The George Washington Foundation
When archaeologists with The George Washington Foundation discovered the remains of the long-sought home where George Washington spent his formative boyhood years, the organization turned to CRT/tanaka to plan and execute a news media campaign that would cast a national spotlight on the historic landmark. The agency was charged with generating widespread consumer media coverage for GWF – a relatively unknown entity – in order to increase awareness of the foundation among its potential donor base. To achieve this goal, the account team developed a comprehensive, top-down media relations strategy targeting national media and created a two-phased approach to the announcement: an embargoed national media teleconference in the morning and an afternoon press event at Ferry Farm (where the building’s remains are located) where Virginia Governor Tim Kaine formalized the news that Washington’s childhood home had been uncovered. The announcement garnered international media attention and included placements with “ABC World News,” “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” Newsweek, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, CNN.com, Reuters India, Agence France-Presse and an Associated Press story that was picked up by more than 700 media outlets across the nation.
MAKING HISTORY AT FERRY FARM
Archaeologists working at Ferry Farm, the site of George Washington’s childhood home near Fredericksburg, Va., had been working for seven years to locate and excavate the long-sought-after house where Washington was raised. If the story of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree were true, this is the place where it would have happened.
To help publicize this missing chapter in American history, The George Washington Foundation – which owns and operates Ferry Farm – turned to CRT/tanaka for its strategic counsel and national media relations expertise.
CRT/tanaka had just six short weeks to generate national media attention for The George Washington Foundation and the findings of its excavation. In addition to shining a national spotlight on Ferry Farm, CRT/tanaka and the Foundation wanted to leverage the announcement to create excitement among key constituents and aid fundraising efforts. Capitalizing on the patriotism of the July 4th holiday, the announcement was planned for Wednesday, July 2, 2008. CRT/tanaka developed a comprehensive, top-down media relations strategy targeting national print, broadcast and online media.
The agency worked with National Geographic, a research partner of the Foundation, to plan a media teleconference, luring top-tier media outlets and wire services (without leaking the story) to attend a teleconference the morning of July 2. To generate excitement on a local and regional level, a second media announcement was held at the Farm that afternoon, where Virginia Governor Tim Kaine announced to Foundation staff, donors, media and invited guests that the house where Washington grew up had been found. To maintain excitement for the afternoon announcement, the story was embargoed until the afternoon event began.
CRT/tanaka created a comprehensive media kit, as well as B-roll and photography packages, to ensure that reporters had the tools they needed to tell the story far and wide. In addition, CRT/tanaka conducted key message training with project archaeologists and personnel from the Foundation and coordinated interviews and information requests.
- The George Washington Foundation’s discovery of George Washington’s boyhood home made history around the world. An Associated Press story, with photographs, was picked up by more than 700 media outlets worldwide. The story was featured on “ABC World News,” “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” NPR and numerous local television and radio broadcasts. Additional coverage included Newsweek, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Free Lance-Star.
- International media outlets also covered the announcement, including Reuters India, Agence France-Presse, NOS (the largest Dutch news service) and The Sunday Mainichi (a major Japanese weekly magazine).
- Online media hits included CNN.com, National Geographic News’ Web site, Science Daily, Channel One, Rand McNally’s “Weekly Buzz” and an audio show with archaeologists on the National Science Foundation’s Web site.