External Publication: External Publication Reaps Reputation Rewards


Winner: Northwestern Mutual Publication: Community Report Budget: $61,585, including $5,000 in freelancer costs, $6,836 for the project manager, $5,000 for photography, $15,000 for graphic design and $29,749 for printing. Northwestern Mutual doesn't settle for third place. A decade ago, the company was on the Fortune "Most Admired" list, as usual, but was dropping in the ranks - to third place - in the corporate responsibility category. At the same time, a local survey showed that the company was considered an "average" contributor to the Milwaukee community. "Corporate responsibility is an inherent part of our culture," says Betsy Rice, field PR consultant for the insurance firm. Plus, the Northwestern Mutual Foundation is the largest corporate foundation in Wisconsin. The company immediately realized it had to toot its own horn. The answer came in the form of a simple "Community Report," focused exclusively on the company's philanthropic efforts. The publication has been produced every two years during the past 10 years, but in 2001, it got a dose of fresh blood. Rice joined the company, as did a new CEO and other members of the communications team. Rice and team wanted to do something new with the report that had been very straightforward in the past. They proposed including a butterfly theme that incorporated the idea of lifting community spirit. "We work very closely with the Foundation in putting together the report," and one hurdle was to convince the Foundation that the new theme could work. Once they overcame that obstacle, offering exhaustive information on how the theme would shape the report and what it would look like, there was another challenge. The report had to be viable for a two-year period until the next publishing cycle. So, the team worked to ensure that the articles included in the pub were generic in terms of timeframe, with information on the Foundation's relationships with a variety of nonprofits. They added a pocket at the back where specific financial specs on giving could be included - and updated - each year. More than 20,000 Community Reports were distributed, and field offices ordered another 1,000. The result: Northwestern Mutual continues to be on Fortune's "Most Admired" list, and it now holds the top position in the corporate responsibility ranking. Plus, the publication is a valued tool for recruiting, customers and for the Foundation. With its fresh focus, Rice feels the report will continue to play a critical role. "The key thing with the Community Report is, it's evolving." (Rice: 414/224-5000)

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