Foundation reveals George Washington's first house

After seven years of digging, the George Washington Foundation (GWF) of Stafford County, VA, knew it had found the first president's boyhood home at Ferry Farm in Virginia. It turned to CRT/Tanaka to help it with a media outreach effort.

After seven years of digging, the George Washington Foundation (GWF) of Stafford County, VA, knew it had found the first president's boyhood home at Ferry Farm in Virginia. It turned to CRT/Tanaka to help it with a media outreach effort.

“School children know all of these stories, but they don't know where [Washington] lived,” says Paula Raudenbush, director of marketing and communications at GWF. “They think he was at Mount Vernon all of this time.”

Strategy
GWF and CRT/Tanaka aimed to build on Ferry Farm's reputation as a tourist destination by promoting Washington's childhood homestead as a family-friendly escape, primarily to national media outlets. The PR team then helped the coverage trickle down to the local level after the story was picked up by the Associated Press, according to the foundation.

“Because we had a limited budget and time, we had to look at this as a top-down approach and spend our time targeting national media and looking at wires,” says Julie McCracken, account supervisor at CRT/Tanaka.

Tactics
The team conducted media training and created media-friendly materials, advisories, press releases, backgrounders, and biographies of GWF staff members, as well as shooting photos and b-roll of the grounds, prior to the campaign.

The organization also conducted embargoed pitches to national media outlets, a media teleconference to reporters who could not attend, and an event at Ferry Farm attended by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

Results
The number of visitors to Ferry Farm has increased 32% since the announcement, and traffic to the foundation's Web site jumped 222% in July over the year before.

Future
Although the campaign is over, the GWF is using the discovery in its outreach to donors and other foundation VIPs.

PR team: The George Washington Foundation (Fredericksburg, VA) and CRT/Tanaka (Richmond, VA)

Campaign: Discovering George Washington's Childhood Home

Duration: June 21-22, 2008

Budget: $35,000

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