CAMPAIGNS: Grassroots PR helps drive home the benefits of Hyperfix 65/70

PR Team: Hetrick Communications (Indianapolis) and Indiana Department of Transportation (Indianapolis) Campaign: "Hyperfix 65/70" Time Frame: July 2002-August 2003 Budget: $135,000 for road closing and $37,000 for park-and-ride program

PR Team: Hetrick Communications (Indianapolis) and Indiana Department of Transportation (Indianapolis) Campaign: "Hyperfix 65/70" Time Frame: July 2002-August 2003 Budget: $135,000 for road closing and $37,000 for park-and-ride program

If completely shutting down an interstate in the middle of a city of 1 million people sounds like a surefire recipe for PR gridlock, think again. With a double-pronged strategy of grassroots outreach and media relations, Hetrick Communications, under contract with the Indiana Department of Transportation, was able to sell Indianapolis on Hyperfix 65/70, a major renovation project that closed off the stretch of highway where Interstates 65 and 70 come together. The project, which spruced up crumbling bridges and pavement, pushed many of the 175,000 cars and trucks that use them daily into the downtown area. The name Hyperfix was coined during a brainstorming session that took place, appropriately enough, in a traffic jam on the way to Bloomington, IN. Strategy Before Hyperfix became synonymous with an uncommonly successful public-construction project, it was the source of jokes and some concern. "We were expecting some pretty negative stories," says account manager Kyle Proctor. "To look at it on paper, you dream the worst scenario." The main source of concern was from business owners and residents who would see a significant increase in the amount of traffic pushing through their neighborhoods. The PR team brought to them a message of speed and safety. Closing the highway completely, the messaging strategy went, would make the work go faster and would be safer for drivers and construction workers alike. The team also had to appeal to the local media, who would be bringing the city's residents and commuters basic information about the project, including the closing schedule and alternate routes. Tactics The grassroots outreach was a combination of going to meeting after meeting, making presentations, and answering questions. The agency set up a few media events, used the project's website for updates, and publicized the park-and-ride program - the first in the city's history - as a transit alternative. A key part of the media relations plan was involving the transportation writer at The Indianapolis Star, Dan McFeely, early on in the project. "He was by far our biggest advocate," Proctor says. "Because the Star took such good care of the story, the TV stations quickly picked it up as well. You really could not avoid Hyperfix this past summer." Results That fact is attested to by the sheer volume of coverage. According to figures provided by Hetrick Communications, Hyperfix got just short of 1,200 broadcast hits, with a total run time of over 24 hours, and more than 150 print hits. The agency didn't quantify the tone of the coverage, but Proctor anecdotally notes an evolution in the tenor. "At first, the TV stations were talking about the Hyperfix headache," he says, "but it didn't take long for both the TV stations and the papers to do stories about how the Hyperfix hype really helped get people through this." By the project's end, 30 days ahead of schedule, the name itself became a local marketing sensation, not the four-letter word you'd expect. "This became part of pop culture in Indianapolis," says Bruce Hetrick, president and creative director of the agency. "It was used in jokes. It was fodder for song parodies on local radio. It was used on signs. There was a tennis shop here in town that had a sign up that said, 'Let us Hyperfix your game.'" One important media hit for Hetrick Communications was a story in the Indianapolis Business Journal that attributed part of the project's success to the communications strategy behind it. Future The Hyperfix work could translate into business on similar projects. "We've gotten a lot of attention from engineering firms that are working on construction projects," Proctor says.

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