Celebrating 50 Years of Brain Research
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Celebrating 50 Years of Brain Research

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosted a two-day scientific symposium on October 9-10, 2001 on the NIH campus. The purpose of the symposium was to celebrate 50 years of brain

Paul Holmes

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosted a two-day scientific symposium on October 9-10, 2001 on the NIH campus.  The purpose of the symposium was to celebrate 50 years of brain research and to map out what top researchers believe are the most promising pathways for treating and curing diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and stroke.  Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide/Washington (Ogilvy PR) helped NINDS market the event to attendees and the media, as well as develop a logo, theme, marketing materials, Web site, display materials and program booklets.

Objective

NINDS tasked Ogilvy PR with marketing the event and developing a brand and image for the following materials.
· 50th Anniversary logo and brain image
· Web site (www.50brain.org) for people to register online
· Promotional postcard
· Marketing poster
· Timeline poster and banners
· Stage decorations including display banners and podium sign

Audiences
· Neurologists and researchers
· Health care providers
· Government and associations
· Media

Challenges

With this event, NINDS wanted to focus advocate and media attention on NIH’s contribution to the battle to defeat neurological disorders and highlight brain research and treatments for brain disorders.  Many scientific meetings are held in the fall and the Institute needed to craft an agenda that set this meeting apart from other neuroscience meetings and to heavily market the event to a vast audience.  Specifically, on the NIH campus alone, there are several scientific gatherings in October, so aggressive internal marketing was necessary as well.  NINDS’ goal was to attract 1,000 of the top neuroscientists and researchers from inside NIH and around the country.

Strategies and Tactics

Because of the number of meetings competing with the 50th anniversary, Ogilvy PR decided to develop a brand for the meeting and to appeal to target audiences through multiple channels while portraying that brand identity throughout.  The philosophy behind the event was that NIH provides unique expertise and resources to the fight against brain disease.  From that premise, Ogilvy PR helped NINDS shape an agenda that would include the best minds in neuroscience interacting in ways that they do not at other scientific meetings.  For example, the agenda included a panel of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists that was moderated by CBS News’ Lesley Stahl. 

In addition, Christopher Reeve spoke about the promise of brain research for helping people with spinal cord injuries.

The 50th anniversary brand included a high-tech image of a brain that would appeal to scientists no matter their discipline within neuroscience and would also be eye-catching for disease advocates and media.  All pieces included the name of the NIH campus because it would be most familiar to the general public.  The identity was used on a direct mail postcard, web site, marketing poster, timeline poster and stage decorations.

To market the event, Ogilvy PR’s first step was to seek out who would be interested in attending the event.  Ogilvy PR researched and collected mailing lists from such groups as the American Neurological Association, American Association of University Neurology Professors, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, Neuroscience Graduate Students, Society for Neuroscience, the American Academy of Neurology, among others.  Ogilvy PR then mailed more than 20,000 promotional postcards to neurologists, researchers and advocates across the U.S., inviting them to attend the event and encouraging them to register online at the event’s Web site, www.50brain.org

Ogilvy PR also worked with NINDS to promote the event internally within NIH by publishing an article in the NIH Record (monthly newsletter to NIH employees), distributing posters about the event around campus and including information on the homepage of the NIH Web site.

The 50th anniversary Web site not only captured registration but served also as a marketing and media outreach tool.  In addition to online registration, the site provided an agenda, speaker bios, and online press area.  The site also became a portal for a live online webcast of the event and forthcoming online on-demand video proceedings. 

For the event, Ogilvy PR developed materials to be displayed at the event, which included a historical timeline of brain developments and milestones.  This timeline was developed into a large poster that was framed and given as a thank you for significant organizers of the event.  The program booklet and display materials at the event were all branded with the 50th anniversary logo and brain image.

Evaluation/Results

Despite the tragic events of September 11, the symposium still managed to attract more than 1,200 of the nation’s top neuroscientists and physicians from across the United States.  The panel of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists was moderated by CBS journalist Lesley Stahl and was the most attended session.  Christopher Reeve spoke about the need for basic science research to focus on cures and treatments for brain disorders.  Despite the lack of “news” being presented at the symposium, more than 20 reporters attended, including reporters from the Associated Press, Vanity Fair and U.S. News & World Report.

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