2010 U.S. Senate Candidate Debate

Know of a department that could stage a U.S. Senate Debate, host more than 100 media representatives and wrangle wayward protestors, all in just 30 days? You do now.

2010 DebateThe Project:

On Sept. 1, 2010, Saint Mary's hosted a live U.S. Senate Candidate Debate in the College's LeFevre theatre. Our office partnered with KTVU-TV, KQED-FM and the San Francisco Chronicle to bring the phrase "live from Saint Mary's College" into almost 600,000 California households.  It was a unique opportunity to raise national awareness of the college and its faculty. And as a result, we may event do even bigger and better things, like host a presidential debate in 2012.

The Goal:

To raise the visibility of the College and its faculty in the Bay Area and across the nation

The Plan:

It’s the goal of every college to raise its profile, but Saint Mary’s wanted to leverage some of our unique qualities to draw national attention.  Saint Marys is known for its a Great Books curriculum and Collegiate Seminar program in which discourse about critical issues and ideas is a key component, and for its longstanding commitment to civic engagement. Given this, it was a logical step to try and secure a senate debate between U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina, her Republican challenger.  Providing a venue for the senate candidates offered the College the opportunity to shine a regional and national spotlight on its academic tradition of great conversations, and to promote the reputation of the institution as a College that encourages students to explore matters of extreme importance to their individual communities, California and the country.

Another goal of SMCs Media Relations Office is to create greater awareness of Saint Marys faculty as thought leaders in their fields of expertise and expert sources for regional and national media. In the Bay Area, where many news organizations reflexively turn to universities such as UC Berkeley, Santa Clara and the University of San Francisco with larger faculty pools to tap into, calling attention to Saint Marys faculty expertise can be a challenging proposition. However, by strategically hosting the debate, the College was able to increase the visibility of its faculty as expert sources on political issues in the California senatorial campaign by not only making them available to the debates sponsoring media partners, but also to the roughly 100 media representatives that came to the College to cover the event. Media kits highlighting the College (see sample) were provided to all journalists attending the debate. The kit provided at-a-glance information about the College, its mission, leadership and an important breakdown of Saint Marys faculty experts on various issues in the senate race.

The Results:

The response to the debate was overwhelmingly positive. The debate generated hundreds of news mentions about the College during the month of September, and according to KTVU, the lead media sponsor of the debate the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED were co-sponsors more than 580,000 households in California watched the event, which was seen in all 11 broadcast TV markets in California, including Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego. The one-hour broadcast was carried nationally on C-SPAN TV and Radio and received statewide coverage on California Public Radio stations, including locally on KQED. Within a week of the debate, approximately 225 original news stories were generated about the event (the number doubles when factoring in duplicates of the stories) and these included notable mentions in national outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and the CBS Morning News.

A variety of print and broadcast news stories about the debate also featured analysis on issues by Saint Marys faculty experts and perspectives from students about politics, the economy and financial aid for education. As a result of the debate, stronger connections between Bay Area newsrooms have been established.

Due to the success of this project, Saint Marys submitted a proposal to host a 2012 Presidential Debate, and made it to the list of the top 12 institutions considered by the Commission on Presidential Debates.