The Switch to Virtual
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) was ready to release the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Report Card, which for the first time includes the watersheds and waterways that comprise the Bay.
The report provides a transparent, timely, and geographically detailed assessment of the health of the Bay, innovative science-based metrics, plans to involve public and private stakeholders in the continuation of improving the Bay, and the 2019 Bay Score. UMCES was looking to announce this information in a new way, since in-person events were no longer allowed due to COVID-19.
With work-from-home in full swing for Yes&, UMCES, and the rest of the world, it became clear that a move to fully virtual was our only option. This required a stable, government-accessible platform, digital visual assets for media, sound-bite interviews before and after, and endless practice for speaker hand-offs to prevent the inevitable “you’re muted” comments throughout the entire event.
Attacking One Thing at a Time
With high expectations and the need for media turn-out, Yes& thought through every scenario to ensure a seamless transition. Here’s how we did it:
Selecting a Media Platform
State officials were prohibited from using Zoom and many other virtual meeting platforms because of security issues. We chose Google Hangouts as it was secure, required no applications or software needed to be downloaded, and the event host could mute or remove participants as needed.
Using the virtual format to our benefit, we were able to pitch all six states and Washington, D.C. that are affected by the findings in the report. Through targeted media lists, enticing advisories, access to digital visuals, log-in credentials, and endless pitch calls, we were able to secure virtual RSVPs from reporters.
An on-the-record quote from state officials in support of the work UMCES does carries a lot of weight for the client and for media coverage. With the ease of giving statements from their homes, Yes& was able to secure the Maryland Secretary for Environment, the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, and the Alliance for the Bay Executive Director.
Ride the Media Cycle
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) announced Virginia and Maryland's intent to file suit against the EPA the day before the virtual event. This was big news, as the EPA funded CBF and its 2019 Bay Report card. By offering answers to the recent lawsuit, Yes& gave the event a new hook, which helped secure additional coverage.
Yes& was able to secure more than 95M impressions through radio segments, televised placements, and online outlet posts. The coverage included, but was not limited to, the Associated Press, Washington Post and Washington Time, WTOP, CBS Baltimore, and E&E News.
We learned that virtual press events can provide benefits we lack in person, and that our clients can still host press conferences – even from their living rooms. Most importantly, the media will still cover the news and draw attention to our client's announcements when we optimize them for today’s realities.