Landing the Right Coverage on Homeland Security: VistaScape and Logan Airport
When Atlanta-based VistaScape Security Systems asked Birnbach Communications, Inc. to spread the word about a breakthrough security technology being piloted at Boston's Logan International Airport, we were ready to deliver results but also aware of the challenges.
The first challenge was finding a balance between providing information about the system to generate in-depth coverage without revealing details that would comprise security procedures.
VistaScape's software acts as an extra set of eyes to protect Logan's 6-1/2 miles of beach front using real-time, 24x7 data monitoring and analysis of images gathered from infrared cameras provided by FLIR Systems.
The second challenge was setting the media's expectations because this was a limited test phase, because the cameras were located on the control tower (not close to the beach, where the cameras could capture more details) and because the technology was located in tight quarters in the control tower, where airport personnel were working on other tasks. In other words … seeing this technology in action was going to be tough.
The third challenge was striking the right balance between exposure for our client VistaScape and their high profile customer the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport).
As we looked to build the messages and strategy we wanted to highlight that since 9/11 Massport, the organization that runs Logan Airport, has become a leading force in evaluating and implementing new security technologies.
But we did not want to miss the opportunity to build brand recognition for VistaScape and its SDMS product, which had not yet had much mainstream media exposure.
Finally we had just two weeks to pull it all together across a multi-organizational team and be ready for primetime with the media.
Strategic Execution At Work
We moved quickly to develop a plan, create a fine-tuned media list, produce B-roll (shot on the Logan airfield as massive fog rolled in), and write the press materials.
We also developed messaging documents and Q&A that would portray all players in a strong light and secured buy-in from Massport, FLIR Systems, and VistaScape. To get that extra lift for VistaScape's messages we made sure to play up the "cool" factor of the technology and build additional credibility by leveraging VistaScape's recent installation with the U.S. Navy in San Diego.
Due to the confined space in Logan's control tower, we held small briefings with reporters, instead of a single press conference. We conducted media outreach on behalf of all three organizations, and hit local and national media.
Given the tight time frame and the number of organizations involved, and because we thought the story was strong enough, we decided against any exclusives.
We researched perceptions of Logan's security track record, and advised Massport to assemble a document that listed Logan's security milestones, including a number of new technologies and procedures that Logan was the first commercial airport to deploy.
Finally, we painted a vivid picture of what the SDMS system would actually do by using a "plant" during our live media briefings we arranged for a boat to steer inside Logan's security zone in Boston Harbor so the media could see the technology in action.
Our briefings generated more than 20 placements in top-tier media such as Business Week, Associated Press, UPI, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CNN, and all local affiliates. More than 95 percent of the coverage was extremely positive, picking up key messages, such as "an army of eyes that don't blink," "the perfect security guard," etc., giving good visibility to Massport, VistaScape and FLIR spokespeople as well as the SDMS product and infrared cameras.
According to Mass High Tech, "The media coverage of ...technology going into trials at Boston Logan Airport last week was a public relations triumph. So much so that even if the company doesn’t win a contract at the end of the Logan pilot program, (it) goes home with a lot of free exposure."
According to our client, "I must tell you that I am impressed with your success on the Logan project. I believe your team is responsible for getting the full breadth of coverage for a decent story. Logan has generated double the traffic to our website from the weeks prior. It has resulted in calls to our office seeking information and collateral and additional leads to our sales team."
Airport Report Express
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