North Dakota targets 'Journal' to stake claim as business hotbed

Our client is the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

Name: Iain Watt, SAE, Development Counsellors International
Placement: The Wall Street Journal, June 5
Pitch timeline: Less than three weeks

Who is your client? What are its media goals?

Iain Watt: Our client is the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Its goal is to promote North Dakota to attract, retain, and expand wealth in the state through business and people attraction. Our task is to support those goals through stories that highlight the strength of North Dakota as a place to live and do business.

What made the Journal such a good placement?

Watt: When dealing in economic development with the goal of attracting business and a talented workforce, you have a very small audience that can truly influence where businesses and top people are going to locate facilities and invest. The Wall Street Journal is at the top of our list in terms of reaching a targeted audience of key decision-makers in the national and international business community.

There is much competition for business stories right now. How did you make your pitch stand out?

Watt: North Dakota's story is so unique now, given the overall economy and the state's strong budget situation – low unemployment and overall economic strength. Instead of the usual wordy pitch, we sent information on just what it is the state has going for it with raw numbers and bullet points: 4% unemployment, $1.2 billion surplus, $400 million in tax cuts. We got a strong response quickly and gave the Journal the exclusive access we can provide.

Did you media train North Dakotan personnel for this? What else did you provide to clinch placement?

Watt: We worked to arrange interviews with Gov. John Hoeven (R), as well as key spokespeople in the state budget office, tax office, and the Department of Commerce. The latter had recently sponsored a media-training session for state spokespeople, and we formulated key speaking points and advance questions. We also provided the writer ongoing updates on the state's economic achievements.

What was the impact of the hit?

Watt: The client was very pleased, as promoting the state's strong economic standing and position as being “in a different economic world” has been a goal since the beginning of 2008. The Wall Street Journal article has spawned spinoff results in Time, and even a comedy skit on The Tonight Show.

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