December 7 marked the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Every five years, survivors reunite in Hawaii. Because the youngest are now 83 years old, 2006 was the last planned reunion.
To remind people of the significance of the attack and preserve history, The Arizona Memorial Museum Association (AMMA) and the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund (PHMF) hired Brodeur to help locate and honor survivors.
"We want future generations to know what happened," says George Sullivan, a director of PHMF. "This was the last chance to get many survivors in one place, to recognize them, and to get them to tell their stories."
Sullivan notes that many World War II veterans didn't talk about the war when they came home. "Nobody asked them," he says. "We decided it was best to tell stories [as] a way [of getting] survivors to talk."
A list of those who died at Pearl Harbor exists, but there wasn't a list of survivors. A list and stories could only be generated by survivors or their families. Brodeur, AMMA, and PHMF decided the Internet was the best way to reach people and capture stories. It also was a way to educate the public.
"We wanted to build a community to preserve history virtually and educate future generations," says Leslie Tullio, VP at Brodeur.
The core of the effort was a Web site, www.pearlharborstories.org, where users could register survivors and share stories, photos, videos, and letters. A toll-free number also was set up to capture stories and then post them online.
Interactive firm EchoDitto helped Brodeur with the site and built a MySpace page targeting younger people. Videos were also posted on YouTube. EchoDitto's blog community reached out to survivor and military groups.
AMMA research revealed that younger generations found 9/11 more relevant than Pearl Harbor, so Brodeur decided to draw parallels between the attacks. Targets included national broadcast TV, wire services, military media, and the top 10 daily and regional newspapers.
"Media were also interested in social networks and communities for older generations," Tullio says.
A series of live webcasts on Veteran's Day allowed the public, media, and classrooms to hear the stories of six survivors.
There also was a December 2 reception, a three-day symposium, and December 7 events, of which podcasts were conducted.
About 250 stories were collected.
"It surprised us how many survivors used the Internet [to tell] their story," Tullio says. "It was astonishing when 85-year-old guys said, 'Give my buddies my e-mail address.'"
Heaviest Web traffic occurred during launch week (more than13,000 visits and 55,000 page views) and anniversary week (more than 6,000 visits and 30,000 page views).
The Veteran's Day webcast reached more than 600 unique visitors. The MySpace page acquired more than 350 "friends" ages 18 to 40 on its first day. YouTube footage has had more than 5,000 unique viewers.
Coverage included CNN Headline News, CBS News, AP, Reuters, USA Today, and several military magazines.
The site is still available to capture stories. Fundraising is an upcoming focus to collect $50 million for a new visitor's center (where survivors' stories also will be shared). Brodeur hopes to continue the relationship, but the scope of work hasn't been defined.
Eliciting, publicizing, and preserving survivor stories was a smart and worthwhile way to engage both survivors and the public. Making history relevant can be challenging, and the team did that by leveraging modern technology via the Internet and webcasts. Another useful strategy was drawing parallels between 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.
Additional, and sustained, outreach will be required to make a significant impact on public education. AMMA and PHMF need a lot of money to build a new visitor's center; survivor stories, and commitment to ongoing education, might be used successfully in aiding the capital campaign.
PR team: Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund, Arizona Memorial Museum Association (Hawaii), and Brodeur (Washington)
Campaign: The Pearl Harbor Survivors Project
Duration: August-December 2006