Won't You Be My Neighbor Days Case Study

Fred Rogers Case Study
Hillary Shepherd
PR Practices
Tuesday 27, 2011
Case Overview
Saul Markowitz formed Markowitz Communications after a lifetime of
working in the public relations field all over Pittsburgh. After working as the
Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Pittsburgh Zoo, in 1997 he decided
to open his own agency, Markowitz Communications. The company is small, but
innovative, creative and growing strong. Their client list includes; Krispy Kreme,
Cricket, Petsmart, Aramark, AT&T, Tiffany & Co., Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra,
and Dave & Busters, just to name a few (www.markowitzcommunications.com).
Saul Markowitz has been a fan of Fred Rogers his entire life. His freshman
year at the University of Pittsburgh he tried to gather a group of students and Fred
lovers alike to join him in a fan club, calling themselves the “Fred-heads”
(Markowitz, 2011). This didn’t exactly take off, so Saul was back to square one. In
2008, during the 250th birthday of Pittsburgh, he was asked by the Fred Rogers
Center to think of a project that coincided with what would have been Fred Rodger’s
80th birthday. Thus “Won’t you be my neighbor days?” was born. Saul’s objective
was to have people all over the world take time out during March 15-20th and be
kind to their neighbors, as well as wear a sweater on the 20th in honor of Rodger’s
birthday. Markowitz set their standards high; their target audience was people all
over the world of all ages and gender. Their key messages were to become involved
in the community, be kind to neighbors, gain that feeling of a ‘neighborhood’ that so
many places have lost as well as honoring a man dedicated to teaching children by
example. The objectives were to promote “Won’t you be my neighbor days?”, get
people to wear a sweater on March 20th and for those who participate to send
photos or videos of themselves in their community and/or wearing a sweater.
Public Relations tools
Markowitz Communications used various tools to get the word out there
about “Won’t you be my Neighbor Days?”. Markowitz used social media along with
traditional print and broadcast to get the word out about the Fred Rogers project.
They shot and directed a video of Mr. McFeeley talking in front a scene from the
Fred Rogers Museum. This video explained, “Won’t you be my neighbor days?” as
well as the call to action to wear a sweater on March 20th (“Won’t you wear a
sweater day?”). Markowitz sent the video to local and national media, bloggers, and
posted it on Facebook; the video became an instant hit. They also set up a media
tour for Mr. McFeeley comprised of morning television interviews in New York City
on March 18, 2008. They called it “Mr. McFeeley takes Manhattan”. Good Morning
America and Fox and Friends latched on to the idea. Mr. McFeeley went onto these
shows and told viewers all about “Won’t you be my neighbor days?” and encouraged
everyone, even the show hosts to wear a sweater in honor of Mr. Rogers on March
20th. Markowitz explained that during a campaign, getting the photo op is very
important. One should always strive to find a good photo or video opportunity
(Markowitz, 2011).
“Consider that the value of public relations is three times effective as paid
advertising because of the third-party endorsement factor. Neutral reviewers,
unbiased customers and satisfied meeting planners deliver messages” (Novom,
2002). Mr.McFeeley getting the word out there on TV was the best, inexpensive way
to spread the word. People who saw him on GMA potentially went to work and
talked to co-workers about it and the chain goes on and on. The more people talked
about it, the more recognition the campaign received.
There was no advertising done for this campaign. The majority of media
recognition took place either in interviews, Youtube videos or seeing Mr.McFeeley
riding around in a Trolley giving out sweaters. The trolley idea was a favorite of
Markowitz’s. On March 20th, the trolley actually drove throughout the North Side of
Pittsburgh with news reporters and camera crews on board. They sang the Mr.
Rogers theme song while Mr. McFeeley handed out sweaters. That alone was a great
tool to get the word out there. An iconic Mr. Rogers trolley blaring music and
handing out sweaters is a great photo and video opportunity.
Markowitz doesn’t believe in the typical press release. Their releases usually
sound more like feature writing than the standard informative release. This held
true to their fun, enticing press release for “Won’t you be my neighbor days?”.
However, they don’t usually do a lot of press releases, they like to pick up the phone
or email reporters and bloggers to pitch their current projects.
Markowitz main concern is always the brand. They wanted to keep the
integrity of the Fred Rogers brand while bringing the brand up to speed with the
21st century. “While traditional advertising and marketing can build brand
awareness, public relations establishes credibility and tells the brand story more
comprehensively” (Seitel, 2011, p.341).
Social media is also a big part of Markowitz Communications. They use
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, however; for this specific campaign they stuck to
traditional TV and print media as well as word of mouth. The benefits of doing the
Mr.McFeeley media tour is that a wide variety of audiences could find out about the
campaign, not just people living in or around Pittsburgh. The Youtube video had a
similar effect; people living around the country or even the world could use the
video to find out about the campaign. The press release they sent out went to
national and local contacts to try to get newspapers/TV around the country to start
talking about Fred Rogers. Markowitz’s use of PR tools were well done, the only
thing suggested would have been to possibly use social media as an additional tool
to spread the word. Overall the tools Markowitz chose to use benefitted the
campaign, none of the tools they used hurt the brand or campaign.
Research & Analysis
Although research is an integral part of an advertising or public relations
campaign, Markowitz Communications does not put stress upon this part for their
campaigns. They agreed that it can be useful and even important at times, but they
prefer to go with gut instinct and general knowledge of their target market. Saul
Markowitz explained that he had an idea; everyone around the world should wear a
sweater on Fred Rodger’s birthday, March 20th 2008, and should go out and do
something nice in their community. He also said that no one in his office thought the
idea could actually work, but he felt the idea could work, so he pitched it to the Fred
Rogers Center anyway. (Markowitz, 2011). Markowitz does not typically do focus
groups; in fact they steer clear of them. However, when Cirque de Soleil came to
Pittsburgh they researched the Cirque talent to see if they could find a connection or
tie to Pittsburgh. It is important to find the local tie, especially when dealing with a
national brand. Markowitz stresses always staying true to the brand and to always
know what the plan is before going to a client. Markowitz said knowing the brand
and the client inside and out in their opinion is more important than doing research
(Markowitz, 2011).
A tool of research that could have been used is a survey. They could have sent
out a survey to all their media contacts; those who’ve “like” Markowitz on Facebook,
people who follow Markowitz on Twitter and even pull resources from the Fred
Rogers Center. The survey could have given them hard facts of whether the
campaign would or would not be successful.
Success of Campaign
The campaign was a great success. People all over the country and even the
world wore a sweater. An American blogger living Korea even wore a sweater on
March 20, 2008. People everywhere wanted to honor Mr. Rogers and remember
what it felt like to be a child sitting in front of the TV in awe of him. Sweaters were
seen on TV, on the streets and in photos on March 20th.
Mr. McFeeley speaking on national TV got the campaign 25 million
impressions, nine million of that being national coverage. It was so big that a
national restaurant chain offered $100,000 to do the campaign the following year.
However, the Fred Rogers Center felt they should keep it more local and they
decided to do the promotions in house, they no longer asked for Markowitz’s help.
The “Won’t you be my neighbor days?” and “Won’t you wear a sweater day?”
were a huge hit, and exactly the kind of recognition Markowitz wanted for Mr.
Works Cited
Markowitz, S. September 20, 2011.“Distinguished Lectureship: Won’t you be my
neighbor days?”.
Novom, C. (2002). Public relations tools help create impressive media impressions.
Hotel & Motel Management, 217(18), 10. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Seitel, F. (2011). Media Relations/Print & Broadcast. The Practice of Public Relations,
341 & 346.
(The American couple living in Korea and wearing sweaters: