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Public Relations Strategy Propels City of West Palm Beach into National Narrative

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June 4, 2019

Public Relations Case Study

 

Program Synopsis:

In 2017, Amazon.com announced it was seeking a second North American headquarters, which, once built out, would employ up to 50,000 high-tech workers. This set off a race among big cities eager to house the world’s most valuable company and its well-paid employees. After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon chose New York City as the destination for its next headquarters. But it all took a spin when in February 2019 Amazon backed out of the deal.

For over two years, Aqua had been spearheading the City of West Palm Beach’s economic development, concentrating marketing efforts on reaching potential new businesses all over the Northeast. The City of West Palm Beach had a history of relocation from the Northeast area, and since being contracted that had been the agency’s main objective – targeting the Northeast for relocation. Amazon’s announcement to withdrawal from NYC came on a Thursday, and by Friday the story was blowing up into a narrative that Aqua realized could be highly advantageous for the City of West Palm Beach.

Amazon’s pulling the plug on its second headquarters in New York City played right into our marketing. Aqua’s PR team recognized this as an immediate PR opportunity for economic development client The City of West Palm Beach and began acting immediately began to insert the city into the national narrative.

 

Situation Overview:

Starting from scratch, the Aqua Public Relations Team needed to devise a strategic PR plan that, while corresponding and working in synergy with the overall marketing plan, would move fast, gain traction and be loud, increasing awareness for the city while at the same time letting prospective businesses across the country, know that West Palm Beach is a wonderful place to relocate their business and their lives.

The agency’s central tactic was for the city’s Mayor to devise an “Open Letter” to Amazon President, Jeff Bezos, expressing that the decision to move from NYC was understandable, and a decision that West Palm Beach has been advocating for businesses for years.

 

Audience:

Target audiences would include the general consumer, business and financial markets, and mass media with heightened emphasis on reaching prospective new businesses in New York City and the Northeast.

 

Objectives:

Aqua’s PR stunt was designed to:

  • Utilize target pitching and increased media placements in national and regional markets to strengthen name recognition for the City of West Palm Beach
  • Engage in targeted pitching efforts in order to establish the City as a great place for business relocation
  • Introduce potential/prospective new businesses to the Business-Friendly City of West Palm Beach

 

Strategies/Tactics:

  • Crafting a tongue-in-cheek “Open Letter” to Amazon from the Mayor of West Palm Beach and making it public for general consumers, mass media and all potential/prospective new businesses to see.
  • Writing a newsworthy press release, and in it providing links to view a copy of the Mayor’s Open Letter, information about the City’s incentives to businesses, and a short video inviting businesses to relocate to West Palm Beach.
  • Utilizing PR Newswire’s National Press Release Distribution Service to allow our story to gain targeted traction across a wide spectrum with a national audience via third party coverage.
  • Distributing a regional pitch allowing us to penetrate the local/regional South Florida market with our news while offering media interviews with the City Mayor who we had available to address the City’s reaction to Amazon HQ2’s pullout.
  • Developing Talking Points/Backgrounder for the City’s Mayor to review prior to conducting interviews with the press, enabling us to communicate key points that would prove useful and effective during interactions with the press.
  • Leveraging paid media to secure a massive Times Square short-term media placement that would allow us to reach consumers in an engaging, exciting, and effective way via non-traditional marketing tactics in the NYC market where long-term advertising media buys disseminating similar messaging were already in place.

 

Results:

Within 2 hours of distributing our press releases, 175 news outlets had picked it up, reaching a total potential audience of 86,535,420. In addition to mass media coverage- including hits in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Yahoo! Finance, Morningstar StockInvestor and more- during prime time television on the 5 o’clock news the local West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF-TV aired a live interview with Mayor Muioi on the City’s reaction to Amazon’s HQ2 pullout. The interview aired eight times thereafter, overnight and through the next morning.

Continuing to gain traction over the next 24 hours, the City of West Palm Beach owned two 28×46 foot and 36×33 digital boards, displaying in the heart of New York City’s Times Square a gorgeous hi-resolution image of the West Palm Beach waterfront with the call-to-action: “Relocate to West Palm Beach, Florida, ‘The Wall Street of the South.’ ” Our message had the potential to reach the some 415,000 people who walk/drive in that Times Square area daily, 30 million tourists who visit Times Square annually, 17,000 employees working in Times Square and 53 million who use the Times Square subway stations each year.

Within 48 hours, a Snapshot Report on Engagement showed that our press release had generated 103 Click-Throughs to the Mayor’s Open Letter, 55 Click-Throughs to the City’s incentives to businesses webpage, 52 Click-Throughs to the video inviting businesses to West Palm Beach, and 42 Click-Throughs to the 2018 Newsweek story featuring West Palm Beach as the “Wall Street of the South.” A breakdown of Media Demographics showed a majority of press release views (from both media and consumers) coming from Florida, followed by New York, two of our key target audiences for this PR campaign.

Within 72 hours, the Mayor of West Palm Beach had an interview exclusive with USA Today, which translated into a viral online news story published by Business Reporter Ben Tobin. The news story circulated across at least 117 other major news outlets in addition to USA Today, altogether reaching an average 89.7 million people with a total Publicity Value of $316,800.

Overall, the publicity campaign proved to be an overwhelming success for the City of West Palm Beach. Within a week, news about the City of West Palm Beach reached an average 157,200,000 consumers in over 350 news outlets altogether amassing an average total publicity value of $374,000.

 

 

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