Making the Grade
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Making the Grade

Although the opening of the Weatherhead School of Management’s new $62 million Peter B. Lewis Building – designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry – was a watershed event in the School’s evolution, it had raised high expectations in terms of generating attention for the Weatherhead brand among its many high-risk constituents: i.e. donors, alumni, the corporate community, and others.

Paul Holmes

Although the opening of the Weatherhead School of Management’s new $62 million Peter B. Lewis Building – designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry – was a watershed event in the School’s evolution, it had raised high expectations in terms of generating attention for the Weatherhead brand among its many high-risk constituents: i.e. donors, alumni, the corporate community, and others.
 To meet these expectations Stanton Crenshaw Communications was retained to develop and execute a strategic national media outreach that would generate a sense of excitement, anticipation and “buzz” for the new Lewis Building; and drive coverage that would focus on the School – and how it was attempting to a create an entirely new learning environment – versus visibility for “a new Gehry building.”
 To achieve these objectives Stanton Crenshaw made the strategic decision to start the campaign by securing a significant piece on the School/building in a high-profile outlet that would stimulate additional media interest and begin an incline of coverage that would culminate with a strong media focus around dedication weekend.
 Chief on the list of media targets was The New York Times. But until July, the story had met with only polite interest. It was then that Stanton Crenshaw put the pitch in a technology context; added a “back-to-school” angle, and lo and behold, technology writer Michel Marriott became interested. Fresh from a year on fellowship at Harvard, and looking for a “different” kind of feature he could contribute to the Circuits’ upcoming back to school issue, Marriott was eager to find a story that heralded technology as a catalyst for change in how students learn (It didn’t hurt that he was also a fan of Frank Gehry’s work).
Starting with the fact that Gehry and the Weatherhead faculty had spent two years designing and reinventing Weatherhead’s educational environment before any construction was done, Stanton Crenshaw arranged for Marriott to speak with several key faculty members who had been involved in the process. They convinced Marriott that not only did the new Lewis Building boast the fastest network of any education institution in the world, but that it had been designed to “level the playing field” between students and faculty, to inspire and foster spontaneous, almost instant communication, both within the school and, via technology, throughout the world.
After some back and forth, Marriott pitched the story to his editor, who was not fully convinced – mostly because of the expense involved in sending a reporter to Cleveland. In late July, Marriott, on assignment in Milwaukee, received permission to tour the Lewis building on his way back to New York. The tour was successfully arranged, and once he saw the building, Marriott became a passionate proponent of the story. He successfully pitched his editor, and on Thursday, August 15th, The New York Times ran a feature story in the back-to-school issue of its Circuits section.
Although this single placement opened the door for other key stories leading up to the dedication of the building – including Time Magazine and the Today Show – the piece also became a tremendous asset to Weatherhead in terms of being an impressive marketing piece for key audiences and constituencies.
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