Eaton Vance Corp.
Given the outside factors stacked against it, the limited budget of Eaton Vance's two-person communications department was the least of its problems. Director of PR Meg Pier (shown) and PR assistant Deborah Porter needed to promote the investment firm's mutual funds and heighten the profile of the Eaton Vance brand during a prolonged negative stock market and recessionary economy – all with a budget of $40,000.
Until March 2001, investors had enjoyed more than a decade of returns of 30% and up. As a result, when the bad times hit, those who started seeing negative returns and dwindling retirement accounts reacted to the demise by retracting billions of dollars. Mutual fund companies nationwide laid off thousands of employees, and press coverage focused largely on the volatility of the market. All this was occurring in conjunction with the 9/11 aftermath, the collapse of Enron and WorldCom, and high-powered CEOs becoming increasingly common targets of SEC investigators.
To promote investment management expertise, Pier and Porter pitched quarterly think pieces by their investment professionals to the media, and disseminated letters that translated the benefits of some of Eaton Vance's more technical products. The company also conducted media tours with portfolio managers, and issued a statement on industry misconduct from chairman Jim Hawkes. In the midst of coverage on terrorism and the Iraq conflict, Eaton Vance made its chief economist and top equity investment officer available to offer perspective on the economic impact of the events.
In total, the efforts garnered coverage for Eaton Vance in 876 articles, reaching more than 633 million readers and viewers over a one-year period. Profiles ran in such outlets as TheStreet.com, Boston Business Journal, and The Boston Globe and presented the firm as well managed, with executive integrity and the interest of shareholders at heart. Additionally, 38 full-length features appeared, including coverage in Barron's, CBS MarketWatch, Dow Jones, Investor's Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and The New York Times. The firm saw itself on TV as well, with hits on CNBC, CNNfn, and Bloomberg.
Eaton Vance assets under management on November 1, 2002 (the start of the campaign) were $55.6 billion, compared to $70 billion at the end of the effort on October 16, 2003. Similarly, the firm's stock price was $29.10 in November 2002 and $35.43 in October 2003.
One judge said, “In a time of skepticism about investment management companies, this two-person team did a great job of getting the word out that Eaton Vance is in a class of its own.”
Given the limited resources, another judge called the media results “incredible,” and took note of the team's internal accolades. At Eaton Vance's annual sales meeting, Hawkes announced the results that Pier and Porter's efforts produced, bringing the audience to their feet.
Believe it or not, Applebee's International, the largest chain of casual-dining restaurants in the country, went without any in-house PR support for its first 14 years. In July 2002, the company hired its first-ever PR director to enhance the public's perception of Applebee's as the world's favorite neighbor. To achieve her goal on a limited budget, the newly appointed director hired two staffers and worked with existing marketing research to gauge the chain's target audience. The three-person team focused on four opportunities: a 1,500th restaurant opening; the chain's Neighborhood Hero program; its partnership with Weight Watchers; and an Applebee's waitress who returned $3,300 to a customer who had left it behind. The effort, which one judge called “a fun campaign that didn't let size or scope get in the way of significant results,” resulted in extensive local and national media coverage.
Eaton Vance Corp.
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Ogilvy PR Worldwide operates in 60 markets around the world. The firm specializes in five practice areas, including health & medical, marketing, public affairs, technology, and corporate. We are pleased to recognize the finalists in the award for the Small Corporate Communications Team of the Year.