Research center buoys Web traffic with a social network

The Hershey Center for Applied Research (HCAR), a research park in Hershey, PA, opened two years ago.

The Hershey Center for Applied Research (HCAR), a research park in Hershey, PA, opened two years ago.

Because of its proximity to the Penn State campus and a growing life sciences market in the US, HCAR brought on Zer0 to 5ive, a Devon, PA-based marketing firm, to create awareness about the state-of-the-art facility, which offers wet and dry labs.

The PR team kicked off the PR campaign with a May 15 event that brought in Simon Revell, manager of enterprise 2.0 technology at Pfizer, to speak, says Jennifer Bannan, principal at Zer0 to 5ive.

The event and continued effort focused on reaching out to media, as well as possible tenants, scientists, developers, and real estate/biotech professionals.

Zer0 to 5ive developed KnowledgeMesh, the corresponding social media network that was created for use among scientists to raise interest about the facility. It is used as a means to provide facility tenants with access to other resources, as well as each other.

Media outreach leaned toward editors and reporters with a Web 2.0 beat, not necessarily those who cover biotech or IT, says Michael Levey, senior strategist at the firm. The team also created an e-mail newsletter and held virtual tours of the facility, he adds.

HCAR reported a 250% increase in Web site traffic from May to June, and KnowledgeMesh membership hit 4,000, with members from 13 countries in four months, Levey says. It had launched with no members.

The campaign, including the event, garnered stories in 135 outlets.

The campaign is ongoing, aiming to fill lab space, encourage companies to relocate, and allow startups to become established.

PR team: Hershey Center for Applied Research (Hershey, PA) and Zer0 to 5ive (Devon, PA)

Campaign: KnowledgeMesh

Duration: May 2008-ongoing

Budget: $22,500

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