As PR counsel to engineering search engine GlobalSpec, Tech Image's work had focused on trade industry publicity to help build the company's registered user base.
By the end of 2004, it had registered 2 million users, but the pace of that growth was lagging in certain areas of the industry.
Tech Image worked with GlobalSpec to develop an effort that would expand its registered user base, while also tying in to its service.
"GlobalSpec is all about helping engineers achieve that 'a-ha' moment," says David Reiners, account manager at Tech Image. "We thought an award program honoring significant, yet never recognized moments of engineering greatness and, in particular, the little-known engineers behind that effort would tie in to what GlobalSpec offers: the chance for a great moment."
By creating the Great Moments in Engineering award program, GlobalSpec could target specific segments of the industry, while also generating national interest.
"It's important for GlobalSpec to reach national media because [it's] now having appeal for advertisers beyond engineering parts and services," Reiners says.
The first award, in 2005, focused on building awareness within the aerospace industry, specifically among users. The 2006 event focused more on advertisers and the fiber optics industry.
The guidelines for the program included: The great moment needed to be part of a more widely known accomplishment, the timing of the ceremony needed to be near an anniversary, and it had to be held in a distinct venue.
GlobalSpec polled its user base, and an internal committee determined the 2005 winner should be the 1970 Crew Systems Division of NASA, who modified the carbon dioxide removal system used aboard Apollo 13 and helped save the astronauts' lives. That award ceremony took place at Space Center Houston on the 35th anniversary of the mission.
The 2006 program selected the Jason Jr. engineering team from the Deep Submergence Laboratory of Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution. The group's work on a remotely operated vehicle prototype resulted in the first deep-water photos of the sunken Titanic. That ceremony was held in Boston's New England Aquarium, on the 15th anniversary of the occasion.
For each event, Tech Image assembled and communicated with targeted lists of attendees, drafted news releases, and coordinated logistics at the venues with the goal of facilitating face-to-face interaction with influencers. Local and national news media were targeted, with phone interviews conducted in advance, as well as interviews on-site.
The 2005 event generated more than 450 articles, and the site's registered users in the aerospace sector increased 3% - equaling tens of thousands of new users.
"We didn't actually track the number of additional aerospace-related advertisers, but it was significant," Reiners notes.
Publicity for year two also was strong, he adds, with "tremendous coverage in the Northeast, where a lot of prospective GlobalSpec advertisers reside."
"It reinforced us as a key player in the field," says Guy Maser, GlobalSpec SVP of marketing. "To be able to present an award, you have to have credibility. And I believe we accomplished that. "
Reiners says GlobalSpec surpassed 3 million users and has drawn interest from "numerous non-engineering advertisers."
"It is becoming a signature program, and the interest in it is building, and nominations are routinely arriving," says Reiners. "It's a program that's discussed quite often as salespeople make their calls and as advertisers consider buying space on the site. It has nice cachet, and we certainly hope to see it continue as strong as it has been."
PR team: GlobalSpec (Troy, NY) and Tech Image (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Campaign: Great Moments in Engineering
Duration: April 2005-ongoing
Budget: $17,000 to $20,000 annually
The campaign worked because GlobalSpec and Tech Image worked to develop an initiative that directly reflected the search engine's mission and function. The flexible nature of the awards program they created allowed it to not just be a one-off event; instead, the result was an initiative that each year could be tailored to the company's goals.
Ultimately, GlobalSpec achieved its goal of generating awareness for its service on a national scale, but at the same time, it also generated awareness for engineering, an often unrecognized field.