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Getting Corporate American to Go Back to School

The public relations campaign for the University of Michigan Business School was successful in helping to maintain the School’s coveted ranking as one of the few state universities on Business Week’s top ten list of “Best B-Schools.”

Paul Holmes

  The public relations campaign for the University of Michigan Business School was successful in helping to maintain the School’s coveted ranking as one of the few state universities on Business Week’s top ten list of “Best B-Schools.”  More importantly, through articles in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times “Money & Business Section,” and via feature stories on CNBC and CNN, the campaign successfully leveraged the media to enlighten corporate America about the quality of the School and the strength of its graduates.
 
SITUATION ANALYSIS
 
Although the University of Michigan of Business School (UMBS) enjoyed one of the strongest reputations of any business school among corporate recruiters – based on where recruiters prefer to hire MBA graduates – research showed that the quality of the School and the strength of its graduates were generally not as well-known within corporations at large, especially compared to other top business schools. Consequently, UMBS decided that if it was going to attract prospective MBA students from the very important corporate sector, it needed to build its reputation and establish itself more firmly within that community.
 
OBJECTIVES & STRATEGIES
 
UMBS charged Stanton Crenshaw Communications with implementing a media relations initiative that would:
  • Increase positive awareness of the UMBS graduate program with the corporate audience – and consequently the prospective students who are derived from that audience – on a national level;
  • Generate coverage that would build the Business School’s brand and support a leadership position.
 
Based on the client’s objectives, it was decided that the strategic approach would:
  • Leverage major School initiatives as examples of how UMBS was a leader in the evolution/change of management education;
  • Capitalize on UMBS' tremendous knowledge in terms of faculty expertise and research.
 
EXECUTION
 
Utilizing Benchmark Research & Programs/Curriculum
  • Proactively pursued feature coverage of UMBS’ benchmark research and programs/curriculum with business-oriented media;
  • Offered key research findings and programs/curriculum as exclusives to management reporters at leading business publications;
  • Extended initial stories into electronic, wire, and Internet coverage.
 
RESULT HIGHLIGHTS
 
Efforts to increase positive awareness of the UMBS graduate program with the corporate audience on a national level, and generate coverage that would build the Business School’s brand and support a leadership position resulted in the following:
 
Practical Intelligence – Researched, developed and implemented a pitch on UMBS’ Practical Intelligence program which resulted in a feature story on the front page of the New York Times’ Business Section (May 24, 2000).
 
Pressing Problems – Developed media pitch and conducted targeted media outreach for the UMBS/Exec. Ed. Pressing Problems program with a specific focus on the survey and book series. Results include:
A Page One “Business Bulletin” item on the Pressing Problems Survey secured and published in the Wall Street Journal on July 13, 2000;
 
CNN feature about the Pressing Problems research and book series on 8/21/00. The piece ran as “Executive Headaches” on CNN Headline News, CNN Airport News, CNN’s Business Unusual, and several affiliated local news programs across the country;
A story in the Financial Times (October 30, 2000) on the Pressing Problems research and book series.
 
Idea to IPO in 14 Weeks – Researched, developed and implemented a pitch on UMBS’ Prof. J. Coval’s ‘Idea to IPO in 14 Weeks’ curriculum which resulted in a story in the August 2000 edition of Wired magazine, as well as in the Wall Street Journal (September 5, 2000).
 
Women and the MBA – Generated media coverage of the UMBS/Catalyst ‘Women and the MBA’ research on NPR’s Marketplace (May 12, 2000) and in the Wall Street Journal (September 5, 2000) 
 
Economists Poll – Suggested and contributed to the development of a survey from UMBS’ emerging market think-tank (The William Davidson Institute) as a tool to create content that would help raise the Institute’s visibility. Developed the results of the poll – which focused on Russian President Putin’s election and the Russian economy – into a newsworthy announcement and pitched to key media. Coverage included:
  • The Wall Street Journal  – March 24, 2000 – “Putin Mends Relations”
  • NPR’s Marketplace – March 24, 2000 – “Russians Choose Their Second President”
  • CNBC –  March 29, 2000 – “Russian Election Impact”
  • Bloomberg – March 27, 2000 – “Putin’s Victory In Russia”
 
FT Knowledge – Researched, developed and implemented a pitch on UMBS’ FT Knowledge program which resulted in a feature story in Red Herring (3/15/00) as well as additional coverage in the December 2000 edition of Upside.
 
ACSI – Generated coverage of UMBS’ American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) on Internet retail and government agencies, including contacting reporters to attend the press briefing and arranging media interviews.  Results included interviews and/or news reports on CNBC, CNNfn, CNN Headline News, CNN Today, Bloomberg TV, ABC World News Tonight, Associated Press Broadcast, Wall Street Journal Radio, and Reuters.
 
Multinationals & the Environment – Researched, developed and implemented a pitch on the UMBS/William Davidson Institute study regarding the impact of strict environmental standards on multinational corporations which resulted in a feature story in the “Economic Trends” section of Business Week.
 
Bush Tax Proposal – Developed a pitch on UMBS’ Professor J. Slemrod and his insights regarding the proposed Bush tax cut that resulted in a feature story on NPR’s Marketplace.
 
E-Commerce Partnership – Conducted targeted media outreach for the three-way e-commerce partnership between UC Berkeley-Haas, UVA-Darden and UMBS.  Results included feature articles in/on the San Francisco Chronicle (June 22, 2000) and Wired News (June 29, 2000).
 
Although the overall campaign was very successful in leveraging the media to enlighten corporate America about the quality of the School and the strength of its graduates, the most telling sign of the programs success was that UMBS was ranked as one of the top 10 U.S. business schools by Business Week Magazine, making it only one of four Schools that have been in the top ten list since the rankings began.
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