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University of Limerick - Global Issues Campaign

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Company: University of Limerick, Ireland
Company Description: University of Limerick, Ireland, with more than 13,000 students and 1,300 staff is an energetic and enterprising institution with a proud record of innovation and excellence in education, research and scholarship. The dynamic, entrepreneurial and pioneering values which drive UL's mission and strategy ensures that it capitalises on local, national and international engagement and connectivity.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign of the Year - Global Issues

Nomination Title: Meet the mesentery, the organ hiding in plain sight

Tell the story about this nominated campaign since 1 January 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. TEXT REDACTED FOR PUBLICATION

A public relations campaign by a single member of staff in a five-person marketing and communications division in a small Irish university in January 2017 introduced millions of people around the world to a part of their bodies they knew nothing about.

Building on his years of research, University of Limerick (UL) professor of surgery Calvin Coffey identified an emerging area of science reclassifying part of the digestive system, the mesentery, as an organ. His research was published in The Lancet, Gastroenterology and Hepatology journal in late 2016.

By interviewing Professor Coffey, crafting a carefully-worded press release, commissioning strong accompanying photography, devising and implementing an international release strategy, carefully targeting key media influencers and plotting and executing a complementary social media strategy, Nicola Corless (having taken on the role of communications officer less than six months before) brought Professor Coffey's research and the mesentery to an international audience of tens of millions of people, possibly more.

The objectives of the campaign were:
• to establish the existence of, and increase understanding of, the mesentery in the public mindset globally;
• internationally position Professor Calvin Coffey as a leading medical expert on the mesentery;
• build on the overall educational reputation of UL by increasing the standing of teaching staff and research at UL's (10-year-old) Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) at a national and international level;
• enhance UL's reputation as a research-led university nationally and internationally.

Despite bringing the story to national attention in Ireland, Nicola was disappointed by the lack of international pick up, believing Professor Coffey’s research had the potential to become a global story.

In the following weeks, she researched a number of market-leading, international press release distribution platforms and identified key influencers in international media. Using her more than 10 years of experience as a journalist, she identified key times that offered opportunities to dictate the news cycle rather than follow it.

Against that backdrop, she reissued the press release and images in the first week of January 2017 targeting major international English-speaking media. The result of the reissue was phenomenal.

News of Professor Coffey's research went viral and was picked up by thousands of media outlets globally including in some of the world's top news channels.

The information and collateral issued with the press release was ample for the majority of print and online journalists reducing the volume of media queries to a manageable level. However, there were still hundreds of media queries across multiple time zones, fielded by the university's only communications officer, almost 24/7 during the first two weeks of the year.

Nicola's extensive initial preparation and her catalogue of supplementary material meant she could respond to these media requests for additional information, further information, graphics and photography in a prompt way and allowed her to schedule multimedia interviews with Professor Coffey.

This guaranteed further coverage on radio and television worldwide including some of the top news outlets globally, expanding the story's audience and extending its publicity time span. The story became the biggest in the University's 45-year history, was exceptional in terms of national and international reach and engagement and achieved each of the objectives set out in the campaign.

A unique feature of this campaign, was identifying a news story in academic research, telling it in a compelling way to a non-expert audience in plain English and approaching it for a second time when it failed to achieve the identified objectives on the first attempt.

This worldwide campaign was devised and executed by a single member of a five-person Marketing and Communications team with a budget of €350. The return on investment was extraordinary.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of this nominated PR program since the beginning of 2016 (up to 150 words).

• More than 2,000 stories about the research were recorded in the first week, in some of the world’s top news outlets, (Financial Times, BBC, The Washington Post, CNN, CBS News, Fox News, USA Today, Spiegel, Time and The Huffington Post).
• The story was covered in English-speaking media (UK, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia), and translated into more than 20 languages. It made headlines in China, Japan, Vietnam, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Greece, Slovakia, Indonesia, Turkey, Norway, Estonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Mexico, Russia and India.
• The campaign has also resulted in consistent look-back pieces across world media including in the New York Times.
• A conservative estimate of the monetary value of the publicity generated would see it in tens of millions of euros.
• The campaign resulted in marked on-boarding on UL social media accounts