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Openings: Make Them Big, Just Don’t Focus on Making Them ‘Grand’

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Today we bring you a guest post on campaign launches and media strategies by Todd Graff, VP of PR at Boston-based digital agency CTP.

Nothing says Grand Opening quite like a “ribbon cutting” ceremony. A few VIPs, a big pair of scissors and, voila, your operation is off and running. There was a time when that type of ceremony, including the stock photo and a couple of nice media placements, was a good way to hit the ground running.

These days, however, if you’ve waited for the Grand Opening to make a big splash then it might just be too late. What you do beforehand in the weeks, if not months, prior to the big day is just as important to what you do when the doors open.

We at CTP are currently are in the midst of a campaign to launch New England’s first LEGOLAND Discovery Center. There’s certainly no way to predict what will happen on May 23, when the doors open and the LEGO bricks start flying. What we do know, however, is that there’s already a palpable anticipation. We’ve seen it on Facebook, and we’ve seen it in the response to ticket availability.

Part of that excitement may be attributed to a basic passion for all things LEGO, but part of it may also be attributed to a series of initiatives undertaken to build momentum through earned media and social media.

1. We kicked off awareness of the attraction’s arrival in the Boston area by holding a groundbreaking event. Key coverage included Boston.comBoston Business Journal, and WHDH-TV.

2. Following the Red Sox World Series victory, we had the idea to build a large-scale replica of the World Series trophy out of LEGO bricks and pitched to media. Key coverage included SIKIds.comWHDH-TV, and NESN.com.

3. We hosted Brick Factor, a two-day public competition to find the attraction’s full-time Master Model Builder. We conducted media outreach to promote the call for applications prior to the event to encourage public spectators to attend, and we supplied BRoll and photos post-event once the winner had been announced. Coverage included Boston MagazineMETRO Boston and the Boston Globe.

4. We hosted an online competition to find the attraction’s inaugural Junior Construction Panel. Coverage included Boston.com and North Shore Kid.

5. Following a media hard hat tour of the attraction under construction, we packaged photos of the space and renderings of what the completed attraction will look like to media. Coverage included Boston.comBoston Magazine and BostInno.

We continue to navigate the long tail of this launch. In the meantime, here are a few ideas that can be applied, in some form, to just about any opening:

  • Content. With writers, editors, photographers, designers, etc. pulled in more directions than ever, you can provide them with gift-wrapped content like a photo gallery or a time-lapse video —ideally, something they can amplify digitally.
  • Engagement. Create events and initiatives that media will find irresistible.
  • Reach. Touch different media with different initiatives so as to broaden the message and establish relationships that will help you down the road.
  • Insight. Provide media with exclusive sneak peeks: a hard-hat tour; a first look at renderings; a sneak peek at one element of the finished product.
  • Involvement. Where possible, involve your target audience in the process. Our searches for a Junior Construction Panel and Master Model Builder both gave our target audience a chance to participate and feel included.
  • Connection. When possible, create a face and personality for the campaign. Our Master Model Builder search let fans know just who they would engage with when visiting the attraction.

In our ever-cluttered digital and physical lives, we need to find ways to get media—and our consumers—to stop and take notice. And we can’t wait until it’s time to deliver the whole story.

By creating these types of opportunities, you can seed the information that gets published, posted and shared, fostering the digital and analog circles through which people uncover, engage and pass along.

Provide a little taste as you go. You’re likely to find that the grand opening is about confirmation, not surprise.

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