By now it’s clear to everybody that Boston 2024 is having a public relations crisis over its plan to bring the Olympics here. You’re having a public relations crisis when you need to reverse yourself all of a sudden and come out in favor a public vote on the wisdom of your proposal. You’re having a public relations crisis when you have to retract the $7,500 daily rate promised to former Governor Deval Patrick for schmoozing the members of the International Olympic Committee. And you’re definitely having a public relations crisis when the communications director for the U.S. Olympics Committee offers up this tepid defense of your Twitter output: “Pretty sure they were not deliberately promoting the nazi agenda.”
Fortunately for the Boston 2024 team, its members include specialists in public relations work, such as the marketing firm Hill, Holliday. And fortunately for the rest of us, a preview of the kind of PR blitz we may soon expect in support of Boston 2024 is already available on the Hill, Holliday website. Here they are tooting their horn about a successful marketing campaign they undertook for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (not coincidentally, another member of the Boston 2024 team) a couple years back. I quote from it at some length because — I just could not help myself.
Making a Challenger Brand a Leader
Liberty Mutual…needed a resonant idea that would impact awareness and consideration, magnify its media investment, and drive growth – particularly online.
Liberty Mutual was founded on the belief that the employees were responsible for “helping people live safer and more secure lives.” Internal interviews of everyone from the CEO to the call-center reps confirmed a resounding desire to do the right thing rather than the easy thing. This shared value of responsibility became our resonant idea. It also meant we had found our best customers: “The Responsible Ones” who shared the same values and culture as Liberty Mutual itself.
By going beyond the demographical information to connect the consumer to Liberty Mutual via a shared value of responsibility, we struck a chord that has generated familiarity, fame, and favorability.
Kicking off in 2006, the campaign, tagged with “Responsibility, What’s Your Policy?,” launched with TV, print, a new Web site, and digital focused on people “doing the right thing” versus the easy thing.
The campaign struck a chord and the client was surprised and delighted by hundreds of letters and e-mails thanking them for the effort celebrating responsibility. Customers recognized themselves, employees rallied to the idea, and prospects became customers based on their alignment with this shared value. When it became clear that stakeholders wanted to further engage in this idea, we created a platform for them to continue the conversation.
The ResponsibilityProject.com launched in 2008 and became a program where consumers could seek Liberty Mutual out. We directed people to the site and blog where rich, compelling stories and videos about responsibility were brought to life…
Ah, yes, some favorable press involving compelling stories about responsibility and doing the right thing rather than the easy thing. That sounds just like what Boston 2024 is in the market for about now.
Which brings us to the question of what else was going on at Liberty Mutual during the time that Hill Holliday was orchestrating the “Responsibility, What’s Your Policy?” pitch. As it happens, we know a fair amount about that, thanks to former Globe columnist and current Globe editor Brian McGrory. It seems that most of the time the executives at Liberty Mutual were doing the easy thing rather than the right thing. In a series of nine columns written during two months in 2012 (a sampling of these columns: here, here and here), McGrory detailed Liberty Mutual’s lavish corporate ethic: $50 million in compensation for its CEO, a top-nine executive payroll that exceeded that of the Boston Red Sox starters, $200,000 in compensation for each member of the Board of Directors, five private jets for flights to luxury vacation homes, etc., etc., and all this money coming from the hundreds of thousands of Liberty Mutual policy holders. Then, as now, the Liberty Mutual executives were among a group of friends circulating enormous riches. During the administration of Governor Deval Patrick, now Boston 2024’s ambassador to the International Olympic Committee, the state gave a $22.5 million tax break to Liberty Mutual to build its new headquarters in Boston. Liberty Mutual awarded the contract to renovate its CEO’s executive suite (woven silk wallcoverings from the Netherlands, personal exercise room, price tag $4.5 million) to Suffolk Construction, whose CEO, John Fish, is now the Chairman of Boston 2024. And, back to where we started, the public relations contract with Hill, Holliday, whose CEO is the co-chair of Boston 2024’s public relations and marketing committee.
You get the picture. Boston 2024 is in serious need of a resonant idea right now. Therefore, we’ll soon be hearing of one homespun value or another that will be said to animate our would-be Olympians. If it’s as good as “Responsibility, what’s your policy?” was for Liberty Mutual, maybe the folks at Hill, Holliday will be bragging about it in a few years. Or maybe we’re smarter than that now.