Case Study No. 2955: Building Brand Awareness


How The Weiser Group Grabbed Center Stage for Firm When Chicago-based Aon Consulting authored a unique study on employee attitudes, PR firm The Weiser Group seized upon the study's innovative angles to not only only gain publicity for the study itself but build brand awareness of the firm at the same time. The study, "The Survey of Life Stage Needs," was considered innovative because it had questioned 1,000 rank-and-file employees rather than high-level execs across the country regarding their opinions on the importance of various employee benefits. The Weiser Group, with offices in Chicago and New York, and a staff of 18, has been plying its strategic PR services for 18 years for financial services, health care and insurance clients such as the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Humana and Conseco. When Aon Consulting, a top-ten but relatively low profile human resources consulting firm with special expertise in the employee benefits arena, tapped The Weiser Group in the spring of 1995, The Weiser Group chairman Michael Weiser understood that Aon wanted to promote the 90-page study and also raise its own profile. "Our objective was to present ourselves in the marketplace as a leader, demonstrating our expertise," said John Canfield, senior VP, Aon. "We saw the survey as a marketing and positioning tool - as a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself," echoed Weiser. "There was not just news value here but [the survey could be a] key driver in building brand awareness" of the firm. According to Weiser, Aon execs realized that although they were well respected, they lacked name recognition, an important factor in getting surveys such as theirs proper media attention. Weiser identified a few ways in which the study could be leveraged into building brand awareness and also planned a media strategy. "First of all, it was obvious that Aon cared enough about the marketplace to ask the questions it asked," said Weiser. "Second, they had looked at the marketplace in a way that others had not. Then, they had gone through the analysis and were able to tell the marketplace where a company with finite resources should be spending its money to provide maximum benefits. It said about the Aon brand, "It's not just that benefits are good, but Aon was in a position to help its would-be and current clients make an investment. That was key to Aon's branding." Other surveys tended to provide "a lot of info but precious few conclusions," said Weiser. With an eye toward future dissemination of the survey, The Weiser Group actually helped to fashion the format of the survey after the data was collected. It offered the story first, as an exclusive, to The Wall Street Journal. "I called the Wall Street Journal reporter and she was interested in the study because it interviewed employees, was wide-ranging and covered a diverse geographic area," said Tracy Galla, director, The Weiser Group. "If the Journal was not interested in the story, we would have gone to other national publications. We had many, many conversations with Ellen Pollack [WSJ reporter] and sent her an executive summary." In late November 1995, The Wall Street Journal went with the story and featured the survey in a large article on the front page of the marketplace section of the newspaper. The Journal also ran a large boxed graphic containing survey results next to the article. By getting the story into the Journal, The Weiser Group had managed to get both the survey and Aon's name in front of just the high-profile corporate executives, human resource professionals and business leaders Aon was after. "We received a tremendous number of questions [regarding the survey] from current and prospective clients," said Canfield. "And one story begot another. I'm still getting calls about it even to this day, well over a year after the survey was put out." On the day the story ran, The Weiser Group also sent out press releases to regional human resources and employee benefit trade media, as well as to other business publications with a wider readership. The survey and related story were picked up by more than 30 print and broadcast news outlets, including "National Public Radio," Crain's Small Business, Business Insurance and Working Woman. The survey was also distributed to thousands of interested firms and organizations, said Canfield. The Weiser Group will get another chance to implement its strategy in getting another Aon survey to center stage. Last week at a national human resources conference, Aon released a survey that has already been picked up in the Chicago Tribune. Is the The Wall Street Journal interested in a sequel? For the record, Weiser would only say that the firm is working on getting the second survey into national media channels. (Michael Weiser, Tracy Galla, Weiser Group, 312/701/4810; John Canfield, Aon, 312/701-4810)

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