Back to School with Lewis & Clark
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Back to School with Lewis & Clark

When the National Council reached out to Qwest Communications, a leading provider of voice, video and data services, Qwest’s Corporate Social Responsibility team determined it would be a wonderful organization to support.

Paul Holmes

To create nationwide awareness of the 200 anniversary of the Lewis & Clark expedition, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution in the late 1990s, recognizing the leadership of the National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial in commemorating the Bicentennial and urging government agencies’ participation. The three-year national observance of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, which includes different multi-day Signature Events in 15 states, was inaugurated Jan. 18, 2003, in Charlottesville, Va., at Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. Commemoration activities are scheduled through the fall of 2006.

At the time of the inauguration, the National Council was still in urgent need of sponsorship for its main educational program – an interactive curriculum that brings the Lewis & Clark journey to life in the classroom for America’s students.

The curriculum was developed under the guidance of renowned Lewis & Clark historian Dr. Robert Archibald. It explores the major themes addressed in Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition - - such as preparing for the trip, mapping, warriors/soldiers, politics and diplomacy, animals, trade and property, women, language, and plants.

When the National Council reached out to Qwest Communications, a leading provider of voice, video and data services, Qwest’s Corporate Social Responsibility team determined it would be a wonderful organization to support because it aligned with the goals of the Qwest Foundation, Qwest’s philanthropic arm. Dedicated to building strong communities, Qwest believes that educating children is the cornerstone for building promising futures, stronger families and healthier communities. In addition, Qwest serves many of the states where Lewis & Clark traveled on their grueling, multi-year journey to find a reputed water route to the Pacific Ocean.

The Qwest Foundation’s $320,000 grant to the National Council enabled the development of 50,000 CD-ROMs of the curriculum for distribution in schools around the country to engage students in this 200-year-old tale of adventure and endurance.

Qwest developed “Back to School with Lewis & Clark” to inform teachers and students about the Lewis & Clark educational program. A Qwest-branded, informational website was developed, that will serve as an informational tool for the remaining two years of the Bicentennial Signature events. Educators can learn more about the curriculum and request CD-ROMs for their classroom on the site. Press materials were developed and also were housed on the Web site, and included the following: two press releases, one that announced the $320,000 grant and the other that announced the Back to School campaign.

Both were distributed to broadcast and print outlets in Signature Event and Qwest markets, Lewis & Clark: The National Bicentennial Exhibition fact sheet, bios of Robert Archibald and Peggy Duncan and event overviews and photos. 

Qwest enlisted Peggy Duncan, a nationally known time-management specialist, to develop Lewis & Clark “Then and Now” facts. This intriguing data compares and contrasts important expedition events with updated scenarios to demonstrate how video and camera phones, videoconferencing, GPS, Tablet PCs and other innovative technologies could have helped the Lewis & Clark expedition save time and energy along their journey. The “Then and Now” fact sheets also are housed on

Individual “Back to School with Lewis & Clark” launch events were planned that coincided with 2004 Signature Events in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Qwest launched “Back to School with Lewis & Clark” in Omaha in conjunction with the First Tribal Council Signature Event that occurred July 31-Aug. 3. The launch event was held at the Omaha Boys & Girls Club and featured Qwest’s Nebraska president, the National Council and a well-known Lewis & Clark re-enactor.Qwest planned a launch event at Harvey Dunn Elementary School in Sioux Falls, S.D., that featured Qwest’s South Dakota president and the National Council, in conjunction with the Signature Event “Oceti Sakowin Experience: Remember and Educating,” that occurred Aug. 27-Sept. 26.

The next and final 2004 Signature Event was held in Bismarck, N.D. at Centennial School. It featured Qwest’s North Dakota state president and Amy Mossett, Tribal Involvement Coordinator with the National Council, who presented a special Sacagawea program. The event was in conjunction with the Bismarck Signature Event, “Circle of Cultures: Time of Renewal and Exchange,” that took place Oct. 22-31 and Qwest conducted aggressive media relations surrounding each launch event.

Qwest’s local employees and Pioneers, its volunteer retirees, staffed a booth at each Signature Event and distributed Qwest-branded Lewis & Clark Bicentennial brochures and lapel pins, as well as a flyer that outlined the educational campaign and drove educators and the general public to the Back to School Web site. The booth also featured a Back to School banner and table signage that promoted Qwest’s support of the Bicentennial commemoration.

Qwest leveraged its radio advertising buy in 2004 Signature Event markets to secure Public Service Announcements (PSAs) encouraging educators to visit the Web site to request CD-ROMs for their classrooms.

The launch of the educational campaign in Omaha generated three television segments and 24 print stories in six states, which included two features in Education Week and NSTA Reports! – two important national publications that reach educators about timely educational programs. The Lewis & Clark educational campaign has generated nearly 2.8 million consumer impressions, which is very significant considering these are small media markets and most of the major newspapers have circulation numbers fewer than 10,000.

In addition, the PSAs ran on 11 radio stations in North Dakota and South Dakota during their respective Signature Events. Approximately 20,000 CD-ROMs have been distributed to educators or requested by educators through the Web site in almost every state in the country.

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