The media have dutifully kept reporting on 9/11 since 2001, including how the families of those killed that day are coping. But some of the coverage has focused on disputes among various groups over issues ranging from bereavement compensation to memorial designs.
In order to present a clear, positive message, Families of Flight 93, who lost 40 loved ones on United Flight 93, turned to MARC USA PR to help not only in raising awareness for a memorial being built at the crash site, but also to keep the heroism of those on the plane at the top of the public's mind.
MARC's task was to ensure Flight 93 and its memorial maintained their rightful place in the media. "It's not a difficult story to pitch because 9/11 is still major news," says Lisa Tristano, account supervisor at MARC, which shares PR for the group with Integrated Strategies. "But Flight 93 and the Pentagon have occasionally gotten lost in relation to stories on the World Trade Center."
MARC worked with the families to create messages apart from other 9/11 stories and then timed the delivery to maximize impact. "We decided to announce the Flight 93 National Memorial design last September 7 because we knew we'd get more media attention getting the news out [before] September 11," says Tristano.
MARC created a press kit for the memorial, but spent a lot of its time preparing the families to deal with reporters. "The family members are just ordinary people, most of whom aren't used to having cameras and microphones in their faces," Tristano says. "So we really had to work through media training on staying with key messages, as well as how to address difficult questions."
MARC and the families also leveraged the release of Universal's Flight 93 movie, as well as an A&E special on the flight, to gain attention for the memorial. "We have been proactively reaching out to the media on a daily basis this year, in part to ensure there's a positive perception of the Flight 93 memorial," Tristano says.
The Flight 93 National Memorial has received strong press coverage for much of the past year - the 2005 design announcement alone reached 100 million people.
More important, Patrick White, VP of Families of Flight 93, says MARC's contributions go well beyond media impressions.
"They've also been great in helping us develop process tools for crisis communications, internal communications between the five partner groups working on the memorial, and helping us to focus our goals and mission statements," White says.
With the memorial scheduled to open September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the Families of Flight 93 continue to work to ensure the passengers and crew are not forgotten during the planning and construction.
White says the group will continue to use MARC for much of the effort, adding, "They have a passion for this project and a strong desire in their organization to understand not only 9/11, but Flight 93 in particular."
With much 9/11 coverage being dominated by events in New York, there was a chance the story of Flight 93 could get lost in the shuffle.
MARC not only helped Families of Flight 93 promote a positive perception of the Flight 93 National Memorial and get it into the national spotlight - specifically through focused media-training efforts - it also contributed to the group's further development by helping to enhance everyday operations.
PR team: Families of Flight 93 (Somerset, PA) and MARC USA PR (Pittsburgh)
Campaign: Flight 93 Memorial
Duration: May 2005 to September 2006
Budget: $820,000 (Total value of services provided by MARC USA. Does not take into account discounts provided to client)