For 60 years, the University of Chicago had been managing the Argonne National Laboratory for the Department of Energy (DOE). When Argonne's contract was put up for bid, the University faced the prospect of losing management of the lab to a private corporation. To prevent this outcome, the University came to Ogilvy PR for help in showcasing the many contributions the lab had made to science.
Ogilvy identified two main challenges to be addressed during the bidding process:
we needed to make Illinois lawmakers and media recognize the benefits the University brought to the state from its management of the lab; and we needed to demonstrate to Washington media and DOE officials why it was vital to retain university management over the country’s energy and research labs as opposed to putting the nation’s scientific future in the hands of private corporations.
To develop the first message, we worked with an economic development firm to craft an impact study demonstrating the tangible financial contributions the University lab made to the state of Illinois. To bring the lab's message to Washington, we crafted a white paper and supporting materials for use with local and national media and supported federal advocacy efforts with Ogilvy Government Relations.
Our efforts culminated in an article placement in a key Washington publication, Roll Call, and a front-page story in The Chicago Tribune. The latter positively shaped the media environment surrounding the re-bidding and triggered a favorable editorial just one week later in the same newspaper. Ultimately, the strong support from in-state research universities helped the University of Chicago emerge as the only bidder for the Argonne contract, without any private sector competition. The University was awarded the management contract, keeping the Argonne National Lab university-managed into the future.