In 1943, a ship now dubbed the "World's Greatest Naval Ship" was put to sea and during the next 50 years welcomed and escorted more U.S. Presidents than any other ship in our nation's history. The USS IOWA, with big guns and armor, incredible speed, and modernized technology served honorably until a memorial service in 1989, which was presided over by then President George H.W. Bush. Now, more than 20 years later, the USS IOWA has become a permanent fixture near the World Cruise Center in the Port of Los Angeles where it will shine as a floating museum open to the public for daily tours.
Leading up to the grand opening on July 7, the Pacific Battleship group along with the public relations outfit Strategic America quickly created a dedicated online newsroom to provide background information and news, photos, and videos for not only journalists and the media, but also anyone who was interested in possibly visiting the museum as a tourist spot. In the first week after launching the online newsroom, the website had attracted more than 4,000 unique visitors and had generated coverage from the Los Angeles Times, NBC, the Seattle Times, NPR, and several blogs. By skillfully leveraging an email media database, Facebook, Twitter, and an effective online newsroom, the Pacific Battleship group was able to create a solid digital foundation that will help with promotion, marketing, media relations, and ultimately drive traffic to the museum for years to come.
Their online newsroom, from concept to launch in less than four weeks, offers a glimpse inside the newly anointed museum by providing a treasure trove of photos and the start of a video library that includes the recent July 4 dedication ceremony with Senator Tom Harkin. Features of the online newsroom include:
Archive of historical photos and video footage, not available anywhere else
- Up-to-date news and press releases on the grand opening as well as upcoming events
- Information request forms and interview opportunities for the media
- Backgrounder and historical resource information
- Ability for news consumers and journalists to sign up for email alerts
I had the chance to speak with Brooke Benschoter, Senior Strategic Consultant with Strategic America and asked her about the recent successful online newsroom launch and how social media played a big role in providing information and public relations.
"The traffic to the online newsroom was awesome," said Benschoter. "Along with the launch, we did an email media release to Travel and Tourism publications. That was the first release where we actually named the online newsroom. The feedback from that was pretty phenomenal."
Email alerts are one of the most popular features of an online newsroom, giving journalists and news consumers the ability to sign up to receive important information as soon as it is released. In our recent Online Newsroom Survey Report of more than 1,000 journalists, it was clear that people overwhelmingly prefer to receive breaking news email alerts as opposed to more traditional methods such as a newswire service.
"The online newsroom allowed us as communicators to plan ahead and provide a roadmap that went beyond just assisting with the launch and the grand opening," Benschoter continued. "With a product that is intuitive, easy-to-use, and that can be updated at any time, the online newsroom gave the staff the tools they needed to mount an effective campaign now and plan for the future."
Another fascinating statistic that we are seeing in more and more of our online newsroom clients is the amount of traffic coming from mobile devices. So far, with the Pacific Battleship Online Newsroom, more than 18% of the traffic is coming from mobile devices such as iPhones, iPADs and Androids. In our recent Mobile News Survey Report, we identified the same growing trend, and it is interesting to note that both big and small organizations are benefiting from having a mobile friendly online newsroom.
When asked about the initial idea for creating an online newsroom for the USS IOWA, it was clear that the idea germinated from the concept of being able to provide a vast database of photos and videos, quickly, easily and without making interested news consumers wait.
"To start with, the photos and video were the main content that drove the creation of an online newsroom," said Benschoter. "The idea of having to answer every single media person that needed photos, archived video, and historical footage was daunting. And we just didn't have the time to answer each one. We didn't want anyone to miss an opportunity to get information. As long as we can continue to keep the site updated and populated with new content, the online newsroom almost becomes a media relations officer, without having to have a body involved."
Social media also played a big role in the success of not only the grand opening, but also in driving traffic to the online newsroom. During the week of July 2 through July 9, more than 225 referrals came from Facebook. The newly created USS IOWA Twitter account also increased to more than 700 followers in roughly that same time, showing that even small, localized events and organizations can take advantage of social media to help effectively promote and engage with interested news consumers.
"The Facebook referrals came because we actively promoted the online newsroom on Facebook," added Benschoter. "The staff had stopped blogging actively and began mostly just using Facebook to post what they wanted to say. So, until we had the online newsroom, we didn't have the ability to create an archive of high-resolution photos and historical video footage, like we can now. Using Facebook to promote the online newsroom helped a lot."
And this is just the beginning. As word gets out about California's newest tourist attraction, visitors are beginning to line up to get a tour of the floating museum, and travel and tourism journalists are beginning to write more stories about the new attraction. Stories, which undoubtedly will be written with the assistance of content found on the Pacific Battleship Online Newsroom.
One last quote really sums up the importance of an online newsroom and the integration of social media as a way to execute a successful launch campaign. "The online newsroom kind of filled the gap between public relations and social media," Benschoter confirmed. "We couldn't have had this success and generated this type of coverage without the online newsroom."