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Flight 93 National Memorial Case Study

Producing National Earned Media

The Issue

On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed the combined terrorist attacks against the United States as extremists hijacked and flew commercial jets into American buildings. On that day, however, one of the planes never reached its destination. The 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 averted a major disaster that day by storming the plane’s cockpit and forcing the plane to crash in a field near Shanksville, PA.

Faced with various media challenges – including the remote location of the crash site and a general lack of knowledge regarding Flight 93, the Families of Flight 93, Inc. and the National Park Service turned to a proven public relations team to develop a communications campaign focusing on garnering national media coverage and providing communications support for the national fundraising campaign.

The Strategy

Due to the intricacy of the organizational structure, the campaign strategy was to utilize internal communications to guide the external messaging. In addition, since limited information is available regarding the actual events that took place on the plane, the recommendation was to tell the story of Flight 93 through various announcements related to the selected design of the memorial and the fundraising campaign.

The Results

The announcement of the selected design garnered over 72 million broadcast impressions and over 31 million print impressions driving thousands of dollars to the fundraising campaign offices within 24 hours of the selected design announcement. And, these efforts occurred during two major national news events. Days before the major announcement of the selected design the national media was immersed in the one of the nation’s worst natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast and, on the same day as the design announcement Supreme Court of the United States Chief Justice William Rehnquist was buried.

Most importantly, research conducted one month after the major design announcement showed an increase in the knowledge of respondents regarding the plans for a Flight 93 Memorial by an amazing 76 percent. One hundred percent of those respondents said that they would be donating some amount to the campaign.