Picture this: it's less than three months before a major international boating event sails into Boston harbor. You've got 142 ships, 87 governmental bodies, an expected crowd of more than four million and you've just had to fire your PR agency because it wasn't getting the word out about the event.
Regan Communications was brought in to promote Sail Boston 2000 after Clarke & Co. was fired halfway through the campaign in mid-April. Regan set out to make Sail Boston 2000 known at ports of call around the world.
The biggest challenge for Regan was having less than half the time it normally would to promote such a massive event.
'The previous firm had started some planning but hadn't done much publicity,' says Regan senior account manager Carla Cicalese. So Cicalese, working alongside SVP and project director Keith Gainsboro and a team of five others, set out to generate as much buzz as possible. 'We needed to pull a plan together as quickly as possible to get advance coverage,' says Gainsboro.
In addition, there was concern that the national media might not pay too much attention to the event because it followed closely on the heels of the heavily covered OpSail 2000 in New York City, a similar event featuring tall ships from around the world.
Their main goals were to coordinate coverage with the media and to publicize the event so that tourists planning their vacations would choose to come to Boston to see the parade of tall ships. 'We didn't have to beg for coverage, just strategically organize it,' says Cicalese.
Regan promoted Sail Boston 2000 using several different approaches. Naval attaches who were conducting berthing inspections held a press conference and gave a tour of the harbor. Additional press conferences were held about a ship crewed by Canadian students and a ship crewed entirely by disabled people. Regan also arranged for boats carrying media to sail in tandem with the tall ships as they arrived in the harbor.
The agency launched a local radio campaign and sent out a promotional mailing to 40 media outlets across the country each week until the event.
It also got the event's sponsors involved in promotional giveaways and organized a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Sail Boston 2000 merchandise store.
Regan held daily press briefings and worked closely with dozens of organizations - including the FAA, CIA, FBI, US Coast Guard, US Navy and Massachusetts Port Authority - to coordinate plans.
More than seven million people turned out for the 10-day event - nearly double the expected attendance. Regan's team provided credentials for more than 500 journalists from across the globe.
Sail Boston was covered across the globe in major newspapers in Japan, Russia and Britain, and by such major US newspapers as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Reuters and The Associated Press also picked up the story.
The event was covered live by local television and on several TV stations across the world such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. It was also featured on the History Channel.
Cicalese says she has pored through tons of clips. 'I've done three reports so far on clips,' she said. 'They are deeper than my arm.'
The last Sail Boston event was held in 1992, so Regan isn't making any plans to promote the next one. The agency says, however, that it would definitely like to do it again.