CAMPAIGNS: Pushing the local sounds of music - Community Relations

Client: American Composers Forum (St. Paul, MN)

Client: American Composers Forum (St. Paul, MN)

Client: American Composers Forum (St. Paul, MN)

PR Team: Foley Sackett (Minneapolis, MN)

Campaign: 'Continental Harmony - a Musical Millennium Celebration'

Time Frame: January 1999 to July 4, 2000

Budget: dollars 109,000 (including out-of-pocket fees)

The American Composers Forum, formerly the Minnesota Composers Forum, was not known nationally for its leadership in new American music - despite a radio show, a national newsletter, chapters in several cities and a majority of members from outside Minnesota. The group seeks to promote artist entrepreneurship and collaboration and wanted a large-scale project that would let towns and cities across the nation mark the millennium with a musical celebration specific to each. Its campaign, Continental Harmony, enlisted composers to create original music for communities and present the works in concert.

ACF turned to its advertising and PR agency, Foley Sackett, for help.

Once funding was lined up, the agency secured cities and composers and got coverage for the project, beginning in January 1999.


'We wanted (to) work closely with local communities, but we wanted them to tell people it was a national event,' says Linda Hoeschler, ACF executive director. ACF wanted towns and cities to know that composers could write not just conceptual music but music reflecting the histories and cultures.

'The big challenge was promoting something that hadn't happened yet,' says McKinney, 'and we didn't have a lot of opportunities to show work in progress. You can't show a composer writing a piece.'


A slim budget and long timeline led McKinney to prioritize targets in media relations and build slowly. 'We sent a national press kit at the beginning and the end of the program and updated 1,400 contacts with press releases on key events,' McKinney says.

Each city promoted its event locally, but the program needed a consistent national voice. So Foley Sackett offered procedural tipsheets, templates for press releases and other downloadable material on Continental Harmony's Web site.

The agency also focused on radio, offering a satellite radio media tour and a radio news release near the July 4 culmination. 'We did a lot of one-on-one media relations and telephone counseling,' McKinney says.

Some stories were easier to pitch than others. Utah composer Phillip Bimstein's signature style incorporates taped 'found sounds' into classical chamber music. His work simultaneously honored a favorite local pastime (the St. Louis Cardinals), a prominent local company (Anheuser-Busch), a leading musical native son (Scott Joplin, inventor of ragtime) and a local personality (a popular beer man of 40 year's standing at Busch Stadium, 'Mr. Bushy Wushy').


ACF generated nearly 18 million media impressions and 1,000 hits a month on its Web site. Local newspapers ran front-page stories and multiple articles, says Foley Sackett's Anne Schopen. The Osceola Sun ran five articles between September and December 1999.

Radio stations, especially NPR, used the audio news releases or created their own segments, but national TV coverage was mostly elusive until the Rockefeller and Knight Foundations gave grants for a full-length documentary about the project to air on PBS January 2001. Talks are also in progress with the Travel Channel for a road series.

The 'Bushy-Wushy Rag,' a ragtime piece for woodwinds and audiotape, premiered before 100,000 people at Fair St. Louis, a mega-event staged under the city's famous arch.


Continental Harmony II will expand into more communities beyond 2001.

The program will also anchor an overall image campaign to complete the repositioning of ACF and its services. Both client and agency agreed to focus on national media and more TV and radio.

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