To mark the occasion of CDI Corp.’s 50th anniversary, Ketchum Pittsburgh propelled CDI to the forefront of thought leadership in human capital management with a multifaceted and forward-looking communications program.  Ketchum engineered a partnership between CDI Corp., a global staffing and recruitment firm, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to perform ground-breaking research that uncovered profound changes in the way Americans work and live, a trend CDI positioned as “Me-Commerce: The Next Internet Revolution.”

For its 50th anniversary, on Sept. 20, 2000, CDI Corp., a top 10 global staffing and outsourcing firm, wanted to elevate its profile within the industry and the business community.  Ketchum met this objective with a multifaceted communications plan that took CDI to the summit of new thinking about the American workplace.  By directing a joint research project between CDI and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ketchum established CDI as the leader of “Me-Commerce: The Next Internet Revolution.” As a result, CDI is now a recognized thought leader in human capital management.  


Ketchum researched news media, digital media and scholarly journals on key audience “hot buttons” to select a compelling topic.

Key Findings: CEOs are concerned with finding new ways to recruit and retain skilled technology workers. Technology companies are leading the way in this effort.  The Internet is encouraging “e-lancers” and flexible employment practices.  

Reviewed recent research by the top 10 business schools and interviewed the authors.

Key Findings: A researcher for MIT’s Sloan School of Management was interested in extending his studies that began in a relevant initiative about new workplace practices.

Ketchum Research surveyed 75 human resources managers and 75 technology workers, as well as 40 educators and government officials to identify trends, practices, attitudes and concerns.  

Key Findings: Attitudes are in a state of change, but respondents expect that an independent workforce will be in the majority by 2010. This research informed MIT’s qualitative study and the development of CDI’s key messages. These trends were characterized as “Me-Commerce:  The Next Internet Revolution.”


Objectives: In order to position CDI to its key audiences as a thought leader in human capital management, the program needed to meet these objectives:

Forge several new relationships with high-level business and academic thought leaders in the human resources sector.

Increase interest among key audiences in CDI’s opinions on the changing nature of the workforce.

Increase stature of CDI’s CEO among prominent business executives.

Strategies: These strategies evolved from the research and objectives.

Align CDI with prestigious and highly visible third parties associated with leading-edge technology and Internet development.

Conduct ground-breaking original research – in association with a major university – to promote CDI’s leadership in human capital management.

Leverage interest in the Internet and high-tech employment trends to generate visibility through media coverage.

Leverage CDI’s 50th anniversary to build national recognition of the company and its services.

Arrange for CDI’s CEO to appear in a top tier venue for business executives.

Audiences : Senior executives at Fortune 1000 companies and potential clients

Contract professionals, highly skilled technology workers and CDI employees

Analysts, shareholders and investors

Key Messages: Rapid advances in technology are driving a “me-commerce” revolution, characterized by independent workers focused on advancing their own careers rather than company loyalty.

A variety of organizations, including staffing companies such as CDI, will meet the needs of workers outside the traditional corporate family.

CDI understands how to help both workers and employers benefit from the me-commerce revolution. 

Budget  - $160,443 for public relations services and $20,409 for OOP (printing and travel costs).


Ketchum managed MIT’s production of a qualitative study and original analysis, spanning 11 months. “Retreat of the Firm and the Rise of Guilds” identified a growing trend toward flexible employment practices. The white paper was based on primary and secondary sources, including the survey research, a literature review, telephone and field interviews with selected individuals and the advisory board. CDI was cited in the research as an organization well positioned to serve the changing needs of employers and workers.

Secured the participation of executives from Arthur Andersen, Cisco Systems, Internet Capital Group and Sun Microsystems as advisors and participants.

Conducted media training for CDI’s CEO, key executives, and the MIT researcher.

Gained early exposure and provided interview experience for CDI’s CEO by arranging for a Bloomberg Forum appearance, which resulted in a hit in the Wall Street Journal.

Developed detailed content and media kit.

Executed a comprehensive media rollout, including a New York media tour that generated news coverage in more than 100 media outlets, including online and major business publications.

Arranged for CDI’s CEO to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Developed a special Web site devoted to the research project.  

Secured CEO’s appearance at the 2000 BusinessWeek CEO Summit.


Objective 1: Forge new relationships with high-level business and academic thought leaders in the human resources sector.

Result:  New relationships formed with MIT researchers Tom Malone and Rob Laubacher and

executives from Arthur Andersen, Cisco Systems, Internet Capital Group, and Sun Microsystems.

A CDI representative was named to the advisory board chaired by Dr. Peter Capelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School and author of The New Deal at Work: Managing the Market-Driven Workforce.

Objective 2: Increase interest among key audiences in CDI’s opinions on the changing nature of the workforce.

Result:  488 individuals downloaded copies of the research from the Web site. An analysis by CDI shows that approximately 65% of these were candidates and 35% were current or prospective customers. 

Many of these were driven to the Web site by the more than 100 media outlets that covered the research. These included Wall Street Journal, CNBC Power Lunch, Associated Press, Business Week, National Public Radio, Los Angeles Times, Information Week, Industry Week, Contract Professional Magazine and Yahoo Internet Life.

According to Tim Fitzpatrick, CDI vice president of Corporate Communications: “The results have been lasting because we now routinely receive media inquiries about our point of view on human capital management issues.”  

Objective 3:  Increase stature of CDI’s CEO among prominent business executives. 
Result:  Secured speaking engagements at two top tier conferences: BusinessWeek’s 2000 CEO Summit in October 2000 in New York and March 2001 Conference Board panel.