2 to Mayo but higher than the University of Minnesota Medical Center, a program with a much higher promotional budget.

The web site was completely revamped ( ) including Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Activity levels tripled. The development team used print articles in successful email DM campaigns and social media presence was established.

Follow up research in 2014 to track awareness and key messages was recommended but not implemented.

Key Learnings:   Experience in the medical device market with Boston Scientific in the Twin Cities market enabled this effort to gain traction in a few short months. The ability to leverage existing media relationships can be crucial in a compressed schedule. PR cannot, however, carry the entire communications load and while placements were influential, the MHIF business development efforts remained challenged without a more broad-based promotional program. 


Public Affairs Case Study

Challenge:      Manage media coverage and reinforce legal efforts surrounding a south                             Texas mold trial.

Background:     On August 30th 2004 Honeywell was scheduled to go to trial in Brownsville, Texas. In this lawsuit, the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District (SBCISD) near McAllen, Texas alleged that Honeywell Building Solutions (HBS) was responsible for potential mold damage in 11 of their 13 schools – charges vigorously denied by Honeywell (HON). The case for the plaintiff was shaped by the district’s mold consultant, Assured Indoor Air Quality (AIAQ). AIAQ had been paid to assess the cause of moisture in the schools and AIAQ would earn millions more if its recommendations to remediate the 11 additional schools were implemented – an alleged conflict of interest. Just prior to the trial date, the plaintiff’s attorney placed a story with Jennifer Bjorhus at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, at which point HBS legal brought in PR to consult. There was potential for serious harm to Honeywell’s reputation if the trial went on for any length of time, as was expected. 

Strategy:          HON PR (team of four) worked very closely with legal to evaluate the case and identify best media strategies. It was agreed that an aggressive stance was called for given the multi-million dollar lawsuit that the SBCISD had filed and the expectation that local sentiment would favor the schools in a largely lower income, Hispanic town (McAllen). We media trained our chief counsel, who was a Spanish-speaking local resident, to serve as primary spokesperson. In addition, we worked to secure local, bi-lingual, PR counsel with local media contacts to communicate Honeywell’s positions on the case and its participants. Weber Shandwick provided strategic, legal public relations counsel and Delagarza Public Relations provided media relations support in Texas.

Execution:       A thorough media relations program was executed, from the St Paul Pioneer Press to all the local Texas media, print and broadcast. Delagarza visited key local media and communicated key HBS positions prior to the trial. Full media briefs were available including key messages, talking points and Q&A.  HON public relations staff attended the initial trial sessions.

Results:            1. HBS PR neutralized negative coverage from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (Growing Battle, August 17, 2004, Page C1, St. Paul Pioneer Press) There was no coverage from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Several articles favorable to the Honeywell position were run in both English and Spanish language newspapers in Texas prior to the trial. Favorable, local broadcast coverage was run in the week leading up to the trial. 2. The plaintiffs settled for a much lesser amount and indicated that local media coverage supportive of Honeywell claims was a contributing factor in their decision.

Key Learnings:   Bring PR in early to high profile litigation strategic discussions. Proactive media relations can have a positive impact on settlements. Critical to this effort were local media relationships in local language. Evaluate damage to the brand in a long, negative trial vs. settlement costs. Where feasible, a knowledgeable lead attorney is the best spokesperson. 



Integrated Communications Case Study

Challenge:      Launch Motorola into a new B2C market with a newly branded product

Background:  In 1996 Motorola licensed the Macintosh OS and entered the Macintosh clone business. I was asked to launch Motorola’s first-ever desktop computer. The StarMax announcement constituted an entry into a new market for Motorola. This launch required an emphasis on distribution and channel marketing as well as a strong focus on new (Macintosh) media and industry analysts. Another priority was to establish Motorola as a leader in this new market segment and to position MCG as an industry leader.  Finally, the MCG communications team went through an extensive naming and branding exercise, identified StarMax nomenclature for this new product and developed extensive branding programs to create equity for this newest Motorola sub-brand. Agencies contributing to the effort were Sicola Martin (advertising) and Cunningham Communications (PR).

Execution:      Successful execution included a satellite news conference from three locations (NYC, San Francisco and Cupertino) 

Results:          1. Exceeded editorial targets. Strong coverage in all key media (NY Times, USA Today, Financial Times, WSJ) as well as cover articles in key trade publications (MacWorld, PC Week) 2. Delivered against financial, operations and awareness targets. After six months, met or exceeded all metrics for market share, volume (units shipped) and share of voice with key analysts and trade media.

Key Learnings: Leveraging the Motorola master brand (Motorola StarMax) was critical in the successful launch of this entirely new product. Pre-work with channel distribution provided for a strong and immediate entry into the market. Efforts in laying a media relations foundation nine months in advance contributed to strong launch day coverage.


International Relations Case Study

Challenge:      Manage communications to support the construction of a controversial semiconductor wafer fabrication plant in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China (PRC)

Background:     There was no one coordinating communications surrounding a new and controversial wafer fabrication plant (MOS 17) under construction in Tianjin. As a result, coverage in the global media was inconsistent and at times, inaccurate. I was asked to create a communications plan and to set up a process to manage communications.

Critical to the success of this effort was coordinating the goals and objectives, as well as managing the sensitivities, of no less than six “publics”, each with a different focus for communications. For example, Motorola (headquarters) wanted to be seen as a leading player in the evolving PRC economy while Motorola SPS was intent upon strengthening a reputation as a semiconductor technology leader. All communications needed to be approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce, which was concerned about the “exportation” of American jobs and the U.S. Department of Defense, which was being criticized for allowing the PRC military access to sophisticated technology. Each communicated messages based on their own focused key messages. Coverage was inconsistent and sometimes conflicting.

Strategy:          The best way to get executives in the various groups to work together was to coordinate weekly conference calls and to volunteer to manage the briefing book that was to become the single source for internal and external commentary on MOS 17. The brief articulated positions on issues ranging from transfer of technology to exportation of jobs to economic impacts. Eventually this document was agreed upon by all and became a single source for issues management and media comment. It accurately stated the goals of the project and insured that all communications reflected the same thoughts and direction. We also identified two media skills trained spokespersons and two backups in each regional time zone.

Execution:       Motorola continued to be conservative on media relations relating to MOS 17 and few media opportunities were actively pursued. Coverage that did occur was largely reactive and it reflected a unified set of positions and key messages from the brief. The manufacturing plant opened in 2000 without controversy and went into volume production for Motorola. It was sold to China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), in 2003.

Results:            1. Motorola avoided possible government delays to licensing approvals due in part to a coordinated and approved communications program. 2. Motorola saw no substantive negative publicity on the issues of jobs or technology.

Key Learnings:   Communications can have an immediate and positive impact on operations and government relations. In this instance, opening MOS 17  resulted in substantial financial benefits as well as improved public perceptions that helped to enable Motorola to sell the facility at a later date.

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