Lisabeth Weiner Consultants

Exceeding Expectations

Mesirow Financial

Our assignment was to be a change agent and work with Mesirow Financial’s Chief Economist Diane Swonk to find an efficient and comprehensive method to disseminate her economic reports, which are frequently issued multiple times in a single day. Ms. Swonk had earned a well-deserved reputation for her excellence in economic forecasting and the rare ability to take complicated issues and make them accessible to experts and consumers, alike. She was hoping to create a broader platform for her work that could be used to help underscore Mesirow Financial’s reputation for thought leadership. Our recommendation to Ms. Swonk was to develop and implement a Web 2.0 and social media strategy that would build on her existing strength as a prolific writer while creating additional avenues that would enhance and increase her visibility.

Working with Mesirow Financial's in-house talent, Lisabeth Weiner Consultants guided the following elements of the social media program for the company's economics team, which was largely implemented over six months:

  • Reworked the home page for the economics department to ease navigation and update it to Web 2.0 technology

  • Expanded Ms. Swonk’s economic reports to a blog entitled Economic Minds that focuses on analysis and meaning of economic data

  • Initiated weekly videotaping of summaries of economic trends that were posted to both the Mesirow Financial home page and

  • Promoted process for creating podcasts of speeches give by Ms. Swonk and other members of her team

  • Cultivated development of Ms. Swonk’s Twitter account

    The social media strategy was viewed by Ms. Swonk as critical in building her following and expanding her reputation with important media outlets and other well-known economists. Website traffic increased at all the relevant points and plans were made to implement Phase II of the project which included, among other things, an economics webinar hosted by Ms. Swonk and other Mesirow Financial executives.

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    Ventas, Inc.

    When a new CEO took over a nearly failing company in 1999, she faced numerous problems and issues including the need to prepare for an annual meeting in one month before a group of hostile shareholders. That was the beginning of a relationship between Ventas, the leading healthcare REIT and Lisabeth Weiner Consultants which continues today. Weiner’s work for Ventas has included:

  • Writing a dozen annual reports

  • Managing shareholder meetings

  • Crisis communications

  • Speech writing

  • Financial communications, earnings reports and earnings call scripts

  • Media relations

  • Message development

  • Corporate Communications

    Over the years we have worked closely with the Ventas CEO and other corporate executives to effectively tell the company’s story to a broad audience of investors, Wall Street, rating agencies and other business partners. For us it has required that we remain knowledgeable about the client’s business while also being savvy about using financial media to support the company’s strategic business plans. The company and its CEO have been featured in numerous high profile publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business, Forbes, and on CNBC -- Squawk Box and Power Lunch.

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    Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center:

    Our assignment was to stem the flow of negative publicity about the heart transplant program at Rush Medical Center following a critical story in a national newspaper. Our goal was to manage local news coverage because that's where key audience groups were based.

    Medical Centers are often in difficult situations when patients are discussed in the media because first considerations must always be given to protecting the patient's privacy. While the national newspaper article did address several specific issues and specific patients, we felt we needed to respond to serious errors in the story and the overall damaging tone. Because of advance planning, we anticipated this issue and planned a response that helped Rush with its positioning

    Our first step was to interview all of the key players in this drama so we had very detailed factual information that we could use to support our position. From that information we were able to develop key messages, so we knew exactly what needed to be said.

    The day the story appeared we put our plan into action. Everyone was assembled. It was agreed that the president of the Medical Center would address the media, but first he held an internal meeting with medical staff and employees to explain the Medical Centers response. This was important so that they could respond accurately when questions were raised by patients and referring doctors. The press conference provided factual information and a strong response to support the Medical Center's position. The result was that local news coverage, both broadcast and print, used the Medical Center's messages, clearly articulated its response to the charges and, most importantly, the story quickly disappeared.

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    Analysis of a Strike

    The Client request was to gain a better understanding of why media coverage of the UPS/Teamsters strike was so overwhelmingly pro-labor. The client asked if this bias was due to the tendency of the media to favor labor or if the Teamsters used the media in a way that contributed to the coverage.

    We conducted a nationwide audit of the media coverage of the strike, which occurred in the late summer of 1997. It soon became obvious that the reporting did favor the Teamsters. But our team felt that if we could go beyond the newspaper words and beyond the television pictures we would find an answer that went beyond the issue of bias. After all, we reasoned it was a nationwide strike with nationwide media coverage. We found it difficult to imagine that all reporters across the nation would bear the same viewpoint toward the labor movement.

    We identified the markets we needed to analyze, including a control market that was a right-to-work state with low labor participation, and where news stories about unions and the labor movement were either neutral or ignored.

    We ultimately concluded that the Teamsters' success in working with the media was driven by:

    • Identification of one or two key messages that were used consistently by union management as well as by rank and file
    • Messages that were simple, resonated with the public, and were easy to repeat
    • Availability of local spokespeople

    In contrast, the company had complicated, technical, and highly detailed messages that took too long to explain, were hard to report, and were not compelling. The company did not make local spokespeople available, so local media had no company response to questions or charges from the union. In addition, the company attempted to argue the facts, without recognizing the emotional element of the story.

    Our analysis provided quantative support for our recommended approach for a successful media relations program.

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    The First National Bank of Chicago

    Education and Visibility

    By the early 1990's, Illinois banking laws had changed to permit branch banking for commercial banks, and The First National Bank of Chicago started building an extensive branch network throughout the metropolitan area. The problem was that in Chicago, consumers were unfamiliar with branch banking. They didn't fully understand how it worked, what it meant for them, how to use it to their advantage and why all of this mattered. And while First Chicago was known as a big downtown bank, consumers didn't understand that it was also the little bank sprouting up in their neighborhoods.