WS handled SpaceShipOne launch

MOJAVE DESERT, CA: Weber Shandwick handled the PR for one of last week?s biggest stories ? the launch of SpaceShipOne.

MOJAVE DESERT, CA: Weber Shandwick handled the PR for one of last week?s biggest stories ? the launch of SpaceShipOne.

Powell Tate | Weber Shandwick in Washington, DC, and WS? Los Angeles office worked on the communications strategy and media relations for SpaceShipOne, which June 21 took the first non-governmental flight to leave the earth's atmosphere.

The Mojave Desert launch was covered by 273 media outlets, nearly a fifth of which came from international press.

?We turned away some people that came at the end and were too late,? said Howard Opinsky, SVP and management supervisor of Powell Tate | Weber Shandwick.

Opinsky led the campaign with support from Powell Tate VP Stephanie Bluma, handling media credentialing, and Eric Rose SVP of the LA office. In total, about 10 people pitched in on the effort.

Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen funded the flight through his private investment firm, Vulcan. Weber Shandwick does regular contract work for Vulcan.

The agency started planning the SpaceShipOne PR in December, when Allen announced he was backing the project. The firm's efforts were increased in April when it began establishing online media registration.

Powell Tate handled most of the strategic design and the creation of the media-registration site. Weber Shandwick?s LA office was responsible with the event logistics, facilities, and ground work.

Weber Shandwick also provided pool video footage to the media, including cameras on the tarmac and on the chase plane, to provide multiple angles of the flight.

Weber Shandwick sustained interest in the project by providing exclusive test-launch coverage to CNN and the Los Angeles Times in mid May, which garnered the project a front-page story in the LA Times and substantial coverage on the network.

Select interviews were also granted after the launch date was announced to generate media impressions and build up interest among reporters.

?The drumbeat of coverage over time kept this on the front of mind,? Opinsky said.

The team also made principals available for pre- and post-launch press conferences and worked with the airport to have the press ride along the tarmac. There was an on-site media center complete with broadband and wireless capabilities for reporters. Additionally, the spaceship was towed back in front of the media after landing.

?A space flight is a great news story on its face; it lends itself well to television and photographic elements,? said Opinsky. ?There hasn?t been a space shuttle launch since the accident and so the media was eager to cover that.?

SpaceShipOne was helmed by Mike Melvill, who was presented with astronaut wings, the first time for a civilian. Burt Rutan developed the craft.

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