Live@YVR: The Anatomy of a Successful PR Campaign, Feature Writer: Lisa Dalla Vecchia

Live@YVR: The Anatomy of a Successful PR Campaign
Feature Writer: Lisa Dalla Vecchia
Career Management Centre at Beedie School of Business
Manager, Corporate Communications & Outreach

I’ll admit… I enjoy networking, learning, and sharing. And Networking in Vancouver allows me to do all three. I hope you enjoy and benefit from reading the information below. 

’ll also admit that I’m a big fan of CPRS Vancouver’s Speaker Series. And given that their March 27th breakfast event was sold out, I’m not the only one. “Live@YVR: The Anatomy of a Successful PR Campaign” had Rebecca Catley, Director of Communications for YVR, present on the challenges and wins of a unique public engagement/media relations campaign that saw special correspondent/resident storyteller Jaeger Mah win a contest where he would live, sleep, and eat at the airport for 80 days and nights and tell the airport community’s story to the world.

With a relatively small budget, and using no traditional media advertising buys, YVR launched this campaign in 2011 in order to build trust and community goodwill, engage British Columbians with stories of YVR, and celebrate YVR’s 80th anniversary.

The campaign’s key messages were based on the theme “YVR is important” (i.e. not simply a backdrop to news stories)—as a key economic generator for the region and as a major employer (23,000 employees).

Since there were would be no ad buys (all was done via earned and social media), engaging the media and public was extremely important. This was done via:

–        3 planned media hits: public contest launch and shortlist of finalists, voting phase and winner announcement, and the 80 days at YVR.

–        160 video entries. Applicants reached out to their own networks to garner support.

–        5 finalists. Each finalist did their own PR, reaching out to community papers, cross-promoting and supporting each other’s efforts.

–        Judging. YVR asked City TV and The Vancouver Sun to provide judges for the competition.

Timing is everything.  There was a bit of a time delay from announcing Jaeger Mah as the contest winner to officially launching Live@YVR.  First, time was needed for Jaeger to complete security checks and wrap up his own business commitments.  Second, YVR’s 80th anniversary coincided with the Stanley Cup Finals. Media advised that no one would cover the launch of Live@YVR at this time.  Therefore, when launch day did arrive, YVR needed to reengage with media. Media were present for Jaeger’s splashy arrival–via private jet and greeted by YVR’s CEO.

YVR greatly appreciated The Fairmont’s support in providing Jaeger with living accommodations for the 80 days/nights and in creating a living-room atmosphere at the YVR food court. This was where Jaeger would interview and engage people (staff, volunteers, travellers) and share the stories of those that worked and spent their days at YVR.  Standard social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) were used and Jaeger distributed business cards with all social media links to help promote the campaign.

YVR quickly learned that when using social media and a third-party to communicate messaging, it had to let go. Corporate communicators learned to “sit on their hands”. Messages may have contained typos, grammar mistakes, non-YVR jargon—but more importantly, the messaging was authentic, honest, and in Jaeger’s voice (i.e. non-corporate). And while Jaeger was given freedom in crafting his messages (only vetting features he felt could be controversial), YVR was emphatic that he could not speak during any emergency or crisis.

As with all PR campaigns, there is always an element of risk involved. But for YVR, who made sure to secure buy-in from all levels of the organization at the beginning, it was well worth it. The rewards speak for themselves:

–        Community engagement:

  • By the end of the 80 days, there were line-ups of people wanting to share their stories with Jaeger.
  • The entire airport community came together in a way that hadn’t happened since the 2010 Olympics.
  • A community survey showed an increase in the feeling that YVR had well-trained staff, was a good employer, and was a good corporate citizen.

–        Significant growth in community awareness. Over 50% of British Columbians knew someone was living at YVR and the reason why.

–        150 million+ media impressions (note that it was difficult to explain social media ROI to the corner office).

–        4,000+ Facebook likes; 2,500+ Facebook comments and interactions.

–        100,000+ visits to Live@YVR website.

–        150+ media interviews with Jaeger.

–        Coverage from major media outlets: BBC, CNN, CBC’s The National.

–        97% of earned media had the YVR key message “YVR is important”.

CPRS Vancouver hosts a number of exceptional professional development and networking events throughout the year. Make sure to check one or more out for yourself! For more information, please visit www.cprsvancouver.comChat soon!



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