2008 PR News Platinum PR Issue Winner: Multicultural Campaign

The winners and honorable mentions in this year's PR news Platinum PR awards issue exemplify the most innovative approaches to redefining traditional PR with anything-but- traditional strategies. From a marketing communications effort that united a country over the search for the stars of a 1950s TV commercial to an event that landed a flock of pink flamingos around the windy city, the following winner confirms that the PR profession has indeed stepped out from the shadows to take a front-and-center role in delivering business results to their own organizations, and to their clients. Below is the winner of the 2008 PR News Platinum PR award for multicultural campaign.

McDonald's and VPE Public Relations

McDonald's Education Initiative Empowers Hispanic Communities

McDonald's has been a contributor to the cause of helping Hispanic students graduate from college since 1985, but research shows that Hispanic college graduation rates still lag far behind that of non-Hispanics, with an average of only 8% of adult Latinos holding a college degree. In light of this news, McDonald's partnered with VPE Public Relations to ramp up its efforts to improve results.

Two-Prongs are Better Than One

The team decided to expand its original scholarship program withRronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources (HACER) to target students and their parents.

"The goal was to provide information about the college application process, available scholarships, and financial aid to both students and their parents," says Julie Guevara of VPE PR. "When coming up with a solution, we had to keep the goal in mind and do our best to execute the program."

The solution ended up being a partnership between McDonald's and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) to present five "Steps for Success (S4S)" college workshops in key markets across the country. The free, half-day workshops were conducted at local high schools and featured bilingual HSF staff, who provided specialized instruction for students and their parents in the context of SAT/PSAT prep, the college application process and applying for financial aid.

But, while the workshops were integral to the education process, the team wanted to reach a larger audience and have a more long-lasting effect. McDonald's Hispanic Consumer Market Web site, http://www.meencanta.com, helped solve this problem. "[the site] included information not only on the RMHC/HACER scholarship program for Hispanic students, but also bylined articles by author Mariela Dabbah," Guevara says. "Meencanta became a trusted source for information on the college application process, as well as an excellent resource for student searching for scholarships."

They're Lovin' It

Thanks to the online and in-person education components, the initiative drove more than 4,000 people to attend the S4S workshops, and the number of 2007 scholarship applications increased by 50% over the previous year. The team credits the multicultural campaign's success to knowing their audience inside and out.

"When developing a campaign, really think about the message that is trying to be conveyed, and how receptive the audience is going to be to the message. Is there a need for the campaign? How will it benefit this particular community?" Guevara says. "After realizing that there was a need in the community to educate both students and parents about the college application process, we developed a campaign which targeted that specific need. The statistics were there, and we wanted to do something about it."