CAMPAIGNS: Museum Opening - Unrelenting beat for rock museum

Client: Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul; Wonders: the Memphis International Cultural Series (Memphis)

Client: Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul; Wonders: the Memphis International Cultural Series (Memphis)

Client: Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul; Wonders: the Memphis International

Cultural Series (Memphis)

PR Team: Archer/Malmo PR (Memphis)

Campaign: The Beat Starts Here

Time Frame: December 1999 to April 2000

Budget: About dollars 143,000

Memphis is recognized as a mecca for music. That’s what made it the

perfect location for the new Rock ’n’ Soul: Social Crossroads museum, an

addition to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that

opened April 29 and traces the history of rock ’n’ roll and soul


Although Memphians are proud of their musical heritage, they don’t

generally associate museums with their city. Overcoming that perception

and attracting visitors on opening day was only one of the many

challenges facing Archer/Malmo PR and its account supervisor Stephanie

Ortbals Tibbs.

The agency represented Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul, a nonprofit corporation

formed to launch the museum, and Wonders: the Memphis International

Cultural Series, an exhibition company that set up, curated and marketed

the museum.

In December, Archer/Malmo started to raise the public’s awareness -

locally and nationally - for the opening and thereafter. Tibbs also

faced a limited budget and a lead time of just four months.


Tibbs decided to overcome these obstacles by getting strong national

publicity, which she knew would spark regional and local coverage. ’The

national gives you credibility that you can’t get anywhere else,’ she

says. ’But locally and regionally, publicity really drives the


A group of celebrities on hand for interviews and events included David

Porter, who wrote ’Soul Man’; Sam Phillips, who founded Sun Records and

discovered Elvis Presley; and Sam ’the Sham’ Samudio, whose song ’Wooly

Bully’ beat out the Beatles for the number-one spot on the charts in



Tibbs’ main tool was persistence. In December, she began contacting her

list of 100 media outlets. By opening day, she’d called each 10 to 15

times. ’It’s always a fine line to walk between being persistent and

being obnoxious,’ Tibbs says. Plus, it can be intimidating for non-New

York professionals to make inroads with the New York media, though she

admits that sometimes playing up her drawl helped. ’I’d call and say,

’Remember the Southern belle from Memphis who’s been driving you


Tibbs was also unrelenting during a two-day media blitz in New York in

early April. She visited a number of editors, including some at The New

York Times, CNN, Fox News and Rolling Stone magazine, handing them media

kits along with harmonicas, CD cases and a Smithsonian video about the

Rock ’n’ Soul museum.

She threw a luncheon for celebrities and press at Times Square

restaurant Tennessee Mountain. At a black-tie media preview on the eve

of the opening, 70 journalists from outlets including Time magazine,

Public Radio International, The Associated Press, Mix and Billboard

rubbed shoulders with Jerry Lee Lewis and Rufus Thomas, among other

celebrities. Memphis legends entertained.

Archer/Malmo sent a one-minute radio news release with quotes from

Samudio on April 28. A VNR the following day featured a two-minute story

with scenes from the media gala and ribbon cutting. B-roll captured

museum artifacts, like the original transmitter for the ’Grand Ole Opry’

radio show.


Some 2,000 people appeared on opening day. Every local TV, radio and

daily newspaper covered the event.

Tibbs’ New York trip helped deliver two Rolling Stone pieces, a US News

and World Report mention, a story on NPR’s Morning Edition and an AP

story that was picked up by 50 media outlets.

The radio news release reaped 2.5 million listeners. The VNR brought

exposure to more than 154 million viewers and was picked up by MTV, the

Reuters Europe feed and the ABC News national feed. Print impressions

total 15.2 million and counting.

’There’s no mistaking the importance of Stephanie’s persistence,’ says

Twyla Dixon, marketing manager for client Wonders. ’The opening was just



Archer/Malmo is preparing a VNR for early July, the height of the

Memphis tourist season.

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