Redefining the Role of an Agency: Zehnder Takes On a Murder Mystery
In 2012, south Louisiana businessman Ted Kergan received stunning news. After finding new evidence, police had reopened the 1984 cold-case murder of his older brother, Gary, and were planning to arrest two suspects.
One the day of the arrests, the case attracted major attention from news media. Calls poured in from reporters around the country, including broadcast TV networks. The Zehnder PR team handled messaging, media relations, fielding requests, and interview preparation.
As Ted Kergan began dusting off decades of files and documents to launch his own parallel investigation, he worked with Zehnder Communications’ public relations team for help with what both sides assumed would be a few days of research. The police investigation, prosecution and trial would stretch over the next three years, along with Zehnder’s relationship with Kergan. In the process, the case would redefine the role of an ad agency.
“We’d never been involved in a murder investigation, but our team realized how many ways we could support Ted’s effort,” says Director of Public Relations Ann Edelman. “As the case and relationship evolved, everyone saw how Zehnder’s capabilities matched the client’s needs.”
Zehnder’s expertise with project management and logistics proved invaluable in organizing 30 years’ worth of information in a sprawling case that spanned several states. The agency built timelines of the suspects’ lives and digitized key documents ‒ personal diaries, crime scene photos, court records and interview transcriptions. Zehnder helped establish and update timelines, and integrated everything into a single, navigable system.
Meanwhile, the agency’s PR acumen proved crucial for Ted Kergan’s ultimate goal of finally seeing justice for his brother. Zehnder worked with news media to bring Gary Kergan to life as a person who had been lured into a premeditated and brutal murder.
“Zehnder was essentially embedded with the client, so we didn’t need to ask what Ted Kergan felt, because we knew,” Edelman says. “This is part of what we do. Zehnder becomes an extension of the client ‒ our goals are the same.”
Ultimately, Ted Kergan reached his goal in 2016 when two suspects in Gary’s murder were successfully convicted and handed what amounts to life sentences.
Zehnder’s role culminated with the 2017 publication of “My Brother’s Keeper: A Thirty-Year Quest to Bring Two Killers to Justice,” we worked with the author, publisher and editor in completing and fact-checking the book, which tells of the Kergan brothers’ relationship, the gut-wrenching murder, piecing together Gary’s disappearance and Ted’s unwillingness to ever give up hope.
“With Ted’s trust and conviction, we discovered the power of the impossible,” Edelman says. “Our combined strength overcame countless challenges and forged a new path for the role of an integrated agency.”
If you’d like to know more about Zehnder’s approach and involvement in solving a murder mystery, reach Laura Gould at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 962-3704.