October 24, 2008

PR Interview: How to Develop an Award-Winning Diversity Campaign: 7 Strategies

SUMMARY: The Hartford Financial Services Group won PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility award for “diversity communications” this year when they moved mountains to import an international art exhibit on the theme of coexistence.

See why Gannon and his team received the honor for a campaign that recognized an opportunity, seized it and got it implemented in time. It took about 3 1/2 months to develop but should have taken eight.
Contact Information

Michael Gannon
Social Responsibility Team
The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.
One Hartford Plaza
Hartford, CT 06155

Develop an Award-Winning Communications Campaign: 7 Strategies

->Strategy #1. Match CSR to company’s core value

Diversity inclusion is one of The Hartford’s six core values. So, this campaign was perfect for the company. “It was an opportunity to make a very bold statement about The Hartford’s commitment to diversity,” says Gannon.

It is also a best practice to make sure CSR campaigns match one or more of the company’s core values.

->Strategy #2. Choose a bold event with a big impact that hasn’t been done before

‘Coexistence’ is an outdoor art exhibition consisting of 44 billboard-sized images created by 42 artists in 19 countries. The images contemplate the meaning of coexistence and challenge viewers to think about issues of tolerance and understanding of other cultures, countries, and communities.

“When we first learned of the exhibition, we thought there’s really no way they’ll come to Hartford,” says Gannon.

The exhibit began at Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem in 2001. It has visited 24 cities around the world. But it had never been to a corporate campus. It had never been to a city of Hartford’s size (population of 125,000).

This made the exhibit attractive to Gannon’s team because they knew it was something different that could have a huge impact on a community of this size.

->Strategy #3. Don’t get discouraged

Instead of letting doubt defeat them, Gannon’s team asked the curator of the exhibit to visit Hartford while he was in the New York metropolitan region.

(NOTE: Timing and luck were on The Hartford’s side since the curator of the museum happened to be in New York City as the company debated hosting the exhibit.)

During the curator’s visit, the team stressed:
-How heavily trafficked the corporate campus is (nearly 20,000 cars drive by the campus every day)
-How ideally located the campus is (between the largely low-income, minority city population and the mostly white, mostly affluent suburbs)
-How the city is often described: the second poorest city in the country in the richest state in the country

“Presented with that information about the facts of the city of Hartford you can see why a museum would feel that the message of coexistence could be particularly relevant here,” says Gannon.

->Strategy #4. Let the nature of the event mold outreach efforts

The team’s outreach efforts incorporated diversity and inclusion – the focus of the exhibit. They concentrated on the broadest cross-section of the Hartford community that they could think of, including arts organizations, elected officials, school superintendents, and religious leaders. They formed an honorary committee of more than 50 community leaders, including the Hartford mayor and Connecticut governor.

“The list went on and on,” says Gannon. “So, when it came time to say, ‘Hey, the exhibition is here. What are you interested in, in terms of programming? Are you going to bring members from your group here to see it?’… We had so many groups tapped for that.”

The Hartford also reached minority groups by utilizing the diversity within the company. The Hartford has networks for Hispanic employees, for example, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Each network was encouraged to talk to and invite others in their communities and in similar networks in other companies to the exhibit.

->Strategy #5. Partner with the expertise in your community

The Hartford is a financial services company – not a firm that typically creates cultural events relevant to a diverse community. They partnered with nonprofit arts organizations in the city to organize about a dozen events created in conjunction with the exhibit.

Among the events:
-Latin jazz
-African drumming
-Caribbean rhythm & dance (Mikata)
-Salsa dancing
-Original theater performances
-West Indian steel symphony
-Youth forums and tours
-Children’s theater performances
-Dramatic reading of ‘The Book of Ruth’

Many nonprofit partners were past recipients of the company’s grants. In addition to helping organize these events, nonprofit leaders guided Gannon’s team in promoting the events.

“We postered everywhere,” Gannon says. “We were linked to the person who does all the postering for all of the theatrical plays. He knew everywhere where the arts people hang out. He knew where to poster.”

->Strategy #6. Create events relevant to the community

Gannon’s team wanted the impact of the exhibit to extend as deeply as possible into the community. So the team also used nonprofit partners to organize discussions about diversity and the role of the arts in urban education at the local YWCA and the Hartford Public Library.

It’s important to note that the discussions weren’t general in nature, says Gannon. They were targeted conversations about diversity issues in the Hartford area.

“It wasn’t just about everyone getting together and patting each other on the back,” he says. “We were trying to get people to challenge one another … It is unusual for a corporation to put a piece of artwork on its campus that could possibly provoke a debate, but we did.”

->Strategy #7. Use multiple channels to spread the word

To reach internal staff, the team used:
-Letter from the chairman and CEO
-Voicemail from the heads of the business units
-Internal website with information about the exhibit and events that linked to an external website about the exhibit

To reach external audiences, the team used:
-Coverage in major metro newspapers and other print publications
-Coverage from TV and radio stations
-Direct contact with principals and superintendents to get school groups to tour the exhibit
-Requests to the honorary committee of 50 community leaders to distribute news of the exhibit and other events to their constituents


The exhibit sat on The Hartford’s campus for four weeks. It drew an estimated 30,000 people, with an additional 1,500 attending the special events tied to the exhibit. Tens of thousands more are believed to have seen the exhibit from the road on their daily commutes to and from work or online. The exhibit and various events got extensive local media coverage.

“Occasionally, you need to do something outside of what is expected of the corporation and its community outreach efforts,” says Gannon. “When you go outside of that, that’s when you really get noticed.”

Useful links related to the article

Museum on the Seam's Coexistence page:

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