Longform

A Photo Finish

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"We partnered to jointly go out and promote the entire project," adds historical society marketing director Nina Johnson, "which is the exhibit, the book, any ancillary merchandise, a lecture series and -- soon, we hope -- a traveling show. Then, when we realized it would get bigger, we built a larger agreement."

In return for its support and the use of the Jackson photos, the historical society, which runs the Colorado History Museum, gets $1.70 for every book that sold for $85 and $1.90 for every one that sells for $95, as well as a cut of the proceeds from the sale of calendars, posters, notecards, screensavers and a puzzle that have been tied to the book. "We got the first royalty check a couple weeks ago," Whitley exclaims. "They're a terrific bonanza. More than $40,000 has come in so far in book sales alone."

In addition, Fielder agreed to be the co-chairman of a membership drive that has become one of the most successful ever, signing up 1,600 new members between November and March. "That's probably double what we normally get," Whitley says. "John saying 'Sign up and become a member' carried a lot of weight. We couldn't have done it without him."


After that agreement was in place, Fielder called on an editor at the Rocky Mountain News with whom he had worked before, and then on News publisher Larry Strutton (who had given another Fielder book to his vice presidents as a holiday gift several years earlier). "They already had their millennium project in the works, and they saw the photos as a perfect complement to that," Fielder says. "It fit right in editorially."

The News decided to include Fielder in its Colorado Millennium 2000 project, which focused on the last century in Colorado and incorporated several editorial pieces: special sections, "millennium moments," and so on. It ran a Fielder photo next to a Jackson photo along with a brief article in its Spotlight section every Sunday during 1999 and heavily promoted the page. "We got the first rights to exclusive, high-quality content to give to our readers, while he had an opportunity to promote the availability of his book and to have it previewed in the paper for six months before it went on sale," says Linda Sease, vice president of marketing and public relations for the News.

Since KCNC-TV/Channel 4 is the paper's partner and was running its own Colorado Millennium 2000 pieces, Fielder and Whitley were in News4 general manager Marv Rockford's office a week later signing another deal. The station decided to do a weekly story on Fielder that followed his travels, to be aired every Thursday at 10 p.m.

"They gave us a huge amount of free advertising," Whitley says.

The two media outlets needed a sponsor to pay for all that advertising, though, so they signed up Public Service Company, which, in return, got to have its name printed on everything related to Fielder and Colorado Millennium 2000. "Part of our goal was to create cross-opportunities for our advertisers, and this bought more exposure for Public Service Company," says the News's Sease, who didn't want to say how much money the power company invested in the yearlong project. "We designed an advertising package based on their support, and their logo went along with it." PSC also offered the book at 25 percent off to its 1.3 million customers -- and sold a few thousand.

"That was the birth of this whole marketing gizmo," Fielder says. "We got a lot of bang for the buck the way it turned out. The more marketing partners I had, the better to sell the message."

Next, Fielder signed up Norwest Bank, which gave the book away free in November and December to people who applied and qualified for home-equity loans. The bank also offered it at a 25 percent discount to the rest of its half-million Colorado customers. "We thought it was a really cool book, and something that our customers would perceive as valuable," says Thomas O'Rourke, the vice president of marketing for Norwest in Colorado.

Norwest, which also gave a cash donation to the museum, had used another of Fielder's books in a similar promotion last year and ended up selling 1,200 copies of that book. "They already had a good taste in their mouth for what a Fielder book could do for them," Fielder notes.

The snowball rolled on to include KEZW and Wiesner Publishing, which puts out ColoradoBiz and Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, as the official radio and magazine sponsors.

"These were symbiotic deals where they would benefit by having their names associated with the project and I would benefit by having a wider audience," Fielder says of the agreements.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes