2008 PR News Platinum PR Issue Winner: Public Affairs

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 public affairs.

One Laptop per Child and Racepoint Group

Bridging the Digital Divide

Soon after the launch of One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization that manufactures and distributes low-cost laptops to children in developing nations, it became clear that OLPC needed a global communications campaign to help influence governments to commit to the program. It also needed to preempt efforts by industry giants, such as Intel, to discredit the organization and shut it down.

Racing to Form Objectives

OLPC teamed up with the Racepoint Group and hammered out three main goals for the campaign:

·         Help get at least 10 governments interested in working with the OLPC;

·         Fight back when it came to intel's disparagement of OLPC to governments; and,

·         Fund the delivery of 100,000 XO laptops to children in some of the world's poorest nations.

To prove that OLPC could deliver a first-rate, low-cost laptop, racepoint fed the media a series of breaking news announcements in the areas of hardware/software development, manufacturing and distribution. Then, to square off against Intel, OLPC founder and MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte was interviewed on CBS' 60 Minutes, where he controversially said, "Intel should be ashamed of itself" for disparaging the goodwill effort. The broadcast propelled Intel to join the OLPC board in July 2007. (later Intel violated its member agreements, which prompted OLPC to throw the company off its board; when news leaked to the media, OLPC was portrayed sympathetically, while Intel was not.)


On Sept. 24, 2007, Racepoint launched a consumer awareness campaign to promote a two-week giving program, through which North American consumers could purchase two laptops for $399--one for a child in a developing nation, and the other for themselves. The PR campaign targeted general interest and consumer media while reaching out to blogs and online communities. A Web site was created to highlight the efforts of the campaign, and star of TV's Heroes, Masi Oka, came on board as an OLPC ambassador, appearing in on-air PSAs.

All told, the OLPC campaign in 2007 yielded tremendous results, entering into purchase agreements with Uruguay, Peru, Mongolia and Haiti, and initiating discussions with 17 other countries.