|Alumnus promotes presidential dollar
By Courtney Brasel
Public relations, junior
If you have a new $1 presidential coin jingling around in your pocket, chances are you heard about it through the efforts of department alumnus Michael Schiferl.
As second vice president, director of media relations for the highly regarded Weber Shandwick Worldwide, Schiferl, B.A., 1989, was directly involved with shaping and implementing the editorial media outreach efforts promoting the new coins. The prestigious firm began working with the U.S. Mint in October 2006 to help implement the $1 Presidential Coin Act of 2005.
"We have had multiple waves of media outreach with enormous success and widespread editorial coverage in both print and electronic media outlets, both online and offline," said Schiferl, who joined Weber Shandwick Worldwide in 2004 after many years at various industry posts.
The first big media event was the unveiling of the new coins' designs at a well-staged press event at the Presidential Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., in November. "Virtually every paper in the country, TV station, major radio network and key online portals covered or posted the story, even as page 1 news," he said.
After the design unveil, he and his team continued to "seed" stories about the forthcoming coins via local events and media interviews. For instance, schools in select cities held George Washington look-alike contests to promote the first coin, which honors the nation's first president.
"A big component of the campaign is also about the educational value of the coins in school rooms, much like the very successful 50 States Quarters Program on which the $1 Presidential Coin Act is based."
In February, near President's Day, the actual coins went into circulation. "Again we did the full-court press with media outreach, garnering coverage across the world," he said. "We did a ceremonial ‘first spend' with the director of the U.S. Mint in New York City's Grand Central station, and had the public be able to do a coin exchange, dollar bills for coins."
Throughout the process, Schiferl spoke directly to producers and reporters at many outlets, arranging in-studio interviews for the mint director with outlets such as CNN and "The Today Show." In addition to the more "serious" news outlets, the coins were also featured on such shows as "Regis & Kelly," and were even a question on the game show "Jeopardy."
"Across these early phases of the program, we've been able to garner about 4,000 known editorial stories about the new coins and more are still coming."
Schiferl said the vast majority of press has been neutral or positive, but most importantly, has included messages that the U.S. Mint wanted to be sure were conveyed, such as the new coins aren't replacing dollar bills.
The successful push is just one in a long line of campaigns that Schiferl was involved in. Over the years he has worked on dozens of editorial outreach campaigns for Microsoft's X-box, Harley-Davidson, Kentucky Fried Chicken, even the "got milk?" campaign, among others. Most recently, he was working with the New Orleans visitors and convention bureau to promote Mardi Gras.
"I've been fortunate to have worked on some of the biggest brands and PR campaigns in the industry over the years," he said.
Even though he is busy, Schiferl still finds ways to stay connected to Purdue. He is on the advisory board of Discovery Research Park and has participated in Com Day, hosted by Purdue's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. He also joined many department professors in a goodwill visit to Tsinghua University in China last year.