CAMPAIGNS: Image PR - Looking for a few good fantasies

Client: Department of Defense (Washington, DC) and Yahoo! (Santa Clara, CA)

Client: Department of Defense (Washington, DC) and Yahoo! (Santa Clara, CA)

Client: Department of Defense (Washington, DC) and Yahoo! (Santa Clara, CA)

PR Team: Department of Defense (in-house), Yahoo! Careers (in-house) and Fleishman-Hillard (San Francisco)

Campaign: 'Yahoo! Fantasy Careers in Today's Military' Contest

Time Frame: March to October 2000

Budget: dollars 250,000 (total marketing budget, including PR).

The tight labor market has made it more difficult for the military to lure recruits. The Department of Defense (DOD) has reacted by spending more on marketing and PR to showcase its technology and educate its target audience about armed-forces career benefits.

When Yahoo! Careers, the employment section of the popular site, came up with its Fantasy Careers in Today's Military Contest to run May 20 to July 4, the DOD was game. For the contest, each military branch came up with prizes ranging from a one-time flight on an F-15 to a stint in basic training.


Yahoo! Careers and the DOD decided the scope of the contest and campaign should go beyond young adults. 'We wanted to go after the influencers as well as the prospects,' says US Navy commander Yvette Brown-Wahler.

'The influencers are the parents.' That meant crafting the campaign for the general-interest press and allowing all ages to enter by sending essays about why they wanted their military fantasy to come true.

It required the cooperation of all military branches, which traditionally operate independent recruiting efforts. Each service provided materials and helped pick winners. Nancy Gallinghouse, PR manager for Yahoo! Careers, faced a separate challenge in ensuring that the Web portal didn't get lost in a story about the military.


Gallinghouse and the military began by preparing separate press releases that were sent to general interest reporters and editors.

The DOD kicked off the campaign by devoting part of a weekly Pentagon press briefing in mid-May to the contest. Speakers from the five branches joined Brown-Wahler and a Yahoo! representative in describing the contest and jobs.

While the contest ran its course, Yahoo! signed Fleishman-Hillard's San Francisco office as its outside agency, then put it to work doing follow-up calls and arranging a San Francisco-based radio media event.

When the winners were announced in August, the PR focus shifted locally to the hometown newspapers of the winning contestants.

Gallinghouse ensured that Yahoo! Careers didn't get lost in the campaign by ensuring that it was included in the contest title. Yahoo! officials also delivered the message that the site was a destination for anyone interested in career information at every press briefing.

One issue Yahoo! faced in executing the campaign was dealing with the DOD bureaucracy. Every PR release and all b-roll had to be approved by the DOD, and the contest's results were itemized down to the last entrant.


Washington press corps interest was piqued and resulted in immediate coverage in USA Today, The New York Times and other outlets focusing on the military's recruiting challenges.

Additional print coverage included newspapers such as The San Jose Mercury News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Arizona Republic, as well as Defense Week and The Industry Standard magazines. TV coverage included CNN and local stations in San Diego, Miami, Cincinnati, San Francisco and other major markets.

The radio media campaign generated coverage in 20 major markets reaching 2 million people while a separate radio news release reached an additional 5.2 million listeners. About 3,300 people entered essays and 13,000 people visited Yahoo! Careers and clicked through to one of the military Web sites.


The campaign runs through early October as the winners enjoy their fantasy experiences. Yahoo!, Fleishman-Hillard and the DOD continue to generate additional coverage, exploiting the Survivor-triggered interest in ordinary people having extraordinary adventures.

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