Xerox Research Center and the Future of Reading
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Holmes Report
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Xerox Research Center and the Future of Reading

Text 100 launched an aggressive communications program designed to leverage PARC and its leading-edge research as a strategic tool to continue to educate key influencers and position Xerox for the future.

Paul Holmes

As part of the continuing campaign to promote Xerox PARC as the foremost center for innovation in the world today, Text 100 launched an aggressive communications program designed to leverage PARC and its leading-edge research as a strategic tool to continue to educate key influencers and position Xerox for the future.
 
The business objective for the campaign was to proactively build a corporate image that highlights Xerox’s continued technology leadership via promotion of PARC research projects.
 
To support the overall campaign objective, Text 100 identified and designed a PR campaign around a Xerox PARC sponsored exhibit entitled, Experiments in the Future of Reading.  Experiments in the Future of Reading is a 4000-square-foot exhibition installed at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California.
 
The exhibit explores the history of reading, the relationship between reading and new technologies, and the future of reading.  By incorporating a variety of research projects underway at PARC, the exhibition presented an ideal opportunity to promote Xerox’ leading edge-research and demonstrate the creative process involved in technology development.  Much like a real laboratory, the museum exhibits offered a playful sense of fun and wonderment. The reading experiences range from children's stories to graphic novels, from dynamic cartoons to large-scale reading walls.
 
The only problem was of course - in a world so obsessed with technology and the ‘Next Big Thing’, how do you make something as fundamental and behind the scenes as reading seem sexy?
 
STRATEGY
 
To support the aforementioned objective, Text 100 recommended the following strategy:  educate key audiences on the unique PARC research projects which contributed to the exhibit and position these projects as a catalyst of the overall digital explosion technology is bringing to light.
 
Text 100 and PARC highlighted key exhibits to gain interest from the media and that  exhibits demonstrated both PARC’s commitment innovation and their ‘coolness’.
 
RED the Reading Eye Dog: This metal dog can read aloud printed reading material that is placed in front of him on his reading stand. Although he has some reading material already, he can also read books, newspapers and brochures brought by the visitors to the exhibit.  Mounted in the dog's eyes are two video cameras that capture the images on the reading stand.  The computer reads the images, combines them to create one large image, which is then scanned by a software program that identifies the text parts of the image.  Using pattern-matching software, the computer determines what each letter is.  It then puts these letters together to form words. Through a voice synthesizer, the dog speaks each word that it has read.
 
Walk-In Comix: A large graphic novel that visitors must walk through to read. With eight-foot-high walls and multiple rooms and corridors, the visitor is literally enveloped by the story.  The images started as digital photographs of live actor, then were painted over and treated in Adobe PhotoShop. The final sheets, some of which are three feet wide and fourteen feet long, were printed on Xerox large format printers with a great deal of attention by master printers.
 
TARGET AUDIENCE
 
The target audiences for this program ranged from C-level executives who follow Xerox from a business perspective to local families in Silicon Valley who Xerox wanted to target to attend the exhibit.  To reach this mixed audience, Text 100 selected ABC World News, a national highly viewed and respected news program, and 219 affiliate stations across the country as the primary conduit to reach these desired audiences.  
 
RESULTS
 
Following a proactive pitch to ABC World News, Jack Smith took to the story and on April 13, 2000 ABC Network News at 6:30 p.m. ran a three-minute segment on Xerox PARC’s Experiments in the Future of Reading exhibit as the feature story of its ‘Closer Look’ section.  The story, which lead with “We’ll take a look at the digital explosion – by which we mean reading” went on to reference that “Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, California, the home of the computer mouse and the laptop, has been looking at the possibilities (of the digital explosion).” 
 
The prime time story went on to demonstrate six different exhibits, including RED and the life size comic book, and included three Xerox interviews – John Seely Brown, Xerox chief scientist (quoted once); Rich Gold, manager of XFR (quoted twice); and Anne Balsamo, Xerox PARC researcher (quoted once). 
 
Each spokesperson reiterated key messages, which included:
  • “The digital explosion creates more reading than before and creates more kinds of reading.”
  • “The new digital revolution will make reading more important.”
  • “These technologies could change the way we read.”
  • “The world wide web is the world wide reading machine.”
  • “While the act of reading has been changing dramatically, Xerox PARC is looking at the possibilities.”
 
Overall, the program proved to be highly successful in terms of generating interest from Xerox partners and drawing significant numbers of visitors to the museum.  The coverage also resulted in a huge number of reactive opportunities which culminated in positive coverage in key publications such as the San Jose Mercury News and the AP among others.  In total, the PR campaign achieved over 100 print clips and four broadcast opportunities.  Due to the high visibility of the coverage, Xerox PARC’s Experiments in the Future of Reading exhibit is about to begin a four-year tour of museums across the country.  Perhaps the most important result of the campaign Text 100 conducted was to tie Xerox PARC to the future in the eyes of the public and the media.
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