CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - Luring hi-tech using hi-tech

Client: Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (Providence, RI)

Client: Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (Providence, RI)

Client: Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (Providence,

RI)



PR Team: Duffy & Shanley (Providence, RI)



Campaign: Mass-exodus.com



Time Frame: July to September 1999



Budget: dollars 100,000





In an effort to attract hi-tech businesses from neighboring

Massachusetts, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC)

needed to launch an aggressive campaign to convince businesses to

relocate to the state.



The RIEDC, a semi-private state agency, provides access to Rhode

Island’s economic development services and works to attract new business

and investment to the state.



Rhode Island recently invested significantly in developing a

leading-edge technology infrastructure to meet the demands of the

advanced telecommunications industry. The state has also enacted a

series of specialized tax incentives for software firms, such as the

elimination of capital gains taxes on initial public offerings.



To reach and entice companies in neighboring states, the RIEDC used

hi-tech to target potential businesses.



’The Web-centric campaign was built around a techno-forward Web site

targeted to where people in the tech industry work,’ says Jon Duffy of

Duffy & Shanley, the RIEDC’s agency of record.





Strategy



The target audience was defined as Massachusetts technology

entrepreneurs, small-business executives and recent college graduates.

Focus group research indicated the audience was skeptical of the

opportunities in Rhode Island.



Duffy & Shanley decided the campaign had to relay its message in a quick

and meaningful way while making sure to maintain follow-up communication

with interested individuals.



The agency designed a communications campaign centered around the Web

site, mass-exodus.com.



Promotional materials featured only the URL and an ambiguous but

compelling tag line. The agency planned to brand the campaign without

revealing its purpose, by stimulating curiosity and interest to drive

visitors to the site. Marketing Rhode Island as a tech-savvy business

enabler, the campaign focused on three key points carried throughout all

communications: quality of life, readily available technical expertise,

and financial assistance and tax incentives.





Tactics



A billboard on the Southeast Expressway in Massachusetts initiated the

stealth communications campaign: ’mass-exodus.com, This is your exit.’

Banner ads appeared on popular Web sites. Print ads teased readers from

the pages of targeted publications, giving away only the URL and one

additional line: ’Twice the house for the money,’ ’Half the commute

time’ or ’Office space for less.’



Using Flash technology, the Web site combines interactivity and

multimedia to provide innovative elements that appeal to the target

audience.



’There is life outside of the office, you know,’ the copy states.



’Unlike your parents, we actually understand what you do,’ says another

page.



Viral marketing activities were launched in the target areas. Members of

the PR team wearing T-shirts with ’mass-exodus.com’ emblazoned across

the front handed out mass-exodus.com temporary tattoos to commuters and

lunch crowds, posted handbills in prominent locations and delivered

beverage coasters to targeted Cambridge- and Boston-area restaurants,

coffee houses and bars.





Results



Three Massachusetts businesses have already relocated to Rhode Island as

a result of the campaign: Sailfirst.com, Mirror Image and Bx.com.



The effects of the viral marketing efforts were documented through

significant spikes in Web site visits during the three peak periods of

viral activity (morning inbound commute, lunch time, afternoon outbound

commute). The majority of hits to the Web site came from mit.edu and

harvard.edu, indicating the target audience was successfully being

reached.



There were 19,006 unique visitors to mass-exodus.com during the campaign

period between July and September, and the RIEDC received four times as

many qualified leads requesting information about starting or relocating

a business than before the campaign.



Over 35 print and online media articles were generated, including

coverage by The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.





Future



Two more companies have announced plans to move their businesses to

Rhode Island in the coming year as a result of their initial contact

with the state through mass-exodus.com. The RIEDC has also authorized a

second wave for spring 2000. Duffy plans to run a second round of the

campaign with similar efforts as the first - but can now point to the

new firms that have moved in as examples.



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