Bye Bye, Chad: The Pursuit of a Fair Election Process
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Bye Bye, Chad: The Pursuit of a Fair Election Process

The 2000 presidential election brought to light the dysfunctional voting process in the United States. As a result, the nation is now actively addressing policy and political issues, as well as voting mechanisms, to ensure all Americans use an effective

Paul Holmes

The 2000 presidential election brought to light the dysfunctional voting process in the United States.  As a result, the nation is now actively addressing policy and political issues, as well as voting mechanisms, to ensure all Americans use an effective and fair voting process.  With previous experience in electronic voting solution implementations in Brazil, Costa Rica, Rome and Minnesota, Unisys is teaming with Microsoft and Dell to transform outdated voting systems with the efficiency of today’s electronic voting capabilities.  Through Unisys market research, it was apparent that the market for voting technologies would continue to grow in the United States.  Unisys recognized timing was crucial to showcase its Election Solutions in the U.S. marketplace.

Challenge/Opportunity

Due to the timeliness of the news and Unisys electronic voting capabilities, Weber Shandwick developed and implemented a proactive media outreach plan positioning Unisys executives as thought leaders on how their voting technology could have alleviated the election problems. In a two-week timeframe, Weber Shandwick planned and implemented a successful PR campaign for Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions launch and generated results far exceeding the client’s expectations, including more than 1 billion impressions that resulted from securing more than 185 media placements. 

Research

Research of the current market for voting technology providers in the United States exposed the need for value-added voting solutions and tremendous market opportunity to capitalize on Unisys best-of-breed electronic voting solution.  Research indicated:
· By 2004, all 50 states will be using some form of electronic voting — at least for candidate selection. (Gartner)
· Today, 50 percent of American voters cast their ballots via old, “obsolete,” technology. (Gartner)

Unisys turned to Weber Shandwick to develop and implement a national PR program to raise awareness of and create preference for Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions.

Weber Shandwick sought to capitalize on Unisys electronic voting successes by positioning the company as a leading provider of electronic voting solutions.  Initially, Weber Shandwick researched voting technologies and the current voting situation prior to the presidential elections which included informational interviews with Unisys executives on current electronic voting solutions and technologies, assessments of electronic voting trends, competitive analysis of other electronic voting providers and review of white papers and background reports from the Unisys Public Sector Practice.

Planning

Weber Shandwick began developing a public relations campaign to generate a buzz about Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions and to leverage the polarization of media and public interest around the faults of the 2000 presidential election voting systems.  The campaign was designed to position Unisys as a leader in electronic voting technologies to local, state and federal government professionals.  Weber Shandwick identified and targeted media within print, online, radio and television to leverage Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions and Unisys executives as industry thought leaders for voting solutions.

Objectives

· Heighten visibility for Unisys public sector executives as industry thought leaders
· Increase awareness of the breadth of Unisys electronic elections products and services to customers, potential customers and the investment community
· Establish Unisys as a key technology player in the public sector with whom other companies want to partner
· Enhance shareholder confidence

Strategy

Weber Shandwick’s media strategy included:
· positioning Unisys as an industry leader in designing and implementing information technology solutions for county, state and federal government organizations
· leveraging Unisys successful implementations to demonstrate experience in electronic election solutions
· engaging in the ongoing debate of “Would technology have changed the outcome of the 2000 presidential election?”

Using the 2000 presidential election controversy as a news hook during the month of November, Weber Shandwick secured initial interest in stories about Unisys global electronic election solutions from The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, CNET, Computerworld and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
The ongoing uncertainty over the United States presidential election and the timeliness of the news compelled Unisys to accelerate the launch of the [email protected] Election Solutions product line by 60 days. 

Within a two-week timeframe, Weber Shandwick began proactively pitching Unisys executives as thought leaders to media across the nation about how technology could have alleviated the voting problems in Florida.…

With a budget of $60,000 for the project, Weber Shandwick planned and implemented a comprehensive PR campaign for the official release of Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions.  The program incorporated development of media materials including a news release, media advisory, pitch letters, talking points, as well as a video news release.  Additionally, media spokesperson training was conducted with key Unisys executives.

Execution

Weber Shandwick counseled Unisys to offer an exclusive interview with The Wall Street Journal, a top tier business publication, which would add credibility to the announcement with other publications.  Weber Shandwick researched Wall Street Journal reporters who were covering the voting issue and secured interest with Michael Orey, Marketplace writer.  Weber Shandwick coordinated an exclusive interview with Michael Orey and the CEO of Unisys, Lawrence Weinbach.  Upon release of the exclusive interview announcing Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions product launch in The Wall Street Journal and the distribution of the release on national wires, Weber Shandwick began proactively pitching the announcement and securing interest with business, technology, new economy, vertical trade, radio and television media outlets.

Weber Shandwick faced challenges in media outreach around the Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions announcement including:
· coordination of high-profile global technology leaders Microsoft and Dell
· uncertainty over election results meant the focus could change quickly
· moving the story out of the political realm and into technology realm
· skepticism around e-voting solutions
· short window of opportunity
· year-end holidays during the two-week timeframe for planning the launch

The media relations campaign secured positive story placements in all targeted media segments including:
· National business/technology media such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, ABCNews.com, CBSMarketwatch.com, Computerworld, InfoWorld.com, Investor’s Business Daily, Philadelphia Inquirer and ZDNet
· International media such as the Associated Press, Reuters and BBC News
· New Economy/Internet publications such as Business 2.0, eWeek, Red Herring, Wired.com and Upside
· Vertical publications such as Washington Technology and EE Times
· National television and radio media such as CNBC, CNN, CNNfn and NPR

As a value-added service to ensure that the full scope of coverage was captured, Weber Shandwick’s Web Relations team monitored Web bulletin boards, investor relations boards and online publications regarding the announcement and supplied Unisys with daily monitoring reports for five days and a full wrap-up report after two weeks.

Evaluation

In an extremely condensed timeframe, Weber Shandwick planned and implemented a successful PR campaign for Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions launch with results far exceeding the client’s expectations.  While Unisys typically has strong representation within technology and vertical media, Weber Shandwick was able to position the Unisys e-voting story to generate interest from mainstream consumer and business media, which normally do not cover Unisys.

Overall, Weber Shandwick’s media campaign for Unisys [email protected] Election Solutions:
garnered more than 1 billion impressions:
· US print and online – 962,592,037; International – 48,197,782; Broadcast – 12,442,522
· secured 184 media placements: US print and online – 98; International – 7; Broadcast -- 79
· secured 30 media interviews with top-tier targets
· helped increase Unisys (NYSE: UIS) stock more than 20 percent from January 11 to January 12

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